Researchers discover key to academic success

Initial findings from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s latest research project have determined that the character trait ‘grit’ is the most effective predictor of a student’s future academic success.


The performance, daily habits and emotional state of 4,000 UK teenage students from the Wellington College Teaching Schools Alliance were monitored by researchers from the Harvard Graduate School of Education throughout the 2014 and 2015 terms.


The study found that students who displayed grit – which was defined as having determination, courage, persistence, a ‘growth mindset’ and the ability to maintain a balanced lifestyle – as one of their key characteristics performed better academically than students who might be seen as traditional achievers; those who over-worked themselves.


The study also discovered a relationship between grit and metacognition – or higher order thinking – skills; students categorised as having grit were better at setting and working effectively towards goals and reflecting on their own learning.


And perhaps most importantly researchers found that students who had a ‘growth mindset’ – or the belief that they could continually improve – achieved better results that those who didn’t.


Dr Christina Hinton, a neuroscientist and faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, said: “Our results suggest that grit does not require pushing yourself at all costs, but rather cultivating healthy emotional regulation skills and effective learning strategies.”


“We’ve become very good at measuring performance in terms of exam results but very bad at measuring more difficult things like learning, self-perception and mindsets,” said Carl Hendrick, head of research at Wellington College. “This project is an attempt to measure the more unmeasured aspects of student progress.”


The light this body of research shines on the positive effects of a steady study routine, balanced lifestyle and positive mindset is vitally important; students who leave revision or assignment writing until the last minute, or those who over-work, are both less likely to achieve academic success than those who maintain a balanced lifestyle.


In order to give yourself the best chance of study success:


1) outline and stick-to a regular study routine, with plenty of short-breaks, family time and extracurricular activities scheduled in;


2) set yourself regular goals – hourly, weekly, monthly and even yearly – to give yourself milestones to work towards;


3) stay healthy by maintaining a steady, regular sleeping pattern of between 7 and 9 hours every night, eating well and taking regular exercise;


4) keep striving to improve and seek help if you feel like you’re falling behind.


Take a look at our blog ‘Maintaining a healthy study-life balance’ for more tips on how to achieve this.


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