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Challenging Students' Mindsets on Learning Could Help Improve Performance

The quest for knowledge and learning is endless. And we have the capacity to grasp as much as we can. Having that kind of mindset can help people improve and become better in life. But one discouraging thought that hinders them is that their intellectual ability is fixed, that it cannot be improved.

With the help of a growth mindset program as part of an experimental study, a research team found that when students undergo these growth mindset interventions, and they realize that they can enhance their mental capacity, it positively affects their performance.

Psychological "interventions" like the one tested in the NSLM do not change the curriculum or teachers, but rather change how adolescents think or feel about themselves or their schoolwork in ways that encourage them to stay motivated when school is challenging and take advantage of the learning opportunities available in their school environment.

People tend to give up when they feel that their efforts aren't producing any fruit or when they think that they have reached their limit and cannot make any more progress. But these interventions show that students can be encouraged to challenge themselves and desire to tackle even more difficult problems.

Both lower- and higher-achieving students benefited academically from the program. On average, lower-achieving students who took the program earned significantly higher grades in ninth grade, and both higher- and lower-achieving students selected more challenging math courses in 10th grade.
Lower-achieving students who attended schools in which the peer climate (the "norms") supported the pursuit of challenging work registered the largest improvements in grades as a result of receiving the program.

(Image credit: Nicole Honeywill/Unsplash)

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