On Grit: When Perseverance is Not Enough

In a previous post, we covered Dr. Angela Duckworth’s conception of  “grit”; and in another post, the implications of her research findings on the talent vs. effort debate.

Duckworth has been at the forefront of educational psychology, but do her research findings tell the whole story?

According to researcher and educator Dr. Anindya Kundu, “sometimes grit is not enough.” In June of last year, Kundu presented a TED talk titled, “The boost students need to overcome obstacles.”

Although Duckworth is one of Kundu’s mentors, his focus differs slightly from the University of Pennsylvania researcherKundu is a sociologist, which means that he studies the socioeconomic factors that play a role in student achievement.

In his talk, Kundu tells the stories of Tyrique and Vanessa, whom he describes as “the grittiest people” he has ever met. Both Tyrique and Vanessa seemingly overcame the obstacles of a system that was stacked against them by pulling themselves up “by the bootstraps,” as the old saying goes.

But that isn’t the whole picture, Kundu states. Assuming that people like Vanessa and Tyrique are exceptions is dangerous because in doing so, we absolve ourselves of “the collective responsibility to help students in similar situations.”

Vanessa and Tyrique relied on not only on their commitment, drive, and perseverance, but also on “social scaffolding,” which influenced their agency, a concept Kundu defines as the “specific capacity to actually overcome the obstacles that they were facing to navigate the system, given their circumstances.”

The boost exceptional students need to succeed is social: tailored mentorship and access to opportunities.

To learn more about the importance of social scaffolding in education, watch the full TED talk by clicking below:

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