This is a repost. The original article was published on March 6, 2008.
Take this short quiz*. Answer yes or no to each question. There is no right or wrong answer so don’t think too hard about each question. Just answer it honestly.
1.My intelligence is something very basic about me that I can’t really change.
2.When I don’t understand something I like to slow down and try to figure it out.
3.I am intimidated by academic challenges.
4.I have been told by others that I am smart.
5.Learning is fun.
6.I often feel unmotivated to learn.
7.When I don’t do well in a subject I think that I must not be very good at that particular subject.
8.When I perform poorly academically I do not get discouraged.
9.When I don’t understand something, I get very frustrated and want to give up.
10.I shouldn’t have to work as hard in subjects that I am naturally good at.
Give yourself four points for each of the following questions you answered YES to: 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, and 10.
Give yourself minus 2 points for each of the following questions you answered YES to: 2, 5, 8.
If you scored +15 you believe that intelligence is fixed.
If you scored 10-15 you believe that intelligence is mostly fixed.
If you scored 5-10 you believe that intelligence is somewhat fixed.
If you scored less than 5 you believe that intelligence is not fixed.
So, what does this mean? By the time students have reached the 9th grade they already have well-established beliefs about how they learn. When a student in the classroom does really well on an exam, other students will say he or she is “smart”. Those students who didn’t do so well may say their poor performance is due to not being as “smart”.
There are two ways of thinking about learning. On one hand, a student believes that some people are just naturally smart. Those people don’t have to work that hard at learning. Things just come easy to them. School comes easy to them. Their teachers have probably said things to them like, “you’re so smart” or “you’re really intelligent”. The student who believes that the ability to learn is innate or fixed is said to have a fixed mind-set. A student who believes they are not naturally smart and that there is little they can do to improve their learning ability also has a fixed mind-set. In my experience, it appears that most students have this mind-set.
On the other hand is the student who believes that they can do well in school, but only when they work hard at it. The student knows they must work hard to do well and they give their school work a great deal of care. This student is said to have a growth mind-set.
Which of these two ways of thinking is best? Which students will end up succeeding in the long run, those with the fixed mind-set or the growth mind-set? Most people would say naturally “smart” students will fair better. They have a “gift” and are “gifted”, therefore, they will have greater success in school.
However, according to the data, they would be very wrong. Students with a fixed mind-set not only do worse in school in the long run, they also suffer more in their professional and personal life.
The fixed mind-set starts to backfire for the “smart” students as they get into high school and classes become more challenging. The December ‘07 issue of Scientific American Mind included an article summarizing over 30 years of research on the connection between student performance and the way students think about how they learn.
Research shows that an overemphasis on intellect or talent – and the implication that such traits are innate or fixed – leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unmotivated to learn.
Having a fixed mind-set can lead to experiencing great disappointment when a student performs poorly because they begin to lose confidence in their ability. Since they have been repeatedly told that they are “smart”, when they do poorly, they automatically begin to doubt themselves and start to believe that they are “stupid”. Or they may begin to blame their teachers or peers for their failures. Instead of bouncing back from their failure, they continue to struggle.
A person with a fixed mind-set often feels the pressure to “look smart” and so they begin to avoid challenges, they give up easily, see effort as being wasted time, and they are easily intimidated by the success of others.
A person with a growth mind-set desires to learn and thus, they enjoy challenges, bounce back from setbacks, see effort as being necessary to progress, and they learn from other people’s success.
I bring up this research now because we’re going to be talking about animal intelligence in class tomorrow. One of the things we’ll examine is the very nature of the nervous system. As it turns out, the brain is a flexible and malleable organ. It improves with mental exercise (aka learning). Understanding this will help those with a fixed mind-set make the transition to a growth mind-set.
“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Read one of these research articles below and answer the following questions:
1) What evidence in the research supports the advantage of a growth mind-set over a fixed mind-set?
2) Explain one of the quantitative findings provided by this study.
3) Will this study have any impact on the way you approach your learning in school?
*Please note that the quiz was created by Miss Baker and is not meant to substitute as an accurate method of determining learning patterns.