Kristina Niedringhaus of Georgia State University College of Law Library and Carolyn Broering-Jacobs of Cleveland State University, Cleveland Marshall College of Law gave a spirited and honest discussion about the emergence of grit as a best practice in education before a packed hall at the 107th AALL Annual Meeting & Conference. Their presentation, called Building Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance While Teaching Legal Research, synthesized the scientific research behind grit, and encouraged attendees to share their own experiences implementing grit in legal research instruction.
Grit is the display of perseverance and passion in the attainment of long-term goals. The research of psychologist Angela Duckworth – among West Point cadets, Wharton School of Business graduates, National Spelling Bee champions, and other high-achieving-groups – indicates that, across demographics, grit is more important in determining success than intelligence or standardized test score. According to Ms. Duckworth, grit is measurable. Presenters Niedringhaus and Broering-Jacobs administered the Duckworth Grit Scale to the attendees, and, as you would expect in a hall of librarians, the Grit Scale confirmed we were quite the gritty bunch.
Aside from quantifiable data, a student’s grittiness reveals itself in other ways. For instance, an optimistic explanatory style of negative events correlates to having grit. Also, students whose words and actions espouse a growth mindset show more resolve and determination in the face of failure than those who demonstrate a fixed mindset. The growth mindset student willingly risks failure and accepts it as part of the hard work necessary to grow her intelligence and talent. Conversely, the fixed mindset student believes her intelligence and talent cannot be improved, so she sees no point in working hard, least of all if there is the chance of failure. This dichotomy between the growth mindset and fixed mindset tracks closely along cultural lines: students of Western cultures believe that struggle indicates they are less capable, while those of Eastern cultures believe the opposite, embracing struggle as a positive event.
There are no scientific studies that indicate grit can be taught. But, because it is the key to embracing hard work and failure, and learning over the long-term, presenters Niedringhaus and Broering-Jacobs, in the highlight of their discussion, turned it over to the attendees to share anecdotes of teaching grit. These fell within such categories as staging an interrupting event or a complication in the research strategy, and allowing searches that lead nowhere or to an unclear answer. But, a couple of anecdotes hit upon truly unique ways of teaching grit. One professor brought bow ties to class and taught grit by showing students how to tie a bow tie. Another professor recorded her efforts to answer a research problem devised by her students, capturing her frustration and failures, but also her determination and strategies for success as she worked through the problem.
Presenters Niedringhaus and Broering-Jacobs gave an amazing presentation that left the attendees with practical ways of instilling grit in their classroom instruction. This made Building Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance While Teaching Legal Research one of the most talked about presentations from the 107th AALL Annual Meeting & Conference.
~ Cory M. Lenz ~