5. GRIT!


Grit is a charity organisation that delivers personal development programmes with young people and professional groups.

On Monday 6th November, 6 facilitators and 4 support staff from Grit met with 128 students from the Foundation Study Framework (FSF) at The Deco theatre in Northampton, supported by the FSF staff team. Students started a 3-day journey following a carefully designed course to challenge and unpick limiting thoughts and potentially disenabling internal conversations they have developed about themselves.

Via a series of scaffolded activities and interactions with peers and facilitators, students were supported to reflect on, understand and challenge existing thinking. With new space for alternative thinking, students were given the opportunity to consider the choices and possibilities about themselves and their potential to make transformations, and to contribute to themselves and others.

The programme approach and delivery presented a new and unique experience for most students. This also meant that it presented challenges. In line with other personal development programmes that untangle and ‘peel-back’ sources of thinking about ourselves, parts of the process felt uncomfortable for many students.  By the end of day 2, there was an increased sense of shared understanding and mutual respect in the student groups. Powerful experiences were shared by students. Other students chose to withdraw from the process at this stage.

Students heard, ‘You are whole, and complete, without flaw’.

Students were invited to consider what their expectations are, where expectations might come from, and what happens when the reality does not meet expectations?

Who are you?

Some internal conversations shared…..

Challenging definitions, analysing the social construction of language and possibilities when we have a blank canvas, a different context.

Already Always Listening

Students were asked to consider the idea that they are already always listening to themselves. They listen to versions and interpretations of their world based on their experiences, expectations and internal conversations about themselves. They were invited to consider the notion that they, and others, rarely listen to listen. Students noticed their internal conversations and judged the extent to which these are ever-present in daily activities. Noticing limiting thoughts or internal conversations can help to challenge them. Definitions of who we are or who we are not can be tackled and changed. Students were encouraged to explore the concept that we are our word, we are what we do.

On the final day students focused on the difference between being committed and wanting. They pulled together the range of support systems available to them to reach their goals. On the final afternoon, the programme really ‘came together’ or ‘clicked’ for many students. They shared a sense of solidarity, resilience and achievement in their commitment to completing the programme. The programme had clearly impacted positively on many students. In the final sessions, many students chose to share their experiences of the 3 days and what it had meant to them.

Some selected quotes,

I’m more comfortable about being myself. I’ve learnt that you have the same self-doubt about yourself that I have, because all you people have shared that with me. It is a strange feeling that I feel uncomfortable about being comfortable with who I am – because it’s the first time that’s happened for me.”

I let what happened to me define me, but I didn’t realise I had let it define me, and now I know that it doesn’t define me’.

I don’t normally talk to people, but I have here.”

When I came here to this country, no one offered me anything or helped me. Now I am touched because it’s the first time someone has offered my anything.”

The worthless, useless thing started from childhood and was built up. I never really spoke to myself and said, ‘You are not that’, but now I know I am not that.”

Those students who completed the programme will come together again for a follow-up and celebration in January 2018.

Foundation Study Framework Staff perspectives of Grit


3. A glance at initial student responses – some numbers


Changemaker Outcomes for Graduate Success (COGS)

Not at all true or Hardly True

20% of students indicated less confidence in ‘taking responsibility for a small-scale leadership role within a team; communicating ideas, project and delivery plans so that responsibilities can be agreed.’

16% reported that is was ‘less true’ that they could ‘communicate effectively using appropriate written, verbal, visual and digital formats to demonstrate understanding to an identified audience.’ 


Areas of confidence (Exactly True)

Over 60% of students reported to ‘recognise that compromise and negotiation is required when working with others, demonstrating an awareness of the need to listen and utilise different methods of communication; adapting my behaviour in response to feedback’ and over half of them felt that they could perform as an effective team member.

General Self-Efficacy Scale

Exactly True and Hardly True

60% of students reported a level of confidence in being able to solve most problems if they invested the necessary effort. Students were less confident in their ability to get what they want when some opposes them.

The range and variance on student responses for each sub-scale were similar.


What does this mean for individual students?

There is a significant positive relationship between students’ responses to the Changemaker outcomes for graduate success (COGS) and the general self-efficacy scale questions (GES), r(126)=.64, p=.000. 

In general then, students who felt that the self-efficacy questions were not true for them also reported more negatively on their ability in regards to the 10 outcomes for graduate success.  On the flip side, students with high scores for the self-efficacy subset tended to report more positively (Exactly True or Moderately True) on the COGS items. 


4. The missing data so far – capturing student non-engagers and disengagers

240 students enrolled on FSF 2017-2018

129 completed the initial employability & self-efficacy self-assessment (T1)

128 attended grit/ Changemaker Day 1

60 attended grit/ Changemaker Day 2

45 (of the original 128) completed Day 3

[number] completed T2 self-assessment

Who are the missing numbers?

  1. Late enrolment for new starters
  2. Delayed enrolment for repeat students
  3. Students who missed the self-assessment session 
  4. Students we have not yet seen or heard from 

What can we do about it?

2. More on the Employability & Self Efficacy Self-Assessment tool

20 Items 

4-point Likert Scale:

1= Not at all true   2= Hardly true   

3= Moderately True   4=Exactly True




Internal reliability 

Both subsets met the minimum reliability criteria (Cronbach’s alpha .70), although a number of items in both sub-scales did not correlate well (assessed via inter-item correlation matrix and corrected item- total correlation).

In particular, Item 4 in the COGS subset and Item 7 in the GES subset impacted negatively on internal consistency.






1. Introducing the Foundation Study Framework Team and the research project


Progression’ Jason Johnston. 2011.

The Foundation Study Framework (FSF) team are on a mission to understand how we can better engage students who are enrolled on a four-year FSF programme.

In Stage 1a this year (2017-2018), we have just over 250 students enrolled on 20 different degree programmes. The framework, and our modules, are designed to support academic and employability skill development over the course of two years. In the first year with us, students start to explore academic practice in relation to their degree programmes. Workshops and sessions are tailored to give students the space and guidance they need to figure out the types of skills required for university (and employability) success. They are given the opportunity to practice and refine academic skills so they build confidence and are well-prepared to cope with academic and other challenges. The Foundation Study Framework contributes to widening participation efforts and attracts students from non-traditional backgrounds and other educational experiences. 

Student self-efficacy, resilience and ‘grit’ are deemed to be key determining factors in student engagement and retention in higher education (Kahu, 2013; Yorke, 2016). This is not a secret. Students’ beliefs about what they can achieve and their ideas about their ability to tackle problems, overcome barriers and succeed; tend to impact on academic, employment and other personal and occupational matters. How many students hold detrimental opinions of themselves and their abilities? Where do these ideas and expectations come from? We want to know what can happen when students have the chance to unpick some of these thoughts and behaviours.

‘Grit’ is an organisation invested in working with young people in a unique and powerful way to help them to better understand or reconsider themselves as individuals, and their motivations. Grit’s ‘tough love’ approach challenges young people to address what it is really going to take for them to ‘achieve what they are capable of’ and to overcome barriers and obstacles that have possibly held them back. Support from student peers and building a strong support network is a fundamental part of Grit approach.

Continue reading 1. Introducing the Foundation Study Framework Team and the research project