Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology and Research

Major Professor

Ralph G. Brockett

Committee Members

Derek H. Alderman, Mary Catherine Hammon, Gary J. Skolits


Extant literature suggests studying for a doctorate requires not just the growth of intellectual and technical skills and abilities, but also progressively developing more noncognitive attributes. Two noncognitive factors with demonstrated relationships with academic outcomes include self-directed learning and grit. Self-directed learning (SDL) is defined as the process of initiating, maintaining, and evaluating one’s own learning, as well as the individual characteristics – such as control, initiative, self-efficacy, and motivation – of the learner who engages in self-directed learning (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991; Stockdale, 2003). Grit, identified as a noncognitive trait by Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, and Kelly (2007), is defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” (p. 1087). While various studies have examined these factors separately, none has explored the relationship between SDL and grit among doctoral students.The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships among SDL, grit, and progression toward degree among doctoral students. Participants (N = 118) were doctoral students in a college of education, health, and human sciences at a large, R1 public institution in the southeastern United States. Participants completed the PRO-SDLS (Stockdale, 2003), measuring SDL, and the Grit-S (Duckworth & Quinn, 2009), measuring grit, as well as age, gender, employment status, enrollment status, and stage in degree. Correlational tests and independent samples t-tests were conducted to identify significant relationships and differences, respectively, among these variables.A very strong, significant positive relationship was found between SDL and grit (r = .70, p<.001). Significant positive relationships also were found among the PRO-SDLS four factors (initiative, control, self-efficacy, and motivation) and the Grit-S two factors (consistency of interest and perseverance of effort). SDL and age were found to be significantly positively related (r = .23, p = .013), suggesting older participants were more self-directed. Grit was found to be significantly different by gender t(116) = 2.33, p = .021, as women participants were significantly grittier than men participants.Implications for practice include introducing SDL and grit as noncognitive learner characteristics to doctoral students, as well as designing doctoral education to foster self-direction and grittiness. Recommendations for future directions for research are also addressed.

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