What is it

Researchers consider courage to be a foundational, cross-cultural human virtue associated with key character strengths like bravery, persistence, and integrity. Although definitions of courage range, multiple studies indicate that courage features three key components:
  • Intentionality
  • Risk
  • A “Noble” Goal
In other words, courage refers to the process of identifying a risk, considering potential alternative actions that could be taken, and deciding to act in a manner that incurs risk (intentionality)—with the goal of obtaining a greater good for the self or others (a “noble” goal).

A high school student is trying to decide whether to represent her school in a math competition. She’s worried about embarrassing herself if she is not able to solve a problem. She’s afraid of disappointing others. After much thought, she decides to take the risk and to support her school.

Or course, students’ actions may be considered more (or less) courageous depending on the level of risk they experience. What feels courageous for one student may not be judged as courageous by her peers or teacher.
In fact, researchers distinguish general courage from personal courage. General courage refers to confident, fearless actions that most people would consider courageous like landing a plane load of passengers safely or defending someone against a bully, yet some actions may require greater “personal courage” simply because of the way a student views the challenge—along with the fear they may associate with performing a courageous action.

After the teacher calls for volunteers to share how they solved the equation, an extremely shy student pauses, deliberates, and then decides to raise his hand. Although he almost never speaks at school, he wants to face his almost paralyzing fear of public speaking.

Several other factors influence courageous behavior including the individual’s abilities, emotions, and beliefs—as well as the larger cultural and societal forces in play.
Ultimately, we can also engage in morally courageous actions to uphold our personal values and convictions. Our sense of honor, valor, loyalty, or duty may motivate acts of courage when our “moral code” is violated in some way.

When a kindergartener hears his peer yelling, “You can’t play with us” to a smaller boy at recess, he immediately intervenes and invites the boy to join his game.

Why is it important?

Courage enhances student well-being.



Courage helps students to navigate social and emotional challenges.

  • Greater courage in adolescents is related to the use of more self-directed coping. Thus, in schools the practice of courage could help students better adapt to difficult situations and attain their personal and academic goals.



Courage prepares students to take academic risks.

  • Rather than avoid an assignment, students who engage in “academic courage” learn to persevere through a difficult learning task despite their fear, leading to more positive academic outcomes.



Courage emboldens students to speak up in the face of injustice.

  • Safe and supportive learning environments can be more conducive to courage, and when students learn to advocate for others, they contribute to creating a more welcoming environment themselves.


Sort by
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
–Mary Anne Radmacher
Enroll in one of our online courses

Do you want to dive deeper into the science behind our GGIE practices? Enroll in one of our online courses for educators!