Goals

Two years ago, I wrote about “grit” in a blog entitled, A Critical Key to Students’ Success that included the above graphic.  I encouraged instructors to find ways to have discussions with advisees by exploring challenges and supporting growth.  Grit is a perfectly fine concept and we each apply different levels of it in our lives to achieve goals.  Some of us have to work harder than others in certain areas due to not winning a genetic lottery that would allow ease with learning a skill or body of knowledge.  There are additional barriers to consider beyond innate ability, which would result in a third frame in the above graphic where the person does not have a bike.

My understanding of grit has deepened by looking through the lens of equity.  Aisha Sultan, in her article, The Limitations of Teaching ‘Grit’ in the Classroom stated, “The transformative potential in growth mindsets and social-emotional skills such as grit may be more applicable to students whose basic needs are already met.”  The author quoted Tyrone Howard, Associate Dean for equality and inclusion at UCLA, who stated, “The conversation about growth mindsets has to happen in a social and cultural context, because cultural, institutional, and historical forces have an effect on individuals.”  He also said, “We are asking students to change a belief system without changing the situation around them.”

Equity-vs-Equality-300x168

There are mindsets and belief systems so deeply ingrained in systems that the dominant culture is often blinded to their presence; Robin DiAngelo’s article and video  have helped us bring this into focus.  As professors, we see grit and determination as essential tools to success in college and often help our student discover deeper levels of these personal qualities to be successful.  We are invited by cultural shifts, however, to step back and examine this belief system through the lens of equity and to develop approaches that increase students’ success.  We have the opportunity to use our privilege by giving a hand to those who are reaching for it.  I am proud of the ability and professional development I have observed in many EHHS faculty at SUNY Plattsburgh over the last academic year to support students’ success.

We understand there are students who have not had the advantages of others.  Reflection on this deepens our understanding about how inequity affects the learning environment.  If there were equity, students would enter your classrooms with potential reserves of grit you could tap and develop equally to improve learning.  This is not a current reality in our society and results in several questions when considering an increasingly diverse student population.

  1. Does our academic system have the right supports in place to bring as much equity as possible to the academic learning environment?
  2. Whose responsibility is it to help us recognize our “blind spots” related to equity?
  3. What is a professor’s responsibility in the classroom to both equity and equality?
  4. How do we best guide students who are not successful, even when there are supports for equity and when fairness in the classroom is evident?
  5. What responsibility does a professorate from the dominant culture have to reexamine and evolve teaching approaches to meet an increasingly diverse student population and society?

Society’s playing field is not level for many groups within our society, but supports across the college and within classrooms can help mitigate inequity and support success.  This is a collective responsibility that will afford students better access to and use of grit.  The closer we get to this higher standard, the closer we come to accessing the true potential of all professors and students.

Bonus:

Liberation

    EHHS Shared Values Highlighted

Inclusion/Culturally Responsive

  • Demonstrated awareness, knowledge, and skills
  • Culturally responsive teaching
  • Self-reflection
  • Caring attitude
  • Courage to discuss sensitive issues and “sit with discomfort”
  • Continued learning, challenging and changing of our attitudes

Social Justice

  • Recognize social justice issues
  • Advocate to enhance social change
  • Enhance community responsibility/social responsibility

References

DiAngelo, R. (2011). White fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3 (3) pp 54-70.

Sultan, A. (2015). The limitations of teaching ‘grit’ in the classroom. The Atlantic Journal. Retrieved  April 17, 2016 from: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/12/when-grit-isnt-enough/418269/

Goals Image (n.d.) Retrieved April 17, 2016 from:   https://www.pinterest.com/aalaa_xx/paths-to-success/

Equity image (Oct. 2015). Retrieved April 17, 2016 from:  http://groundswellcenter.org/october-from-the-director/

Liberation Image (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2016 from http://www.storybasedstrategy.org/uploads/4/5/4/4/45442925/1193727_orig.png?653