What characteristics do top achievers share? What separates successful learners from those who are unsuccessful? These are the types of questions psychologist Angela Duckworth has spent over a decade asking and answering.
Grit, Self-Control, and Learning
According to Duckworth, people who have grit and self-control are more likely to succeed.
Grit is the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals…Self-control is the voluntary regulation of behavioral, emotional, and attentional impulses in the presence of momentarily gratifying temptations or diversions…
For college students, a “long-term goal” may mean succeeding in classes in one semester, achieving honors in one year, or getting into graduate school. Self-control means the “pain” of hard work doesn’t stop you from moving forward. In many studies, Duckworth and her colleagues found that self-control or grit or a combination of both, are more highly correlated to success in school and life than IQ and talent. But, what if you don’t have these traits? Can they be taught?
Teaching Grit and Self-Control
Duckworth thinks acquiring growth mindset, a concept developed by Carol Dweck, may be one way to learn grit and self-control. Dweck has shown strong, positive academic results with children in failing schools by changing their attitudes to a growth mindset, a belief that abilities are not fixed, they can be developed through investing time and energy. How do you accomplish that?
Begin by making the process of learning transparent. Giving students information on how the brain works and that “intelligence” can grow—”you’re not stupid; you just haven’t learned that yet”– helps them feel more confident about learning and working harder. If they understand, as Michael Jordan says, there must be “work before glory,” they can get grittier and push through failure.
Courseware Supports Grit and Self-Control
Will just changing attitudes towards learning make students succeed? Critics like Alfie Kohn say no. Changing attitudes without changing traditional education practices such as lectures and passive learning is not enough.
In other words, if instructors ask students to work hard, then they have to provide learning pathways where students can actually succeed. Acrobatiq courseware does just that by offering students multiple opportunities to learn through varied exercises with access to hints and personalized practice.
According to Duckworth, people who are gritty don’t just keep working no matter what. They have to believe that they can achieve their goals. Experiencing success after working hard at learning in one situation can instill optimism in another.
By organizing the learning of complex concepts around simpler skills, Acrobatiq paves the way for students by allowing them to “rack up” simpler success experiences that lead to achieving a greater goal.
If students using this process falter, their experience has taught them: “I can do this; didn’t I ace the last exercise/unit/chapter?” Each “win” confirms that they can learn by persevering—a strategy they can use throughout their lives.