Last year we discussed researcher Carol Dweck’s studies about how praising kids for their intelligence could make them less able or willing to take on challenges.
A new article about Dweck’s research talks about how praise and that ability to take on challenges affects girls particularly in math.
“Dweck’s research, which focuses on what makes people seek challenging tasks, persist through difficulty and do well over time, has shown that many girls believe their abilities are fixed, that individuals are born with gifts and can’t change. Her research finds that when girls think this way, they often give up, rather than persisting through difficulties. They don’t think they possess the ability to improve, and nowhere is the phenomenon stronger than in math.”
“Of all the subjects on earth, people think math is the most fixed,” Dweck said. “It’s a gift, you either have it or you don’t. And that it’s most indicative of your intelligence.” This attitude presents an especially sticky problem to educators working to boost girls’ interest and passion for science, technology, engineering and math – STEM subjects. For many boys, believing math is a fixed ability doesn’t hamper achievement — they just assume they have it, Dweck said. But girls don’t seem to possess that same confidence, and in their efforts to achieve perfection, Dweck’s research shows they shy away from subjects where they might fail….”
“If adults emphasize that all skills are learned through a process of engagement, value challenge and praise efforts to supersede frustration rather than only showing excitement over the right answer, girls will be show resilience. It also might help to provide a roadmap to correct the gender imbalance that already exists in fields requiring math and science, jobs that often involve setbacks, “failing,” and overcoming challenges.”
Dweck says parents should praise strategy and taking on hard things and sticking to them. She said those will be the kids willing to take on challenges.
“Mother’s praise to their babies, one to three years of age, predicts that child’s mindset and desire for challenge five years later,” Dweck said
She suggests that failure in small doses is good for kids. They suggest it’s like video-game learning – when they fail a level they start back over without being stigmatized. That’s how they should take on other challenges at school – mess up, start over, do better each time and don’t beat yourself up over it.
I love this analogy. My son takes failure at school very hard but will try over and over again at video games until he gets it right. I am going to try to emphasize that to him.
Rose is currently two years ahead in math, and I think she knows she has to work hard at this subject. I think if she was just taking the regular class or one year ahead, it would come so easily that she wouldn’t see how hard work plays into it. But I think being two years ahead she is really having to work hard and knows it’s not all natural ability.
So what do you think: Do you see your girls especially in math and science having a hard time because they think it’s a fixed ability and are afraid/or don’t know how to take on the challenges? What do you think about the analogy of the video-game learning? I really like that analogy.