Incredibly Important – What Promotes Better Learning?

Wouldn’t it be completely insane to focus on what really matters.  Who is with me in believing that learning is the single most important individual characteristic as a human.  Hopefully, you are not thinking that learning has to do with school.  Hopefully, you are thinking that learning has to do with everything including emotional learning, spacial learning, kinesthetic learning, informational learning, business learning, political learning, and much much more. A hallmark scientific study has studied the effect of specific environmental queues on the ability to learn.

In her own research, Dweck has shown that these mindsets have important practical implications. Her most famous study, conducted in twelve different New York City schools along with Claudia Mueller, involved giving more than 400 fifth graders a relatively easy test consisting of nonverbal puzzles. After the children finished the test, the researchers told the students their score, and provided them with a single line of praise. Half of the kids were praised for their intelligence. “You must be smart at this,” the researcher said. The other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.” - Why do Some People Learn Faster by Jonah Lehrer

Some of the results were:

When Dweck was designing the experiment, she expected the different forms of praise to have a rather modest effect. After all, it was just one sentence. But it soon became clear that the type of compliment given to the fifth graders dramatically affected their choice of tests. When kids were praised for their effort, nearly 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. However, when kids were praised for their intelligence, most of them went for the easier test. What explains this difference? According to Dweck, praising kids for intelligence encourages them to “look” smart, which means that they shouldn’t risk making a mistake. – Why do Some People Learn Faster by Jonah Lehrer

The bottom line of this research is that fear, as in all things, has a negative effect on performance.  Praise the effort not the innate intelligence (I made this mistake with my children.)  Induce confidence by removing fear of mistakes.

I propose that school teachers and business managers actually use this information to produce better results and happier workers.  See the rest of the article at Wired Magazine.