Skip to main content

Superintendent: No Shortcuts -- The Benefit of "Grit"

No Shortcuts -- The Benefit of "Grit"

Dr. Angela Duckworth, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, studies the distinguishing behaviors and characteristics of successful individuals.  Her research shows that measures of self-control can be better predictors of success than intelligence or aptitude.  This self-control, which Duckworth and her colleagues refer to as, “an individual’s capacity to persevere and demonstrate measured resolve to accomplish a goal”, is a likely determiner of success in life and in school. Duckworth named this personal quality “grit”, and she even developed a “grit scale” that takes about ten minutes to complete.  There is more information below about how you can take the grit scale yourself.
Duckworth’s work has generated a great deal of interest among other researchers.  In February, 2013, the Department of Education’s Office of Technology issued a report titled, Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance – Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century.  To be sure, some of the content of the report has its critics.  Some balk at the suggestion that we should score and report a student’s “grit capacity”.  However, we cannot dispute conclusions that an individual benefits greatly from a capacity for self-control and determination in the face of obstacles.
The beneficial relationship between grit and self-control cannot be overstated.  In most successful individuals, there is a consistency between conscientious attention to important matters and routine demonstration of grit.  The characteristic of self-control keeps an individual from becoming distracted by regular and constant diversions. Persistence in the face of distractions exemplifies the self-control required for meaningful accomplishment of goals.
In 2011 studies, Duckworth and Dr. Terrie Moffitt, a researcher at Duke University, concluded that the ability to control impulses can predict a range of positive academic, health, and social outcomes. With reliable self-reported personal information, the predictive power of self-control can beat that of socioeconomic status and intelligence.  What’s most exciting about all of this is the affirmation through more recent research that individuals can overcome undesirable tendencies.  For example, with some children and adults, frustration leads to quitting.  Duckworth and her colleagues are working on developing strategies that can weaken the strength of those undesirable tendencies.  With continued study, parents and teachers might eventually be able to incorporate those strategies in their daily interactions with children.
As mentioned, Dr. Duckworth has developed a self-reported test to determine one’s level of “grit”, a characteristic that has been found to be more reliable than socioeconomic status or innate intelligence in predicting one’s success.  Her years of research show that the concepts of grit and self-control help to serve individuals who know they shape their destiny.  To take the “grit test”, use this link ( or search for The Duckworth Lab at the University of Pennsylvania.