Monday, March 17, 2014

GRIT

There has been a lot of talk recently about how influential "grit" is in education. The latest attention has been given by NPR: Does Teaching Kids To Get 'Gritty' Help Them Get Ahead?

In higher education, we see a lot of students start in August guns a-blazin', find their first frustration or plateau out in September, and then simply stop showing up for class by October. It has been a major struggle to figure out why this happens and what colleges can do to at least delay it until the first semester is finished, if not bend over backwards so it doesn't happen at all.



I find this to be especially the case in developmental education. It seems that anything that might 'scare' a student away from enrolling or staying, including even a semester of developmental education classes, is either fundamentally changed in order to avoid inconveniencing the student, or taken off the table completely. Developmental education is not a punishment, nor is it an attempt to blame anyone - especially not the student - for anything remotely like what some promote it as now.

But what we also see is that the same students who need developmental education, complete the sequence successfully, and graduate do so and thrive. I've seen students struggle but stick it through and successfully complete developmental English, and then graduate with either a similar or higher GPA than his non-developmental counterparts. I just watched a student presentation at our staff meeting the other week that told about a group of our construction supervision students raised enough money to fully fund a trip to World of Concrete (talk about grit!) in Las Vegas. Three of the students in that group are graduates from our developmental education program, and one is the president of the student group who led the charge to actually go on this amazing trip.

The point is that the success rate of students in developmental education, and higher education in general, has always been more about how much 'grit' these students had, not content knowledge. Even in the business world, potential hires are considered in terms of their work ethic first and knowledge second. It should not be a surprise to see the number of college graduates dropping at the same time that standardized testing and one-size-fits-all curriculum is implemented.

Teachers have long known that a student who gives 100% effort to earn a "satisfactory" is worth 10 students who give 50% effort to earn just enough to get by. 'Grit' has always been a vital part of education; let's not pretend that it's a new and exciting development.

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