Education reform: Revisiting Intelligence

So today, I came across an article in NPR today that talked about a study featured in the journal, Child Development, showing that “if you teach students that their intelligence can grow and increase, they do better in school.” And while this may not seem groundbreaking to you, I suggest you click on Read More.

The article is put in context by research psychologist Carol Dweck from Stanford University, who said that “all children develop a belief about their own intelligence.”

Dweck then used the following paradigm to understand these beliefs; fixed and growth mindsets of intelligence. As you can imagine, the fixed mindset cause students to think of their intelligence that is set in stone while students who follow the growth mindset think of their intelligence as something that can grow and evolve over time.

Dweck wanted to find out if there was a correlation between a student’s academic beliefs and their grades.

So, first, she looked at several hundred students going into seventh grade, and assessed which students believed their intelligence was unchangeable, and which children believed their intelligence could grow. Then she looked at their math grades over the next two years.

“We saw among those with the growth mindset steadily increasing math grades over the two years,” she says. But that wasn’t the case for those with the so-called “fixed mindset.” They showed a decrease in their math grades.


I didn’t exactly fall out of my chair when I read that but I do think it is worth noting that many parents are not aware of of their child’s intelligence belief. Forget kids, what about you? What factors do you think were most influential in framing your intelligence belief? And if your mindset has changed over time, has it changed from the growth mindset to the fixed mindset or vice versa? Why?

The aforementioned results, caused Dweck and her colleague Lisa Blackwell to see if there was a correlation between a student’s belief about their intelligence and their grades.

So, first, she looked at several hundred students going into seventh grade, and assessed which students believed their intelligence was unchangeable, and which children believed their intelligence could grow. Then she looked at their math grades over the next two years.

“We saw among those with the growth mindset steadily increasing math grades over the two years,” she says. But that wasn’t the case for those with the so-called “fixed mindset.” They showed a decrease in their math grades.
This seems straight-forward enough but Dweck and Blackwell wondered if you could teach a child to have a growth mindset, could you then improve their grades?

So, about 100 seventh graders, all doing poorly in math, were randomly assigned to workshops on good study skills. One workshop gave lessons on how to study well. The other taught about the expanding nature of intelligence and the brain.
The students in the latter group “learned that the brain actually forms new connections every time you learn something new, and that over time, this makes you smarter.”

Basically, the students were given a mini-neuroscience course on how the brain works. By the end of the semester, the group of kids who had been taught that the brain can grow smarter, had significantly better math grades than the other group.

I think this article was inspiring not because I was surprised at the results but because of the potential hope it holds out for teachers. Now I am not a teacher, but I know that one of the most frustrating teaching experiences is dealing with a student that has it made up in his/her mind that they can not master a given lesson. And if there is any way we can convince students that by not giving up when they are frustrated, their brain cells are working to make them smarter, then I am all for it. This fixed mindset is pervasive and is infecting students at younger and younger ages, thereby encouraging more students to mentally check out from school. And I know that we need to completely revamp the way do administer education, but in the meantime, our students need every leg up possible.

For those interested, Dweck’s latest book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, gives parents and teachers specific ways to teach the growth mindset of intelligence to children.

Stay up fam,

Categories:
Education reform
intelligence

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One response to “Education reform: Revisiting Intelligence”

  1. Garlin II says :

    B,

    A couple of thoughts:

    Where would students be taught the growth mindset?
    Would it be at home? At school? Both? I ask because I believe that [decent] teachers are trying to infuse this into lessons where they can today. How can we make it easier or more practical to train kids to have this type of thinking in other contexts?

    This has implications for adults too
    I am not a cognitive scientists, but I would bet money that many adults also do not have growth mentalities about their intelligence. This is probably a hold-over from their childhood mentality, but it is still there and can still be changed in a positive way.

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