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


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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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