100 seventh graders, all doing poorly in math, were randomly assigned to workshops on good study skills. One workshop gave lessons on how to study well. The other taught about the expanding nature of intelligence and the brain.
The students in the latter group “learned that the brain actually forms new connections every time you learn something new, and that over time, this makes you smarter.”
Basically, the students were given a mini-neuroscience course on how the brain works. By the end of the semester, the group of kids who had been taught that the brain can grow smarter, had significantly better math grades than the other group.
“When they studied, they thought about those neurons forming new connections,” Dweck says. “When they worked hard in school, they actually visualized how their brain was growing.”
Dweck says this new mindset changed the kids’ attitude toward learning and their willingness to put forth effort. Duke University psychologist, Steven Asher, agrees. Teaching children that they’re in charge of their own intellectual growth motivates a child to work hard, he says.
The moral of this data seems obvious: we should be teaching our 1st graders about neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. The brain is a remarkably malleable organ, and it’s time schoolchildren know about it.