Research has shown that focusing too much on grades and performance may not lead to success.

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Reading text

Do you have the right mindset?

1Think back to when you were in a classroom, maybe a maths classroom, and the teacher set a difficult problem. (That could have been any time between this morning or a few years ago.) Which of the two following responses is closer to the way you reacted?

A: Oh no, this is too hard for me. I’m not even going to seriously try and work it out.

B: Ah, this is quite tricky but I like to push myself. Even if I don’t get the answer right, maybe I’ll learn something in the attempt.

2Early in her career, the psychologist Carol Dweck of Stanford University gave a group of ten-year-olds problems that were slightly too hard for them. One group reacted positively, said they loved challenge and understood that their abilities could be developed. She says they had a ‘growth mindset’ and are focused on what they can achieve in the future. But another group of children felt that their intelligence was being judged and they had failed. They had a ‘fixed mindset’ and were unable to imagine improving. Some of thesechildren said they might cheat in the future; others looked for someone who had done worse than them to boost their self-esteem.

3Professor Dweck believes that there is a problem in education at the moment. For years, children have been praised for their intelligence or talent, but this makes them vulnerable to failure. They become performance-oriented, wanting to please by getting high grades, but they are not necessarily interested in learning for its own sake. The solution, according to Dweck, is to praise the process that children are engaged in: making an effort, using learning strategies, persevering and improving. This way they will become mastery-oriented (i.e. interested in getting better at something) and will achieve more. She contends that sustained effort over time is the key to outstanding achievement.

4Psychologists have been testing these theories. Students were taught that if they left their comfort zone and learned something new and difficult, the neurons in their brains would form stronger connections, making them more intelligent. These students made faster progress than a control group. In another study, underperforming school children on a Native American reservation were exposed to growth mindset techniques for a year. The results were nothing less than staggering. They came top in regional tests, beating children from much more privileged backgrounds. These children had previously felt that making an effort was a sign of stupidity, but they came to see it as the key to learning.

5So, back to our original question. If you answered B, well done – you already have a growth mindset. If A, don’t worry; everyone is capable of becoming mastery-oriented with a little effort and self-awareness.

Total votes: 177
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Discussion

Do you enjoy being challenged, or do you dislike being out of your comfort zone? What’s your motivation for studying: to get good grades or to learn things effectively (or both)?

Comments

Zoezoe's picture
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Zoezoe 1 March, 2018 - 18:29

I personally love challenges and I even believe that I have better results in my work when I am being challenged. Besides that as a student I like to learn as much as possible but in the same time I like to get the grades that I deserve, either they're are bad or good. This way I know where I stand and how much I need to work. A teacher of mine said once that grades should be used as a compass and I really liked that comparison.

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Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
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Jonathan - Coor... 2 March, 2018 - 04:39

Hi Zoezoe. That's a refreshing point of view! It's totally normal to want to get good grades but I agree that it's good to get a grade that is an accurate reflection of your work. Your teacher explained it really well!

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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Gugina's picture
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Gugina 11 December, 2017 - 12:40

I continuously confront these type of situations were I have to push myself to be the best I can.
At school, I do have a competitor especially when it comes to marks but the thing is that we are the best of friends. We help and push each other constantly to overcome our limits and fears. To become two of the top students at school. When we come across a difficult problem in mathematics, we do not help each other but challenge each other, which helps us to become independent in our thoughts. It may seem rough but it's essential.
On the other hand, this article talks about not praising intelligent and talented students , which I do not fully agree with. If the lazy and careless students are praised and given more attention than those who actually deserve it (i.e gifted students), these will be lost. I know what I'm talking about because in my country careless students were and still are given much more attention than intelligent students. This resulted in a major fail, the total population of gifted students is approximately 5% of the total population, what a shame.
Never give up, without trying!!

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15 users have voted.
Elsa007's picture
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Elsa007 13 December, 2017 - 13:10

Your writing is encouraging and so pursuasive! :0
I agree with you, yes, intelligent students are a minority but they have a potential to change the world without being seen. ;)

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10jcaste's picture
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10jcaste 17 November, 2017 - 21:22

This is a topic that really grabs my attention. I am constantly thinking about ways of improving, mostly at school, where (good) rivalry is daily bread. We are looking for the best mark, not only between students in the same class, but almost all over the country, if we are focusing on the university entrance examination.
In my opinion, it is absolutely essential to be OPTIMIST about any difficult situation. I have had some difficult moments at A levels (and they are not over yet), but I have been able to overcome them. I wouldn't say that it's because of "faith", but kind of. It is like a combination of self-esteem and confidence.
Besides, I usually look for celebrities that help me to get inspired. For example, I appreciate Muhammad Ali, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, sportsmen that had really bad moments in their professional careers, but they came better than ever in order to do what they love.

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17 users have voted.
MARIAJL's picture
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MARIAJL 13 November, 2017 - 11:59

I think that depends on the age that you are, you can feel on one way or on the other. I enjoy being challenged because I think that is how we grow. We need to experiment along our life to be able to confront different situations.
At present, most of teenagers need to get good grades due to our educational system. Nevertheless, I think that both of them are important. In my case, when I was at high school , I studied because I need to get good grades. However, when I will be at university, I will learn things effectively because I learn what I like.

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Mariabdr's picture
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Mariabdr 6 November, 2017 - 12:20

At the present, the majority of teenagers think the most important aim is to get a high grade or title.Besides, It doesn't mind if you haven't learnt nothing so in my opinion, it's really sad.
It must also be said that the most teens are unmotivated for the way of the learning.
Although each time there are more methods and proofs to develop a growth-mindset.
So,if I were you,I'll become to make little efforts to boost the right learning.

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16 users have voted.
TEES's picture
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TEES 30 August, 2017 - 15:56

Actually,when i was young,my first priority is to get good grades.Only grades can decide to pass our exam.My way of thinking have been changing now.If I have been challenged to solve a problem,I will definitely accept it .Eventhough I couldn't get the right answer,it will be praticed my thinking skill.

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30 users have voted.
pizzalover's picture
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pizzalover 16 July, 2017 - 17:47

Personally, I enjoy the challenges because it makes you want to improve. But, I prefer to stay in my comfort zone because it is what I am and what makes me feel good. Of course, I know there is no such thing as a free lunch in this world and u need to make an effort.
I agree with professor Dweck and I see the problem in actual education too, when I was studying for my final exams I was only thinking about get good marks and that's a pity because from my experience, It is easier study somethnig that you like than study just for get a pass.

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30 users have voted.
DragonBlood's picture
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DragonBlood 16 July, 2017 - 16:31

I really loved to read this text, because I felt extremely indentified with it.
It's a well-known fact that our society only cares about how many subjects have you passed with a good mark. If you fail one exam, it seems like you didn't learn anything.

People don't want to know if you learned how to solve a math problema (for example), because they are only focused on the result. Based on my own experience, I failed many exams at school even though I learned a lot. I cried so many times about that, but teachers didn't care.

But this is the problem: They say that you should leave your confort zone, but then, they judge you if you fail.

Why don't we rethink this ironic situation and try to change it?

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30 users have voted.
catastrophe's picture
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catastrophe 17 July, 2017 - 11:33

You do have a good point. I too live in a society where people appreciate marks rather than talents. Or efforts. I do try my best in language. It is not my fault that my second language is as fluent as my first, which is English. And my teachers only stand in favour of handsome or pretty people who score well. Okay, I admit, I do look worse than a monkey(or worse, I don't know, I haven't looked at myself in the mirror for ages ✌) but I do study well, and even though I'm not a good singer/dancer/actor, etc. I'm still a good writer, an artist and some-things-I'm-not-aware-of.
Kids should leave their comfort zone, and they should be appreciated for it. Not judged. That's my opinion. And I don't actually care about what people think of me, I do everything to my best, and if I fail, I just should improve. And you shouldn't cry for failing, it happens to all. Just be strong and set yourself goals to victory. You will succeed.
That which I will, will be
- Holly Lisle, The Ruby Key

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30 users have voted.
mjruizam's picture
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mjruizam 15 July, 2017 - 07:58

As far as I concerned, everybody must leave its comfort zone if they want to get something, In this case, I agree with we should reward children when they really have made an effort for achieving something, not only when they get high degrees. In fact, if you reward them by everything that they achieve, even if it's something that doesn't make an effort for them, they won't try to do it better. In addition, it's very important to train our brain by putting new challenges ourselves every day. .

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28 users have voted.
FRANGOGA's picture
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FRANGOGA 12 July, 2017 - 09:49

I do share the idea that children from richer and poorer backgrounds have the same potential. To be honest, I would trust more on a person with a poor background but effort and commitment skills than on an intelligent but lazy one. In the same way as Professor Dweck argues, I find a lack of efficiency in the current teaching system. Extra motivation and challenging pills are remaining to get students out of thier confort zone. I am sure this would help them not only in their studies but also in their day by day.

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22 users have voted.
coldriver's picture
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coldriver 11 July, 2017 - 11:44

I always liked to leave my comfort zone, I consider that when you leave this area you learn more besides working more motivated. During my studies I have always studied to learn, but obtaining good grades in an extra motivation. I agree with Dweck and I believe that the students have to motivate them and to work with difficult problems to develop a "growth mindset".

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24 users have voted.
Juanraurbano's picture
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Juanraurbano 10 July, 2017 - 00:23

I understand what they are saying, but there are some difficulties to use in a classroom. Apply psychology in education may be see as an advantage as long as teachers prove having the enough skills to use it in a real situation.

Despite of world development in education, today, teachers have not enough training in psychology to put the focus on how to use techniques to turn frustration or handicaps into a motivating competition where everyone wins.

In my opinion, we must use strategies to make learning fun and that the effort is maintained over time avoiding frustration.

I think that is the way.

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27 users have voted.
Lunanga's picture
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Lunanga 19 June, 2017 - 11:37

I don't care whether I like being challenged or not but if I am not life becomes less interesting.
I think both getting good grades and learning things effectively are import because if I got good grades it means that I had learnt things effectively.

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fay4's picture
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fay4 11 June, 2017 - 21:45

Well, I enjoy challenging myself but I don't like to be challenged with others ... I fear failure . so I dislike to be forced to get out of my comfort zone but with myself I don't stay at it xD
My motivation always is both .. I want to learn things effectively bu I also want to get good marks :)

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catastrophe's picture
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catastrophe 24 May, 2017 - 15:25

I usually learn something when I'm interested in it. And I always push my limits. What's wrong in trying? But sometimes, I get fed up. Especially when I do maths. But after a while I try it again. That's me. Try try till you succeed! :))

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36 users have voted.
wiseteen's picture
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wiseteen 23 May, 2017 - 18:31

Well, to be honest, I enjoy being pulled out of my comfort zone, and for me, it shouldn't be called "comfort" zone, because I don't like being in it... It seems like life is meaningless without challenges. We ought to seek for challenges everyday, and push our boundaries further and further every moment. Actually, I'm one of those like to challenge themselves. That's why I love learning. Even if I'm not interested in some subjects, I do my best at school so that I succeed and win the challenge. And when we have lessons that are repeated (in my country, there are many lessons in our programs that we have studied previously, and I think that's stupid) I don't want to go to school.. because it's not worth. (Well, at the end, I go because I have to :p ) the only reason that makes me go to school and aim to perform well and get good marks is challenging lessons that makes me feel I'm human and I can do something, so life is worth living.

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39 users have voted.
hadia's picture
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hadia 24 May, 2017 - 08:41

I loved reading your comment! You seem so determined and challenging. Best of Luck. :P
And your name suits you well, wiseteen! :P

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Elsa007's picture
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Elsa007 28 April, 2017 - 14:48

Wow, commendable ambition, hadia!! ;)
To be honest, I like being in my comfort zone! But somehow I can't help getting out of it for some reasons... So I try to enjoy being challenged for some unknown reasons! :))

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45 users have voted.
hadia's picture
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hadia 28 April, 2017 - 06:46

Both things should be in our mind. To get good grades as well as learn things effectively to better ourselves in practical life.

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53 users have voted.