Can you teach it? Should you teach it? Should it be part of the school curriculum? The ‘it’ in question is character, or grit, or resilience or all three and more, and it’s been a big talking point this week. Michael Gove believes his school reforms would help develop it; Tristram Hunt argues that it should be a taught part of the curriculum while an all Party Parliamentary Group is behind a Report published this week on future policy. It’s not a new issue of course but seems to have resurfaced as debate continues about whether the current curriculum reforms tilt learning too far away from what are often regarded as essential personal skills and politicians battle it out for the soul of education. So what is true grit and where’s it best developed?
What is meant by grit/resilience in an education setting?
It’s generally easier to recognise than define and most attempts at codification tend to reflect what comes under the heading of ‘soft skills.’ Click on preferred soft or personal skills on recruitment websites and you generally get a list that comprises the following: effective communication; problem solving; team player; flexibility; creative thinking; confidence; and being able to accept feedback and act on it.
These tally pretty closely with the seven acknowledged employability skills that the CBI has been promoting for some time although theirs include Business and Customer Awareness and Application of IT and of Numeracy along with self-management, team working and communications.
Similar lists can be found in most employer surveys and are pretty much staple diet in vocational programmes these days but the MPs’ Report this week, published with the think tank Centre Forum and the independent Character Counts centre, focuses more on the “personal resilience and emotive wellbeing” side of personal development. Their research suggests four key ‘character capabilities’ namely: application; self-direction; self-control; and empathy, with a strong nod towards a range of other characteristics such as self-efficacy and the ability to defer gratification, generally reflected in the terms ‘mental toughness’ and ‘grit.’
An interesting aspect of this is the development of wellbeing, the subject of recent Reports from both Young Minds and Barnardos and increasingly recognised in schools as an important contributor to learning success and component of personal or character development.