Grit and Persistence: Findings from a Longitudinal Study of Student Performance

Nicole A. Buzzetto-Hollywood, Bryant C. Mitchell
Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology  •  Volume 16  •  2019  •  pp. 377-391

The purpose of this study was to examine whether grit was a contributing factor to student persistence and success at minority serving institutions.

A number of studies conducted in the past fifteen years have concluded that grit is a positive predictor of achievement across many domains. But, is grit really the ultimate panacea for student success? This longitudinal study sought to answer that question by specifically focusing on business students attending a mid-Atlantic minority-serving institution that primarily serves low-income and first generation learners.

The research study under consideration used quantitative methods for data collection and analysis. It was initiated in the Fall of 2014 with the administration of the standard 12-item Grit assessment to all freshmen students enrolled in a university business department. Students were then followed longitudinally over a five year period with GPA and persistence to graduation documented. During the analyses, grit score was compared to participant first year GPA’s as well as retention and persistence to graduation via comparison tables and ANOVAs.

A lack of substantive studies conducted at HBCUs and other minority serving institutions poses a major gap in the existing literature available on grit. A number of authors have put forth a call to action for faculty at minority serving institutions to conduct meaningful studies focused on grit and student persistence in order to better inform the HBCU community. This study is specifically purposed to help fill some of the gaps in the available literature. The results of the research presented in this paper hopefully shed light on the need to explore non-cognitive factors that may affect student performance. In particular, research should explore factors that may, or may not, contribute to the success of under prepared college students in particular those who are from low income, first generation, and minority groups. This form of exploration is part of a commitment to positive student outcomes.

According to the findings, there is a significant positive correlation between higher grit scores and both GPA and persistence to graduation. First year GPA, however, was not found to be a reliable predictor of academic success.

As part of a commitment to positive student outcomes, faculty and administrators in higher education must be constantly exploring factors that may, or may not, impact student success.

The results of this research help to shed light on the need to explore elements that may help to contribute to the success of under prepared college students in particular those who are from low income, first generation, and minority groups

The authors conclude that while building the grittiness of freshmen students may lead to positive student outcomes, grit alone might not be enough. In fact, they postulate that grittiness without clarity of purpose, positive self-efficacy, and growth mindset may mean that students who may be gritty may not be exerting their energies appropriately. During the next phase, a model that is currently under development will be used as part of a mindset intervention to edify students about grit, growth mindset, locus of control/self-efficacy, and clarity of purpose. A complimentary research study examining student performance and perceptions will also be conducted.

grit, persistence to graduation, student retention, graduation rates, business education, student success, first generation college students, HBCU, minority learners, UMES, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, persistence and perseverance, grit in education
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