- There are key predictors of whether students have or will develop the quality of grit, Claremont Graduate University doctoral candidate Dana Wanzer discovered in her study of nonprofit YouthTruth's Overall School Experience Survey, which had data on grit among 45,626 students and 145 schools nationwide. Wanzer clarifies that grit is the development of passion and perseverance in students.
- The survey determined that key aspects of grit include whether the respondent is eager or resistant to start new projects, is discouraged or perseveres when faced with setbacks, and whether they easily lose interest or not when undertaking tasks.
- Wanzer learned that predictors of grit are highly correlated to students' experiences with their school environment. And of those experience factors, student engagement matters the most. While students' demographics matter, ethnicity's impact on grit was found to be statistically significant, although the study concludes that all students are capable of developing grit regardless of ethnic background.
Educators have begun to recognize the importance of cultivating social-emotional learning in the classroom, in a shift away from just traditional academic subject to student knowledge transfer. Adequately preparing students for the workforce extends beyond only teaching them how to master certain core skills. In fact, workforce respondents highly value non-academic capabilities in potential employees.
Among the most important qualities sought after by employers are honesty and treating others fairly, sustaining effort, getting along with colleagues and maintaining composure. In fact 70% or more of employer respondents for ACT’s 2016 National Curriculum Survey rated the lack of three non-academic skill areas in students as highly unfavorable and leading to a poor outcome for the employee. These skills are conscientiousness, problem solving and critical thinking. Of those same respondents, 90% said they valued the quality of sustaining effort in employees.
Thus, educators are seeing that a focus on social-emotional learning is not only beneficial, but absolutely necessary to prepare students to enter the real world, where they will be judged on exactly qualities such as grit. Wanzer's analysis of YouthTruth data sheds light on some of the factors in the school environment itself that administrators can target outside of the curriculum, in order to cultivate the development of student perseverance and passion. Administrators that want their students to be more prepared for college and beyond can work with educators to create a more engaging school environment generally, in addition to the classroom.
Wanzer's third point also highlights that grit development ought to and can be prioritized at all levels of school, whether they have low-income minority students or homogenous, wealthier students, as grit is not necessarily tied to student demographics.