Be careful when comforting struggling students

Previous research tells us that students who see intelligence and ability as fixed will tend to give up when confronted by a difficult problem, whereas those who see intelligence as growable will persevere. But how do teachers’ beliefs about ability affect the way they perceive and respond to their students’ performance?
maths pupilA new investigation led by Aneeta Rattan, together with Carol Dweck, the doyenne of this area, and Catherine Good, began by asking 41 undergrads about their beliefs regarding maths ability (e.g. did they agree that “You have a certain amount of math intelligence and you can’t really do much to change it”?). Asked to imagine they were a maths teacher responding to a student’s initial poor maths exam result, those undergrads who endorsed this fixed “entity” theory of maths ability tended to jump to conclusions – assuming that their student had struggled because he or she lacked maths ability.

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