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Researchers: Measures of Traits Like ‘Grit’ Should Not Be Used for Accountability

The debate over how to refer to so-called “noncognitive” student traits like self-control, grit, and gratitude is crowding out a more important conversation about how those traits should be measured and how to responsibly use the resulting data, two pioneering researchers in the field say.

Angela Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania professor known for her research on grit, and David Yeager, a University of Texas researcher who has done extensive work in the field of growth mindsets, detailed their concerns in an essay in published today in Educational Researcher.

Because there are potential flaws in every existing measurement tool used to track the effectiveness of a growing number of efforts to build non-cognitive traits—known by names like social-emotional learning, character development, and 21st-century skills—such evaluations should not be used for accountability measures like school-to-school comparisons or teacher evaluations, the essay says.