Grit is integral to the Next Generation Science Standards because STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—requires it.
According to Angela Duckworth, author of the 2016 book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, there are two components of grit: direction and determination.
Having direction means possessing a specific goal toward which you strive. Determination is perseverance, the willingness to hold steady to that goal. Together, they form grit.
Grit is a combination of determination and direction. Having a particular goal (direction) and the perseverance to see it through (determination) combine to form grit in a student—or anyone.
Someone who has grit will try to figure out what went wrong and what to do differently. It is this attitude we must teach to students through science and engineering if we want to enable their success in higher education and later life.
To teach grit, students must have room to pursue their goals to the end, to learn from mistakes, and to keep trying.
Grit and the Next Generation Science Standards
When it comes to understanding how to teach grit in the context of the Next Generation Science Standards—or really any standards, a good first question to ask is: What’s their goal?
Under more traditional standards, the goal was for students to know the right answer.
However, with NGSS, remembering isn’t the goal; serious skill development is. We want students to be able to use and grow those skills in pursuit of a deeper understanding of content.
Developing skills takes perseverance on the students’ behalf because the Next Generation Science Standards expect that students actually engage with the content.
They must not only remember facts, but also create their own approaches to engaging with content, evaluating results, analyzing what those results mean, and using that information to solve problems and answer questions.
It is through this process that students gain a deeper understanding of science and engineering.
You can understand why classroom curriculum and lessons in the classroom inquiry environment need to change. They need to require more student effort. That might seem counterproductive to student learning if you believe it would lead to lower engagement with the material.
However, this involves a misconception. Effortful activity can be engaging, but only if it is purposeful. There must be a full release of responsibility, leading to an environment in which science and engineering activities are student-centered. It must be intentionally nurturing, engaging students in the science and engineering practices, and relevant.
And it must be scaffolded from one grade level to the next so we are teaching as teams.
Talent is no longer enough. While it has an effect when it comes to skill development, the key is that by creating an environment where you expect effort and set challenges requiring it, students see a personal benefit to engaging in that task.
That is what creates grit, and in turn creates students who can successfully work through problems and questions just like scientists and engineers in later life.
*This post was updated on 1/18/18.