Federal Report Recommends Schools Teach Grit

Dec 29, 2016

File photo of a teacher and students in a classroom. A new federal report led by a researcher at UNC-Chapel Hill suggests students be taught grit, self-control, and resiliency.
Credit www.audio-luci-store.it / Flickr

Alongside reading, writing and math, schools should teach students how to manage their feelings, too. That's a new recommendation from the federal Administration for Children and Families.

Desiree Murray, director of UNC-Chapel Hill's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, is lead author of the recommendations. She said that self-control, grit and resilience, a combination known in education parlance as self-regulation, are key ingredients in student success and well being.

“We would want to see [students] be able to manage and sometimes even simply accept frustration and distress,” she said.

Children dealing with toxic stress, such as poverty or trauma, can have an especially hard time managing their emotions, according to research cited in the federal report.

“When that stress exceeds that level of support and what can be managed, then you can actually see some pretty clear negative impacts on the developing brain,” Murray said.

The new recommendations from the Administration for Children and Families suggest that teaching self-regulation can reverse these effects.

Schools are ideal settings for this, Murray said, because they can provide consistent reinforcement of learning from pre-K to 12th grade. Preschool and adolescence are integral times for reaching students, according to the recommendations. 

The report emphasizes that educators need to be taught how to provide this learning in order to have a real impact on students.

“We would really love to see more attention being provided to really teaching caregivers how they can provide those supports, above and beyond teaching a specific curriculum,” Murray said.