Failure is almost like a rite of passage to me. I never truly understand what something means without failing at it first. However, there is a completely different route I could take after I fail. I could completely give up on the matter entirely and just declare that I am not fit to understand it. It sounds ridiculous putting it in words like that, right? Well it isn’t as simple when this is how so many students actually feel. We should educate them that not doing well on something is not a failure, but rather just a FAIL or First Attempt At Learning.
One of my education classes that I am taking right now is titled “The Science of Learning” and appropriately so. We have learned about various topics about the brain and how they relate to education and academic success. The class is also targeted towards first generation students and transfer students due to their academic background and for other reasons to come later.
For those that don’t know, Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset vs. fixed mindset has exploded recently. Fixed mindset is essentially believing that your intelligence and abilities are fixed and cannot be changed whereas growth mindset is believing that these qualities are malleable and you are able to grow to acquire more. It is a simple concept in theory but much harder to change in person. Through taking this class, I have been able to change my mindset and hope to help other students to do the same.
The impact this can make on students is astounding, and I can speak from personal experiences. Having this simple fix on my what I think I can accomplish has actually proven to be true — I have been able to accomplish things that I didn’t believe I could before.
Another piece of evidence to prove this has been the concept of neuroplasticity. In laymen’s terms, your brain is growing and can grow more. The neurons in your brain form more connections allowing the newly formed or reorganized synapses to compliment the new material that is being learned. This is also the hope that many stroke victims and dyslexics have.
The implications of this for the classroom? Well for one, praising effort more has been shown to be extremely effective. Yes, grades are an unwavering part of our education system but comments and positive feedback praising a student’s improvement and growth can go a long way for them. There was another study that we read about in that class about gym class and the impact it made when the structure of the class changed to focusing on improving their PR by the end of the semester. Normally, many students who are not the most athletic get discouraged from participating in group activities. This eliminates that problem and lets them work on themselves rather than focusing on others.
How does this relate to first generation students? Many of these students believe that since their parents never attended or never finished college, it must be genetics that they will not either. Research has shown environment to be a much greater factor than genetics, but not the goal is to show this to the students.