The Way Learners Think About Intelligence Affects Their Own Study Choices

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The Way Learners Think About Intelligence Affects Their Own Study Choices

The authors explained that when the participants were told intelligence can be improved, they may have thought that restudying the words they had not learned very well would lead to the most growth. When the participants were told intelligence is fixed, the words they thought they had not learned very well may have been reminded of their limitations, and could have led to avoiding the words they perceived as the most difficult to learn and remember.

A Second Experiment

In Experiment 2 the researchers used the same general method but added another variable. The researchers also manipulated the size in which each study word was presented. This was done to manipulate fluency, and thus to try to drive judgments of how well words were learned up or down in a systematic way. For educational purposes, this manipulation is not particularly relevant (though it does help us understand how decisions about studying track with assessments of how well the participants think they have learned the words).

Overall, the results of this experiment were the same as the first experiment. Those who were told intelligence can be improved chose the words they thought they had learned most poorly to restudy. Those who were told intelligence is fixed did not show as strong a preference to restudy the most poorly learned words.

Bottom Line

How we think about intelligence can drive how we make study decisions! When participants were told that intelligence is fixed, their restudy preferences were different than when participants were told intelligence can be improved with effort and practice. Specifically, when participants were told that intelligence can be improved with effort and practice, they were more likely to choose to restudy words that they perceived as more difficult for them to learn and remember. It seems that beliefs about intelligence affected learners’ goals. Thinking about intelligence as something that can be improved with effort and practice seems to lead to taking on more challenges during restudy, which can improve learning and memory!

Other researchers (2) have shown that interventions taking place across a semester to teach 7th grade students that intelligence can be improved and is malleable had positive impacts on how students viewed study effort and more difficult learning strategies. Their motivation increased, as did their grades compared to a control group.

Teaching learners that intelligence can be improved, and the importance of effort and practice to improve intelligence, can have positive impacts on learners’ study choices and overall effort.