How to apply Angela Duckworth's theory to support success for English Learners

Your students are facing mental and emotional challenges on a daily basis. You want to help, but you're encountering budget cuts and other tough constraints at school. How can your students overcome challenges and succeed in school?

Academic and social success for English Learners may come down to more than just talent and knowledge. It may depend on non-cognitive skills like grit, or sustained perseverance toward goals. Grit is essential to achievement, and may rival innate talent and intelligence when it comes to accomplishing goals.

How will your students confront challenges and hardships throughout life and come through with determination? A major predictor for success, according to Angela Duckworth, is how much students show stamina and work hard.

Duckworth says, “Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint.”

To discover if your English Learners show grit, ask yourself the following questions: Do setbacks discourage your students and make them want to give up? Do your students finish what they begin?

One thing of note is that watching peers struggle but continue to persist might actually be good for English Learners. In addition to internal drive, the classroom social environment and peer grit are critical to benefiting learning and growth.

Understanding that grit is important to achievement, how can you help your English Learners develop their individual and peer grit? Here are some ideas:

  • Passion: Give them the freedom to pursue what interests them. Duckworth says that finding purpose is critical to grit. Although young students don’t fully understand their purpose, a teacher can help give them the foundation for purpose by allowing them to figure out activities that they’re passionate about and find fulfilling.

  • Practice: Encouraging practice that focuses on weaknesses, not strengths. If a student is particularly challenged by certain vocabulary words, encourage them to focus on the words giving them difficulties… not just the words they’ve mastered.

  • Hope: The best thing that can help your English Learners improve their grit is to give them hope. One way to do this is to give them success stories of individuals who were English Learners and have gone on to achieve. At Mawi Learning, we call these Super ELL heros-- click here to read some stories you can share with your students.

Read more about our Super ELL courses and how these can support English Learner success.

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