In conversation with Angela Duckworth

26 May, 2015

‘Grit’ is one of the buzz words of the moment but after the re-election of the Conservatives and the re-appointment of Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, it is not going to be a flash in the pan; grit is here to stay!

Dr Angela Duckworth, the world’s leading researcher into the power of grit and character, says that these traits are shown to be just as important as other measures like cognitive abilities.

Angela’s work has provided scientific evidence to prove that you can teach and measure character traits.

Ahead of her appearance at our How to Teach Grit, Resilience and Character Building Conference in June, we asked Angela how schools can help develop these two qualities.  This is what she had to say:

“This is a very exciting time and the way forward is for educators to be the pioneers in this, and for them to be in active dialogue with the science bits and try stuff out and see if it works.”

During our research we have had two different approaches to increasing grit, and we’ve had promising results in both.


The first approach

 We have an intervention where we teach kids about how experts feel in situations. The experts will say it’s frustrating, confusing and difficult when trying to achieve something. This helps to correct the children’s false belief, which could be holding them back. And in our random assignments this approach has increased the achievement of pupils, particularly with low achieving students. It’s not a permanent fix but it is promising, as classroom teachers can infuse this approach into their everyday practice.


The second approach

You have to change the way kids think about cause and benefits of what is going to happen to them. 

Many students don’t think of the cause and benefits of their actions. We have to encourage our pupils to adopt a gritty identity and say “I am a gritty person and in this situation gritty people try hard, so I will now try hard”.

The kids need to adopt the identity, and the schools who embrace grit practice a whole school approach so you have a feeling of ‘I go to this school and we always try harder when we fall down’.


Angela believes we are in an era of experimentation in schools and while some approaches will be more effective than others, the science behind it will inform the decision.

Click here for more information on how to build an effective character building programme in your school

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