True Grit – Association for Psychological Science

True Grit – Association for Psychological Science.

In “True Grit”, an article published in this month’s Association for Psychological Science’s magazine Observer, by researchers Angela Lee Duckworth and Lauren Eskreis-Winkler, the authors make the argument that grit plays a much greater role in creating success in a person’s life, and may even be more important than raw talent. In fact, they argue, that grit correlates to many of the factors that help people succeed beyond talent, such as determination and perseverance. Educators have long noticed that some extremely talented kids don’t make it, and other less gifted children blossom into true winners. For those working in the youth development sector, this insightful into grit offers another explanation into why some children do well, while others may not.

What was also interesting in the article was that in the section titled “Getting Grittier” the authors discuss how to help children get grittier. The authors describe the work of bestselling author Paul Tough and Carol Dweck of Stanford University, but offer little practical advice, and the explanations lack much sense of the types of programs that a school or educator can create to help build this crucial skill.

The ongoing dialogue about what skills children need to succeed in life (not just school) is pertinent to how ours schools approach educating our children. It also raises questions about the pitfalls of focusing only on achievements that can only be measured in standardized test scores or GPAs. While this research is just beginning, wouldn’t it be great if researchers could help educators identify the main factors or components of a program that are key to developing grit?

What was also interesting for me is that in reading about, and listening to, discussions on grit, there seems to be little connection between getting grittier and outdoor adventure. One would think it would be an obvious place for exploration.

While the article didn’t address this connection, someone at the APS online staff, did. Look at the photos on the APS website that accompanies the article.  Here it is:








Rock ClimbingA clear outdoor adventure requiring grit and determination to make it to the top of a climb. The online editors found an appropriate image and great analogy for this article. But, they are also on to something. 

Kurt Hahn, the founder of Outward Bound once said, “There is more in us than we known. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unable to settle for less.” Hahn believed that you could teach young people grit through experiences. He believed that the power of real world challenges through outdoor engagement created change in his students.

After reading this engaging article, I continued to think about this question: “If we want our students to be grittier how come our schools don’t use the tried and true methodology of outdoor adventure as part of their regular curriculum?”  If getting kids into outdoor experiences would help them become grittier, why wouldn’t we want all of our children to have access to transformational experiences through the outdoors? Thoughts?

You can read/hear Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED Talk or visit her website here.