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In this project we will use a multi-method, multi-sample longitudinal study to better measure the development of a key virtue related to school success: diligence. Given the association of diligence with many important outcomes in educational settings, such as higher grades and better graduate rates, many schools are now starting programs that attempt to foster the development of diligence. Unfortunately, it is difficult to evaluate and design effective programs because the most common measure of these characteristic – self-report questionnaires – were not developed to be sensitive to change over time. Likewise, it is unclear how diligence naturally develops over this sensitive period.

Specific research activities include a longitudinal study of diligence in middle school students. We move beyond using questionnaire items to include more objective measures that are better suited to identifying changes in diligence. These include daily audio recordings, behavioral tasks, daily diaries, and novel questionnaire items that are better suited to document changes in diligence.

In at least three separate journal articles we address our three aims of the project: 1) Track the development of diligence across multiple methods of assessment; 2) Create a questionnaire measure that is sensitive to changes in diligence; 3) Measure whether changes in diligence are long-lasting and extend into new contexts. In addition, three empirical articles will address more exploratory hypotheses.

This project will lead to a number of advancements. It will provide a necessary tool to evaluate already existing character development programs. Moreover, the new measure of diligence will afford a means with which to provide meaningful feedback to students. Finally, by identifying important characteristics associated with development, downstream work can ultimately translate these characteristics into teachable strategies that foster effective development.