Goal-oriented perseverance

Principal Metaphors

Proponents of Grit are not explicit about interpretations of the complex dynamics of learning. While Grit belongs among Coherence Discourses, explications of the perspective tend to make extensive use of the Attainment Metaphor:
  • Knowledge is … scope of possible actions and interpretations
  • Knowing is … staying the course
  • Learner is … a striver (individual)
  • Learning is … journeying
  • Teaching is … guiding. orienting




In the current educational literature, Grit refers to both a personality trait and a psychological discourse. The trait is typically described in terms of a persistence of effort and a goal-oriented passion. In psychology, the notion is associated with such concepts as hardiness, perseverance, positivity, and conscientiousness. Individuals with “high grit” remain determined, motivated, and focused over long terms, even when meeting failure and adversity. It is also strongly associated with (and sometimes equated to):
  • Persistence (Perseverance) (C. Robert Cloninger, 1980s) – a temperament trait associated with staying with a task until it is completed, despite obstacles and frustrations
  • Resilience (Psychological Resilience; Resiliency) – invoking the property of some materials to spring back into shape after being subjecting to distorting pressures, Resilience refers to the psychological ability to cope with and recover from crisis situations
As is common among constructs developed in Psychology, associated measurement tools have been developed:
  • Grit Scale (2000s, Angela Duckworth) – a self-administered 17-item assessment of one’s Grit
  • Short Grit Scale (Grit-S) (2000s, Angela Duckworth) – a self-administered 8-item assessment of one’s Grit
These scales bear some resemblance to aspects of previous measurement tools, such as:
  • Temperament and Character Inventory (C. Robert Cloninger, 1980s) – a 240-item, self-report inventory focused on four “dimensions of temperament” (persistence, harm avoidance, novelty seeking, reward dependence) and three “dimensions of character” (self-directedness, cooperativeness, self-transcendence)
Several programs have emerged to support the development of Grit and/or Resilience including:
  • BRiTE (Building Resilience in Teacher Education) (Caroline Mansfield, 2010s) – a program aimed at educating educators on building Resilience through nurturing relationships, well-being, motivation, and mindfulness of emotions
  • CARE (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education) (Patricia Jennings, Christa Turksma, Richard Brown, 2010s) – a professional development program for teachers, focused on well-being, motivation, efficacy, communication, and mindfulness of emotions
  • CBR (Contemplative-Based Resilience) (Sharon Salzberg, 2000s) – a program aimed at nurturing resilience, emphasizing understanding of the neurobiology and psychology of stress, mindfulness activities, and relationships


One of the major, substantiated claims around Grit is that it’s a better predictor of academic success than IQ. However, careful analyses of research data have revealed that a single component – namely, perseverance – accounts for observed variations. Many commentators have criticized the tendency of proponents to downplay poverty, racism, poor teaching, and other conditions, thus sometimes laying blame for poor achievement at the feet of disadvantaged learners. Phrased differently, arguments have been made that an emphasis on Grit is misplaced; greater attention should be given to addressing systemic issues that compel a need to be unusually resilient.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Angela Duckworth

Status as a Theory of Learning

Insofar as it is useful for understanding learner motivations, Grit can be interpreted as a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Grit is not a theory of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

As noted above, the empirical evidence in support of Grit can be interpreted differently from the manner forwarded by its proponents.


  • BRiTE (Building Resilience in Teacher Education)
  • CARE (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education)
  • CBR (Contemplative-Based Resilience)
  • Grit Scale
  • Persistence (Perseverance)
  • Resilience (Psychological Resilience; Resiliency)
  • Short Grit Scale (Grit-S)
  • Temperament and Character Inventory

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2024). “Grit” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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