So it turns out that R. Kelly wasn’t completely wrong about believing: an ongoing study has recently confirmed that many students’ mindsets factor into their ability to learn and advance through schooling (and higher education) programs. These mindsets were split into two types defined by Stanford University’s PERTS Lab’s Dave Paunesku, Paunesku used the examples of Homer Simpson and Rocky Balboa to explain the two types of mindset:
Homer has a “Fixed Mindset” point of view and subsequently believes that intelligence is innate, it’s a fixed trait that can’t be changed and you either have it or you don’t. When Homer faces a challenging problem he would rather shy away from it and give up, denying himself the chance at an increased intellectual capacity.
Meanwhile, Rocky has a “Growth Mindset” which means that with each challenge he takes it head on and uses it to improve, accepting that with enough determination one can achieve absolutely anything. This sort of mentality is very prominent in top-level academics and sees top achievers raising the bar not just for those around them, but for themselves, almost constantly.
The differences between these two mindsets is staggering, with students with a Fixed Mindset being four times more likely to be in the bottom 20% of their class, and to the contrary, students with a Growth Mindset being three times more likely to be in the top 20% of their class. This was found in a study of 1500 high school students, where students were given a 30 minute online mindset program detailing the brain’s ability to rapidly adapt and change. After two weeks the students whom had been exposed to the program earned 14% more satisfactory grades than those whom didn’t, and students in the bottom third of the class earned significantly higher grades, Paunesku said:
“Students [in the bottom third] assigned growth-mindset treatment earned significantly more A’s, B’s and C’s in core classes.”
The University of Chicago’s Camille Farrington, also author of the book ‘Failing at School’, has suggested that these results have profound meaning and further push the point that not only is the brain highly malleable in a way not before thought so, but also that belief plays an extremely huge role in a student’s ability to learn. Farrington writes that if a student believes themselves a part of an academic community, can succeed, that their ability grows through effort or that their work has value to them that a student’s motivation is pushed dynamically further.
The main issue Farrington highlights is the mechanism of failure used in schools as an attempt to drive progress, but actually not working the way it’s intended: “Now we grade everything; it’s averaged into the final grade. Kids know that. Once they start failing, the system is rigged so that they can’t recover from it. Then they give up. We want kids to pick up after they’ve failed.”
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