Grit + Growth Mindset to Succeed in STEM Careers

Two weeks ago I spoke at a Women in Business event and decided to drop into one of the afternoon breakouts focused on the Growth Mindset and the Grit Personality Trait. Together these theories and tests look at the role of intelligence and effort in relation to individual student achievement and success. It got me thinking about Couragion’s goal to inspire kids to pursue STEM skills, degrees, and careers. What role do these bodies of research play in measuring success in STEM fields? Are you born with the innate ability to crunch numbers and write code? Did you inherit your Mom’s analytical, engineer brain? Maybe, but that’s not what necessarily makes people successful.

The Growth Mindset posits that intelligence is malleable and can be developed over time. It is based on years of research by Stanford University’s Dr. Dweck. The research shows that students who adopt a growth mindset consistently exhibit higher motivation and achievement, and outperform the control groups who have more of a fixed mindset. One of the key tenants of the growth mindset is that students find lessons and inspiration in other people’s successes. And another is that students embrace challenge and persist in the face of adversity.

The Grit Scale was developed by Angela Duckworth – former math teacher in middle school and high school and now a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Her goal was to identify and measure the various skills and traits other than intelligence that contribute to human development and success. Her research focuses on a personality trait she calls "grit" or endurance that drives sustained interest and effort in order to achieve goals. She has linked Grit to higher GPAs, graduate rates, and overall achievement. Duckworth’s research actually showed that the grittiest students – not the smartest ones – had the highest GPAs. She further advises that Grit can be learned and developed over time similar to the growth mindset paradigm.

Great news – right!? By combining a Growth Mindset and Grit we can all strive to build STEM competencies. And we can all thrive in STEM careers by following some mindful practices.

  1. Be open to learning from role models who forged a path before you – listen to how they planned for their career pathways and what would they tell their teen selves today.
  2. Be willing to put yourself out there and take risks – sign up for the challenging science, math, and technology classes or seek those training and certification opportunities.
  3. Be prepared to stick to it when the going gets tough – remember that extra effort and perseverance makes a difference.
  4. Be resilient when you receive criticism or don’t get a perfect score – in startups and in life it’s better to fail fast and learn from the experience.  

I'd love to hear your thoughts! or @mristeff on twitter.



Melissa RisteffComment