Teaching pupils grit and determination, known as character education, has been thought of as a positive way to boost educational performance across the UK and the US.
However, new research shows that it contributes by just 0.5 per cent in GCSE exams. The authors of the study, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, looked at how perseverance and passion for long-term goals affected academic success.
Education secretary Nicky Morgan announced a £5 million plan in 2014 to encourage teaching character and perseverance in the face of setbacks to students. These personality traits have been linked to success in specialist areas such as spelling competitions in the US.
The study used a sample of 4,500 16-year-old twins over their GCSE exams. The use of twins aimed to account for the role of personality differences against academic success. As identical twins share the same genes, studying differences in their personalities can help to show what effect this has on their educational attainment.
The researchers found that personality factors, including grit, accounted for about six per cent of the differences in GCSE results. The other personality measures looked at were extroversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism, agreeableness and openness.
The authors state that grit becomes more relevant after the age of 16, becoming increasingly important when individuals understand what their lifelong goals are, as well as their interests.
The study’s first author, Kaili Rimfeld, from the Institute of Psychiatry, said: "Our study suggests that grit adds little to the prediction of academic achievement when other personality factors are taken into account. This does not mean that teaching children to be grittier cannot be done or that it is not beneficial. Clearly children will face challenges where qualities of perseverance are likely to be advantageous."
Posted by Alan Douglas