Most students want to be high achievers, but what makes some more successful than others? Do they spend their time differently from other students? If so, then can we identify the behaviours and habits of high achieving students?
Keen to answer this question, researchers have started investigating the power and importance of ‘grit’.
Grit can be defined as the extent to which an individual is likely to show perseverance and passion when trying to achieve long-term challenging goals. So, what do ‘gritty’ students actually do?
What Gritty Students Do
To answer this, let’s consider the findings from a fascinating and recent study. Researchers looked to compare three different activities that students carried out in preparation for a national spelling competition. The revision strategies were:
- Verbal leisure activities – reading for pleasure and playing word games
- Being quizzed – by another person or computer program
- Deliberate practice – studying alone, looking at the origins of words and testing themselves
They found that deliberate practice was a much more effective method and better predictor of performance than both verbal leisure activities and being quizzed by another or computer program. However, being quizzed did facilitate a higher amount of learning than verbal leisure activities.
The Power of Deliberate Practice
So, we know that deliberate practice is good, but how can students do it? In the above study, deliberate practice entailed:
- Exploring the origin of information - encourage students to try and find out some background information on the topic they are looking to learn about. This means they are more likely to process the information on a deeper level.
- Use flashcards – encourage students to write important information on flashcards, which they can then use to test themselves and check recall at a later date.
- Cover, uncover – get students to read some information, cover it up and then try to recall it
- Challenge students – give students challenging study activities, as well as encouraging them to engage in challenging study activities alone. Research has shown that successful middle school students are more likely to have chosen challenging activities to help with study in comparison to those who are less successful.
Helping Less Gritty Students
Students often avoid revision techniques that use deliberate practice, because it is considered the most effortful and least enjoyable. These include retrieval practice and setting regular deadlines. Educating about the benefit of these and modelling how they can do it themselves will certainly help. More information about this can be found in our blog, ‘What The Pepsi Taste Test Teaches Us’. These techniques work as they help students acquire more knowledge and will further motivate them to put in more effort.
Finally, encourage students to prepare by planning when they will carry out the required revision, as this can help reduce procrastination. Through use of a diary, students can manage their time more effectively, as this planning encourages them to set aside specific times for study but also time for leisure activities.
Current research suggests that students who have high levels of grit are more likely to carry out deliberate practice. However, it doesn’t have to be unique to those with high levels of grit. Therefore, it is important that we try and encourage all students, even those with low levels of grit, to carry out these techniques. As the research surrounding grit continues to grow, we will find out more about how important grit and deliberate practice may be. By helping students understand what revision strategies work, we give them more chances of developing their resilience, growth and grades.