How Do You Measure ‘Grit?’

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Anna Wells

Anna has an MA in Applied Linguistics and came into teaching via Schools Direct in 2013. She currently works at a prep school in Greater London teaching English and has previously been an Assistant Head, focusing on assessment. She is a self-confessed football nerd and...
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Can technology really help to measure ‘soft’ skills?

A website ( has appeared that allows users to measure their own performance and credit themselves when they have shown a desired trait or skill. It has been adapted to be used in a school as an app, allowing children to scan a card and be rewarded points on the spot for showing traits such as grit, character and resilience.

The website itself is very corporate and uses words such as ‘performance’ and ‘coaching’ quite often. It is not particularly child-friendly, but is obviously something that schools feel they can tap into to measure the skills that we can’t quite assess using a test paper. Is this the way forward for assessing soft skills?

Soft Skills

‘Soft skills’ is a phrase I have heard bandied about in school and in the media. The use of the word ‘soft’ suggests they are skills that you can’t measure through a written test or give a level to. It is about the all-round child, and producing pupils who have what it takes to survive in the cold, harsh world of employment.

Lately, there seems to be a common myth (pushed by our current government) that we are producing soft-centred children who are not able to make their own decisions and need some sort of curriculum in place to give them these skills.

Now, I am trained to teach the primary curriculum but not to mould personalities into what the government deems as fit to work. Maybe life is easier for children in the noughteens (is this what we call this decade?!) but it doesn’t mean they aren’t cut out to survive in the job market.

One of my reasons for teaching is to have some impact on the lives of the pupils I teach, and perhaps influence them in some way as to the career path they want to take. I want them to care about their future and to do well for themselves. This can be a hard characteristic to instill in a generation that often expects everything at the click of a finger.  However, I feel I can do this through passionate teaching rather than rewarding a child every time they show what I think is ‘grit’.

Gritty Stuff

I have to admit, I’m not really quite sure what ‘grit’ is. I know it can get in your eye, and I’m usually thankful for it during those awful winter mornings, but I’m not sure I could identify it if a child displayed it in front of me.

Is ‘grit’ when someone falls over and doesn’t cry? Is it when they don’t get the part they want in the school play and smile nevertheless? These are all admirable qualities, but it doesn’t make a child a lesser person if they do break down. In fact, I would say it can be a good thing when a child experiences something not going their way.

I prefer to call it ‘learning through experience‘. I am not going to give a ‘credit’ to a child every time I think they have shown resilience; a simple word of encouragement or pat on the back is usually all they need.

If children think they can get points for showing certain behaviours, will they not just show them so they can get a reward? Grit and character need to be embedded in children – a process that will probably take the large majority of their school career. If I can help them along the way, then that is my job done. I don’t need an app to help me do it.

Having just completed a school play and watched children grow in confidence during their time on the stage, I am even more convinced that technology cannot fully measure soft skills.

Witnessing a child sing a solo in front of a room of adults when a month ago I couldn’t even hear their voice is measurement enough. I don’t need to type that into an app or create a spreadsheet. A sticker and a pat on the back is confirmation to that child that they have done a great job.

Resilience can be learnt, but it doesn’t need to be pointed out every time it happens.

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