Angela Lee Duckworth’s “The key to success? Grit” reinforces the theories of my favorite superteacher mentor: Carol Dweck. Duckworth explains that learning is based not on natural intelligence but on hard work. She references Dweck’s work around the 5:00 mark:
Duckworth defines “grit” as “passion and perseverance for very long term goals; having stamina; sticking with your future day in and day out FOR YEARS; working really hard to make that future a reality; living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint” (Source). The best part is that grit isn’t even related to natural talent!
Building grit in students is all about encouraging and nurturing the growth mindset. When I first heard of Dweck’s work a year ago, I was blown away. Dweck’s book highlighted everything I’d been experiencing as a teacher, and she helped me to put my teaching philosophy into words.
Dweck’s work also inspired me to teach my college students the growth mindset starting on the first day of every new class. On Day #1, we write down three goals. I have mine, and the students develop theirs. I explain again and again that to be a great public speaker, to be a great presenter, you have to work hard. It’s not about natural talent or charm or charisma… It’s about working your butt off. You can see that all three of my goals encourage that growth mindset. Most students embrace this because most people are comforted by and embrace the growth mindset.
With public speaking and presentation, a growth mindset is essential. A teacher I worked with a few years ago claimed that “charisma” was this innate, natural quality that you were born with… She taught her students that some people had charisma and some didn’t. I find this fixed mindset in the presentation field alarming and damaging. The fixed mindset says you are either born with the ability to present well or you’re not, and if that’s the case, why bother taking a speech class? Why bother taking any classes at all? If you’re born with all the smarts you’ll ever have, education as a whole is pointless!
I highly recommend that you read Dweck’s book and watch Duckworth’s TED Talk. Today, I will be searching for more of Duckworth’s work so that I can see her contributions to the field and learn more about teaching the growth mindset to my students. Superteachers, is it possible to teach the growth mindset to college students? How do we encourage that growth mindset to those super fixed mindset students?