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

Reading

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 these children 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.

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

robotrobot's picture
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robotrobot 21 February, 2022 - 17:58

I have always been struggling with going out of comfort zone as it seems to me to be very challenging. In my mind I have always been self-assured and never afraid of anything.I feel that even if a pop-star come up to me,for instance, I will behave naturaly.However,when it comes to life it is another kettle of fish. I guess that I should go out of comfort zone as often as possible or I run the risk of never finding my true self. As for grades, I have always strived to get in-depth precious knowledge.Marks is not as significant as is knowledge. If you study something, try not to do it superficially anyway.Every new thing you have learned is precious. Therefore I study so as to learn things effectively not to get good marks.

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Giovannichoi's picture
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Giovannichoi 26 April, 2020 - 11:45

I think both things are very important for us, and we should keep them in our mind. To get good grades as well as learn things effectively to better ourselves in practical life. Actually, I think I have both personalities, because I decide to challenge for me, but I always find myself reading novels, instead of textbooks, only after around 20 minutes. Once, I've decided to solve all the very hard math problems, and about 10 minutes, I was watching TV! So, I think I prefer to be in my comfortable zone, than challenge myself. But I exactly know give a challenge for my life and keep my decision is a lot better, so I decided to be a wise and planned boy. I'll do everything on dedicated time and ways. I'll challenge for myself, at least from now on.

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unicorn2005's picture
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unicorn2005 17 February, 2020 - 13:43

I think that each person have their own purpose to develop. Every day is chance to develop your mind or character trait. If you really want to achieve your aim, you should put all your effort. Don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone. Your success depend on you and your efforts. Motivate yourself and achieve your desired goals.

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Ann17 1 May, 2019 - 13:28

Speaking about myself, I’m a goal-oriented person, so I usually manage myself to achieve success whatever it takes. When I set a goal I understand that achieving it requires considerable efforts, but I accept it and usually do almost everything not only to get the best grade, but also to understand a subject. Setting a goal is a first step to left the comfort zone. I used to be afraid of being uncomfortable, but I’ve already become accustomed to solving difficult and unpredictable situations.

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Youjiro's picture
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Youjiro 9 February, 2019 - 08:56

I enjoy challenge and I have mindset as well.result of attempt teach me what makes difference to other people.No hesitation is most successful key I think.In addition If result is false, We learn collect way.

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AlexaFrost's picture
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AlexaFrost 16 December, 2018 - 16:09

Hello British Council. I have spotted a mistake you've made. It's just a small one but still. In the second text line number 6 you wrote "these children" together instead of putting a space in it. I know that this has nothing to do with the discussion but still. My teacher told me to report it.

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Tina - Coordinator's picture
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Tina - Coordinator 17 December, 2018 - 09:07

Dear AlexaFrost,
Thank you so much for letting us know about our 'missing space'. I've informed one of our editors and it will be added very soon. 
Best wishes, Tina (LearnEnglishTeens team)

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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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