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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A Quantitative Study Investigating the Critical Ninth-grade Year and How Grit Influences Student Academic Success
by Kovacs, Guy A., Ph.D., Northwest Nazarene University, 2018, 204; 10814387
Abstract (Summary)

Our school systems are in place to create positive citizens who can contribute to the greater good and to also create a foundation for a life of learning. Schools were originally formed to help our country become stronger in its infancy by generating a population that had common knowledge, baseline skills, especially in literacy, and the ability to be citizens who could move the country forward and keep leaders honest. The same holds true today. However, research is showing that one out of five high-school students is dropping out of school and not graduating within the traditional four-years of high-school. Why students drop out of high-school, and how that may be prevented, is a topic much discussed and researched. The future of non-graduates is grim and the negative impact to society is costly.

What are common characteristics of students who drop out from high-school? How might educators better the odds for at-risk students? What can we point to that leads other students to find success? The ninth-grade year is a vital one for the success of students in high-school. The skills students build in the ninth-grade will, in large part, determine how they succeed in the latter parts of high-school and beyond. Research shows that the brain continues to grow well beyond the high-school years and there is no limit to the learning of new skills and knowledge. Non-cognitive characteristics also play a key role in the level of success one achieves. While intelligence can serve as a predictor of success at some level, it is not as strong of a determiner as some non-cognitive characteristics that have been identified.

In this study, the characteristic of grit was looked at to determine if there was a correlation between grit and academic success in ninth-grade students. A quantitative approach was applied to gathering data from ninth-grade students from a rural school district in Washington State. The theoretical frameworks used as a lens throughout this process were Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory and Dweck’s Mindset Theory. The foundational belief of Social Cognitive Theory is that people learn from other people. According to this theory, our beliefs and actions are determined by what we experience with, and witness in, other people. Our choices are shaped by our understanding of how our behaviors lead to a better life through what we have seen in those around us. Dweck’s Mindset Theory works to explain what propels people to be successful. The Mindset Theory also focuses on determination, goal setting, and a desire to better oneself while challenging the high-praise society that students live in today. Dweck differentiates between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset in a person. This theory states that in the fixed mindset, things are set and very little can change in a person. In this way of thinking, things are what they are with little hope of change. The opposite way of thinking is having a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that we are constantly growing and bettering ourselves throughout our lives. It is the belief that we can and should learn more and continue to build our skills. Dweck states that our brain is a muscle that can be developed and improved upon over time. These frameworks were chosen because grit is a characteristic that is deeply influenced by our experiences with other people and also influenced by the mindset in which people choose to live. With a growth mindset, we can improve the characteristic of grit over time. While grit may be partially inherent, it is a characteristic that can be taught, learned, and improved upon. Duckworth believes that grit is important in understanding and supporting student success. This study specifically looks at grit and whether the presence of grit may lead to greater academic success in ninth-grade students.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Sanchez, Lori W.
Commitee: Kissell, Pat, Lowney, Brian
School: Northwest Nazarene University
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- Idaho
Source: DAI-A 79/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational sociology, Educational leadership, Education
Keywords: Achievement, Characteristic, Grit, High-school, Ninth-grade
Publication Number: 10814387
ISBN: 978-0-355-93213-3
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