Educating the Mind

Some cool education articles that popped up on Skepchick today. First, “The Secret to Raising Smart Kids,” which focuses on praising kids for their effort, rather than their intelligence. The writer cites numerous studies in which this works to improve the students’ performance.

Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability””along with confidence in that ability””is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.

…[O]ur studies show that teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, helps make them into high achievers in school and in life.

I’m afraid to admit that I learned this the hard way, when my studies stopped being “easy” to me, and I had to rely on hard work and perseverance in order to understand a concept or get a project done. It’s something that our professors and advisors now try to instill into us, that scientists aren’t necessarily super smart, but they are diligent. In education, it is also important to encourage kids no matter what their talent is. It seems as though the default position has become to praise children for being themselves and never “hurting” them with things like bad grades or red pens. Instead of treating kids as if they have fragile egos or as if they have a mysterious talent, praise their work and effort and successes.

The next piece of news has Adam Savage commenting on science education. And before you say, “but he’s not a scientist!” note that the Mythbusters are responsible for teaching the scientific method to scores of lay people. His three points are: let students get their hands dirty, spend money on science (in the classroom), and celebrate mistakes. The third one ties back into the previous article, just a bit.

Science is dirty, tedious, and fun, all at the same time!