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Teaching Innate Ability Over Hard Work Deters Students From STEM, Study Finds

Teaching Innate Ability Over Hard Work Deters Students From STEM, Study Finds

A national study pulling data from high school students around the country suggests that telling students the ability to solve and tackle difficult subjects is innate-not learned- might deter them from later studying in STEM fields.

"The study used data from 4,450 US adolescents who later entered college to probe why some students shun math-intensive fields. Believing that solving tough math problems requires innate abilities might discourage students, the researchers reasoned," according to

Students who had the "growth mindset," or the mindset that they could learn to be good at math and to master difficult math concepts were the most likely to pursue math-intensive studies after graduation.

"Endorsing a 'growth mindset' seemed to equally benefit boys and girls, the study found. Regardless of gender, these beliefs predicted later majoring in math-intensive fields," the article said. But praising "innate talent" over the ability to grow and learn in math studies might be a big cause in why women are deterred from STEM fields over men.

"Across 30 academic fields, philosophy and math professors were the most likely to say that success in their fields depends on innate talent, according to a recent study Cimpian helped lead. Fewer women were found in fields that idolized 'brilliance' over hard work," the article said.

Because cognitive abilities in the brain can still grow even in adulthood, the study suggests making sure students know and believe that intelligence can grow with hard work. Struggling students are shown to improve when told their hard work will help.

"Teachers who continue to believe that 'your basic intelligence can't change'– despite evidence to the contrary – may rob students of opportunities to learn and grow. Computer science and math instructors who endorse such beliefs, for instance, report being more likely to advise struggling undergraduates to drop their classes."

Such a move is detrimental and can be directly correlated to why students opt out of STEM fields. By encouraging students that hard work is most important to learning over innate genius, students will be more likely to take on new challenges and therefore will grow as learners.

Read the full article here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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