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Meta-analysis finds value in teaching the science of neuroplasticity, especially for math achievement among at-risk students

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The ‘Brain’ in Growth Mind­set: Does Teach­ing Stu­dents Neu­ro­science Help? (Edu­ca­tion Week):

Teach­ing stu­dents the sci­ence of how their brains change over time can help them see intel­li­gence as some­thing they can devel­op, rather than innate and unchange­able, finds a new analy­sis of 10 sep­a­rate stud­ies online in the jour­nal Trends in Neu­ro­science and Edu­ca­tion.

Teach­ing stu­dents the con­cept of neuroplasticity—the abil­i­ty of the brain to make new neur­al con­nec­tions as a result of experience—is a com­mon tac­tic in help­ing stu­dents devel­op a so-called “growth” rather than “fixed” mind­set … on aver­age, such inter­ven­tions improved stu­dents’ moti­va­tion, they par­tic­u­lar­ly ben­e­fit­ed stu­dents and sub­jects which pri­or stud­ies have shown are at high risk of devel­op­ing a fixed mind­set. For exam­ple, black stu­dents at risk of “stereo­type threat”—the fear that one will rein­force a neg­a­tive stereo­type of your stu­dent group—showed sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er increase in moti­va­tion and enjoy­ment of sci­ence after a neu­ro­science-based mind­set pro­gram than did stu­dents who were not at risk of stereo­type threat … The effect of brain-based mind­set inter­ven­tions was also stronger in math, a con­tent area in which pri­or stud­ies have shown stu­dents are more like­ly to believe skill is innate rather than mal­leable. A growth mind­set inter­ven­tion based on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty,” the authors found, “seems to be most­ly ben­e­fi­cial in terms of math achieve­ment for at-risk stu­dents (low-achiev­ing and eco­nom­i­cal­ly dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents).”

The Study:

Effects of Teach­ing the Con­cept of Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty to Induce a Growth Mind­set on Moti­va­tion, Achieve­ment, and Brain Activ­i­ty: A Meta-Analy­sis (Trends in Neu­ro­science and Edu­ca­tion).

  • Abstract: Induc­ing a growth mind­set in stu­dents has been shown to impact pos­i­tive­ly on moti­va­tion, aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment, and brain activ­i­ty. How­ev­er, some stud­ies have yield­ed dif­fer­ent results and authors rarely pro­vide rea­sons to explain this incon­sis­ten­cy. In an effort to bet­ter under­stand the con­flict­ing evi­dence, we con­duct­ed a meta-analy­sis of 10 peer-reviewed stud­ies includ­ing par­tic­i­pants from age 7 to adult­hood. Results show that induc­ing a growth mind­set by teach­ing neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty has an over­all pos­i­tive effect on moti­va­tion, achieve­ment, and brain activ­i­ty. The results also reveal that this inter­ven­tion seems more ben­e­fi­cial for at-risk stu­dents, espe­cial­ly regard­ing math­e­mat­ics achieve­ment. These find­ings thus sug­gest that incon­sis­tent evi­dence across empir­i­cal stud­ies could be explained by stu­dents’ char­ac­ter­is­tics and sub­ject area.

The Study in Context:

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning

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