Teaching Students that Intelligence Is Not Fixed

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#1 6 January, 2017 - 12:52
Joined: 1 year 11 months ago

Teaching Students that Intelligence Is Not Fixed

New Research: Students Benefit from Learning That Intelligence Is Not Fixed

Teaching students that intelligence can grow and blossom with effort – rather than being a fixed trait they’re just born with – is gaining traction in progressive education circles. And new research from Stanford is helping to build the case that nurturing a “growth mindset” can help many kids understand their true potential.

The new research involves larger, more rigorous field trials that provide some of the first evidence that the social psychology strategy can be effective when implemented in schools on a wide scale. Even a one-time, 30-minute online intervention can spur academic gains for many students, particularly those with poor grades.

...By the end of spring term, encouraging changes were afoot, particularly in the students struggling with low GPAs: the proportion who earned satisfactory grades rose to 49 percent from 43 percent the previous semester, a relative gain of 14 percent. Students in the control condition, however, showed a slight downward slide. A 14 percent improvement might not sound like much, but it represents that many more kids who lifted themselves above poor or failing grades, Paunesku said. “Hopefully, that will put these kids on a different trajectory where they would be more likely to actually graduate high school,” he said.

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Also: Changing Mindsets

Pupils who received the growth mindset workshops made an average of two additional months’ progress in both English and maths compared to those in the control group. These findings were not statistically significant, which means that we cannot be confident that they did not occur by chance. However, the finding for English was close to statistical significance, and this suggests evidence of promise. Pupils whose teachers received the professional development intervention made no additional progress in maths compared to pupils in the control group. These pupils made less progress in English than pupils in the control group, but this finding was not statistically significant and we cannot be sure that it did not occur by chance.

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19 January, 2017 - 01:53
Joined: 4 years 4 months ago

Quite interesting ! I read two books that were very elogious and convincing about the work of Carol Dweck (The Antidote, Nurture Shock). I now believe that cultivating a mindset focused on effort and growth sounds much more sane and promising that cultivating self-confidence alone or positive thinking. I like this passage on an other page of the site.


Influencing how students view themselves as learners is challenging work. Students often won’t respond if a teacher just tells them how they should think — that creates defensiveness. Instead, a good tactic is to teach them some of the neuroscience around learning, including that the brain is malleable.

To me, this is indeed a good tactic as brain talking has much power on people mind. But, saying that the brain is malleable, this is just like saying "learning takes place". We learn, our brain "changes", yep. On certain aspect, this reminds me the kind of dubious online article "doing X changes/rewire/etc... your brain". Using neurotalking as a tactic for a greater good, on the other hand, I kind of like it.

19 January, 2017 - 02:24
Joined: 1 year 9 months ago

At my work, I don't neccesarily teach the teens who come to work here that intelligence isn't fixed, but rather that skill isn't fixed. Helping them discover that they are capable of more than they believe they are capable of. As I also ready in the article, I don't tell them that. I "trick" them into doing things they think they can't do, and then they discover that they actually can do it, which I then also state to them afterwards which helps in the realization.
Lovely to see more research there ^^

28 January, 2017 - 14:05
Joined: 2 months 1 week ago

I think there is a great value in the fixed-mindset/growth-mindset distinction. But the original Dweck's study is just a preliminary research. To quote B. Oakley's last Friday newsletter:


Failure to replicate Dweck’s “Mindset” Theory

Carol Dweck’s associated book Mindset, have been popular for years, although there has been some perceptive pushback from the edges. However, just out is a major study, “Does mindset affect children’s ability, school achievement, or response to challenge? Three failures to replicate,” by Yue Li & Timothy C. Bates, with the following conclusions: “Praise for intelligence failed to harm post- challenge cognitive performance. Children’s mindsets had no relationship to their IQ or to their school grades. Finally believing ability to be malleable had not association with improvement of grades across the year. We conclude that the belief that basic ability is fixed is harmless, and that implicit theories of intelligence play no significant role in development of cognitive ability, response to challenge, or educational attainment.”

These kinds of findings that upend “settled” science lead inevitably to major defensive turf wars by those with a strong vested interest in having the science remain settled. Sit back and enjoy your popcorn as the battles begin!

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