Pupils with ‘grit’ don’t flog themselves, Harvard study finds

Students who show more determination, or “grit” – which researchers claim is a better predictor of success than IQ – are not more likely to push themselves to the brink, according to a new study.

The Harvard Graduate School of Education says its research has debunked the myth that those teenagers who exhibit high levels of grit are also those who lead unhealthy lifestyles in pursuit of success.

According to the researchers, a widely held notion is that students who show more determination and resilience are more likely to sacrifice sleep or adopt poor eating habits.

But following a study of more than 4,000 UK teenagers from both private and state schools involved in the Wellington College Teaching Schools Alliance, students who exhibit grit are more likely to look after themselves and cultivate “healthy emotional regulation skills”.

Dr Christina Hinton, a neuroscientist and faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, said: “Our results suggest that grit does not require pushing yourself at all costs, but rather cultivating healthy emotional regulation skills and effective learning strategies.”

The project also suggested there was a link between grit and higher order thinking skills, such as setting goals, monitoring progress and reflecting on their own learning.

The research comes as grit, or character education as it is more widely known, has become more prevalent in schools, with education secretary Nicky Morgan pushing for such traits to be developed more across the schools system.

Just last week, Ms Morgan announced she would be funding a range of projects that aim to develop character, including a controversial scheme to bring in high-profile rugby union players and coaches into schools to help instil the trait into pupils.

And last Thursday the think tank Demos suggested that “character development” be inspected by Ofsted.

Harvard’s researchers said its findings were “highly significant” as grit can be developed in children through specific interventions in the classroom, and is not innate.

Carl Hendrick, head of research at Wellington College, said: “We’ve become very good at measuring performance in terms of exam results but very bad at measuring more difficult things like learning, self-perception and mindsets. This project is an attempt to measure the more unmeasured aspects of student progress.”

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