Angela Duckworth

by Naomi Gledhill from MY HERO Staff

155169American psychologist and author Angela Duckworth at the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center, speaking about her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.GRuban via Wikimedia Commons

Angela Duckworth is an American psychologist, best-selling author and podcast host who specializes in the research of grit and self-control, and the extent to which those attributes predict success in educational and professional settings.

Duckworth was born on April 24th, 1970, in New Jersey. Her father Ying Kao Lee, who was a Chinese immigrant, was a chemist for the car company DuPont; during his time there he invented a substance put into car paint to prevent it from fading called Lucite dispersion lacquer.[1] Duckworth attended and graduated from Cherry Hill High School East, before going on to graduate from Harvard College with B.A. in neurobiology in 1992. Duckworth later received a Marshall Scholarship to study for an MSc in neuroscience at the University of Oxford; she graduated in 1996.[2]

In a TED talk in 2013, Duckworth explained that after earning her MSc degree, she went on to work as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company.[3] At 27 years old, after realising just how demanding the job was, she left to become a math teacher. She taught seventh grade math at Lowell High School, a public school in San Francisco, California.

During her time as a teacher, Duckworth noticed that IQ was not the only factor that determined a student’s standing in the class. “Some of my strongest performers did not have stratospheric IQ scores,” she explains in her talk for TED, adding, “Some of my smartest kids weren’t doing so well.”[4] She believed that every child in her class at the time was capable of learning the material, as long as they applied themselves and worked both hard and long enough. Rather than focusing so acutely on IQ, Duckworth believed, educational institutions would benefit more from examining teaching and learning through the psychological perspective of motivation. This realization led Duckworth to go to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania to study psychology, where she graduated in 2006.  

After graduating, Duckworth took research teams to West Point Military Academy, the National Spelling Bee, different schools and sales companies to examine whether they could predict which students and professionals would go furthest in their endeavors. They found that one single characteristic was a significant predictor of success: grit. Duckworth defines grit as “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals,”[5] and has found that it is largely unrelated to talent or IQ. The concept, along with self-control, has remained the focus of her research throughout much of her career.

As well as psychological research, Duckworth has worked on numerous other projects and professional endeavors. In 2013, Duckworth founded The Character Lab, a non-profit dedicated to “to the advancement of scientific insights that help kids thrive.”[6] The organization not only carries out research into how to improve the wellbeing of young people but supports educators and parents in implementing their findings. In 2016, she published her first book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. After its release, the book was on the New York Times best seller list for over three months.[7] In May 2020, Duckworth created a podcast with tech and sports expert Mike Maughan for Freakonomics Radio called No Stupid Questions. You can browse and listen to all episodes here. The series is also available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify Amazon Music, and  YouTube.

Angela Duckworth has dedicated years of research to the improvement of teaching and learning for young people, and her work demonstrates just how beneficial scientific research can be when applied to real life settings and scenarios. 

[1] Cook, Bonnie. Ying Kao Lee, DuPont inventor of lacquer that kept cars shiny, dies at 87. [Online] Available

[2] Angela Duckworth. [Online] Available

[3] Grit: the power of passion and perseverance | Angela Lee Duckworth. [Online] Available

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] About Character Lab. [Online] Available

[7] Angela Duckworth. [Online] Available

Page created on 3/25/2024 4:33:37 PM

Last edited 3/27/2024 1:12:05 PM

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Cook, Bonnie. Ying Kao Lee, DuPont inventor of lacquer that kept cars shiny, dies at 87. [Online] Available

, . Angela Duckworth. [Online] Available

, . Grit: the power of passion and perseverance | Angela Lee Duckworth. [Online] Available

, . About Character Lab. [Online] Available