The #1 …. (quality of a successful student)

** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.

Grit / Perseverence

I asked my B.Ed. students this question recently – the number 1 quality that research shows will lead to a “successful” student. They came up with many great qualities but didn’t hit the nail on the head –  probably (and admirably) because they were focused less on student achievement and more on student personal growth.

But when using student achievement as the measuring stick – “grit” stands out. The quality to keep going, to endure, to not give up when obstacles appear and get in the way.  It is based on the work of Angela Duckworth .  A lot of research showed self control as being the most important quality for student achievement and long term success at school. We all remember the famous Stanford “marshmallow experiment”, I’m sure.  Students who could postpone short term gratification for long term pay off – excelled at school (see Larry Ferlazzo’s great list of resources on this topic). However, Duckworth went further, studying these successful students. She found that many did not end up succeeding later on. Yet, those with “grit” did achieve long term success. She devized a simple scale to determine if a student might have “grit” – what it takes to carry on.

You can take/see the short version of her quiz HERE. 


I find this fascinating. Looking at my own  students, the ones that I thought would succeed later in life, I see this so well.  It begs the question if we can “teach” grit,  help students develop this quality early on in life.

I think we can (but the question of “do we want to? is debatable).  Especially for language learners, we should expose them early on to lots of ambiguity, so they learn to tolerate the fact they can’t understand everything and will be in a state of frustration and may I say “pain”.  And if we can do this early enough – expose students to initial hurdles that we can help walk them through, hand in hand, in a safe environment – we will promote and help instill the quality of “grit”.

As Angela Duckworth so well addresses – measuring achievement by “intelligence”, isn’t a right measure. Also, “success” isn’t latent, it isn’t just talent that rises to the top. It is “industry” or “work”. It was my badge of honor as a runner – no talent but just would work and never give up. This quality we MUST develop in language learners. If you have any ideas on how to do this – please comment.

Here she outlines here ideas about “True Grit”, in fine style.

If you liked this, you may enjoy: Having Teaching Endurance and Keeping Going

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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