Having direction means possessing a specific goal toward which you strive.
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.
Determination is perseverance, about the willingness to hold steady to that goal. Together, they form grit. In the classroom, this translates to a willingness to hold steady to a goal, keep focus, and keep trying when a particular approach fails. You're going to try new approaches and avoid changing your goal at all costs.
This is true for students, but it holds true for teachers as well. In any given day we can move in one of many different directions, with many tasks vying for our time. Any of these particular tasks or directions can become a goal. What's important is to isolate those higher-level goals and to have a culture that helps foster determination. In the context of these new standards, that gives teachers the best chance of teaching students the science and engineering skills they need to succeed as innovators, in higher education, and in their careers.
Previously, in order to meet standards, students simply had to know the right answer. Other than remembering a fact, students really didn't have to persevere much in order to meet that goal. That's not a recipe for grit; it's a basic low-level skill. Remembering is not our 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.
Moving in a single direction is much likelier to result in the accomplishment of that goal. Grit is more than a matter of sticking to something; it means choosing a specific path and continuing down it in the face of obstacles.
Developing these skills admittedly takes a lot of perseverance on the student's behalf, because the Next Generation Science Standards expect that they actually engage with the content. They must not only remember facts, but also create their own approaches to engaging with content, evaluate results, analyze what those results mean, and use that information to solve problems and answer questions, gaining a deeper understanding of science and engineering. That takes grit. Likewise, it takes grit for teachers to persevere in the development of new student coaching skills.
We try to watch out for buzzwords, so it's important to note that grit is not a buzzword. Instead, it's an adaptation of Angela Duckworth's noted research, compiled in the 2016 book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Through years of research in environments ranging from West Point classrooms to corporate salesrooms, Duckworth found over and over again that traditionally hailed metrics of success—IQ, SAT scores, and other measures of raw talent—were reliably less predictive of success than what she calls grit. Grit is passion and perseverance, determination and direction.
As she explains it: Potential is one thing, but what we do with it is quite another.