Angela Lee Duckworth & the Study of Grit

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

What exactly is 'grit'? Angela Lee Duckworth is a researcher that has been trying to define, describe and measure grit, what outcomes grit positively affects, and if it is possible to make children grittier. Learn more about grit in this lesson.

What is Grit?

If you look up grit in a dictionary, you are more likely to find a reference to small particles of stone or sand than what this lesson is talking about. The grit that we are referring to here is the passion and perseverance that is necessary to achieve very long term goals. Grit is resolve and stamina that is kept up for years.

Grit has become a popular word recently among educators and parents. In fact, one educator sparked a conversation that is leading to new understanding of what grit means and how it works in humans.

Angela Lee Duckworth

Angela Lee Duckworth, educator and grit researcher
angela lee duckworth

Not too long ago, whether a student worked hard or not was considered something in his or her nature. Teachers across the country encountered students every year with differing levels of stamina, follow-through, and grit. One teacher took her observations to another level.

At age 27, Angela Lee Duckworth left management consulting and became a 7th grade math teacher. She noticed that her top performers were not always the smartest kids, and that the smartest kids didn't always do well compared to less intelligent classmates. After a few years in the classroom Angela decided to pursue a graduate degree in psychology to learn more about grit and self-control. Self-control is closely related to grit; the main difference is that self-control measures the ability to resist temptations related to shorter term goals, while grit is more concerned with very long-term goals.

Since that time, Angela been involved in a lot of research on grit. She uses guiding questions to help focus her work with the topic.

What Does Grit Do for You?

Think of a time when you pushed through a difficult circumstance. Maybe it was something athletic, like running a marathon. Or maybe you worked hard to get on honor roll. How did grit benefit you?

It turns out that having grit is a very useful thing. Using grit measurements, Angela and her team have been able to predict which cadets were most likely to avoid dropping out of West Point, which at-risk kids were more likely to graduate and attend college, which children were likely to do well at national spelling bees and which salespeople were most likely to sell the most product.

High grit helps graduation rates
graduation ceremony

How Do You Measure Grit?

We've seen above that having grit can be very beneficial. Angela Lee Duckworth also admits we know very little about grit. Given these two facts, you might assume that grit is difficult to measure - but all you have to do is ask.

Angela and her team found that grit can be measured in a pretty simple way. As few as eight questions on a multiple-choice survey will get you a grit score on a scale of 1-5, within just a minute or two. The Duckworth Lab has these questionnaires posted on its website. They include questions about overcoming setbacks, hard work, and goals.

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