The short answer to ‘Why is failure important?’ is to paraphrase the twee quotes and sayings that tell us ‘only by failing can we succeed’. Although clichéd – and slightly nauseating – there is truth in these motivational quips.
“Failing”, or rather, answering questions incorrectly in an educational setting, results in more brain activation (Falkenstein, Hoormann, Christ & Hohnsbein, 2000; Moser, Schroder, Heeter, Moran & Lee, 2011), longer lasting memory and better performance on subsequent tests (Kornell, Hays & Bjork, 2009). This is not so surprising when you look at what goes on in our brains when we learn and lay down new memories. What is unfortunate is how little failure is now permitted within schools, homes and society in general. Whether this lack of permission contributes to fixed mindsets, whether a fixed mindset leads to the vilification of failure, or whether there is another cause is not important. Seeing the link between mindset and approach to failure is important, because in this we see the means for fostering growth mindset in all.
Continue reading “Importance of Failure”
The anti-testing debate rages on, with an editorial this week in tes magazine.
Standardised testing has many advocates and many critics and I don’t intend to be one of them in this post. But what I am interested in discussing is what is the link between the attitude towards the results of standardised tests and the effect.
The tes editorial was a discussion of testing in the US. One box questioned whether American students are “really over-tested?”, and the justification for suggesting not (“The US is not a country of heavy testing”) is its comparison to other countries. Andreas Schleicher (the OECD’s education chief) suggests that plenty of other countries, with better educational outcomes, test a lot more. I wonder whether the reason there doesn’t appear to be a backlash against them might lie in the attitudes towards those tests. Perhaps the reason Americans feel they are in an educational regime of over-testing is because the stakes are so high. If teachers are at risk of disciplinary action as a result of these tests and if students are told the results of these tests will dramatically impact their futures (graduating, going to college, getting a “decent” job, being successful, being happy – the subtext behind all this rhetoric is quite alarming) then even with fewer actual tests than other countries, the culture may feel like there is ongoing testing.
Continue reading “Implications of Standardised Testing”
I’ve fallen in love: intensely, deeply in love with Carol Dweck. And I won’t hear a bad word against her. It’s probably not healthy, it’s definitely a bit weird, but it’s how I feel and I won’t apologise: My intellectual love for her runs deep and flows fast.
Dweck pioneered a distinction between what she calls a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Originally conceived as a descriptor for attitudes towards intelligence, this distinction has traction for most cognitive attributes and provides insight and explanation for observable behaviour. A fixed (entity) mindset is characterised by a belief that there is a constant level of some cognitive attribute or trait for every person which cannot be surpassed no matter how much it is worked at. A growth (incremental) mindset is contrasted with this and is characterised as a belief that a given attribute or trait is malleable and can be affected and changed by an individual. So, for instance, someone holding a fixed mindset of intelligence will believe that everyone is born with a certain level of intelligence and no matter how studious and motivated they are, once they reach their intelligence ceiling, they cannot surpass it. This outlook is typified by sentences such as “he’s the clever one” or “I’m no good at x” – the subtext here is “he was born clever” and “I can never be any good at x”. Conversely, someone with a growth mindset might say “I have to work hard to get good results in x”.
Continue reading “Carol Dweck: A new intellectual crush”