Sunday, October 30, 2011

Student Beliefs About Their Capacity to Learn

Children develop a "self-belief" about their ability to learn that impacts their motivation to learn when it becomes difficult. According to Dweck, students develop one of two theories about themselves: 1) entity theory: there's a finite amount of brain capacity and there are some things people cannot learn; or 2) incremental theory: as one learns, the capacity to learn more increases.

Children believe they either can, or cannot, learn based on their belief early in life and it rarely changes over time. Some children develop the belief system in regard to specific subject area, such as math. They may believe that they can persevere and improve their ability in literacy, but believe they just cannot learn math, no matter what they do.

Imagine the impact elementary school teachers would have on their students if they instilled in them a belief that if they persevere, they can learn anything and become anything they want to be! This belief is influenced by what teachers say to students, but also what parents instill in their children. In the classroom, breaking a difficult objective down in to do-able pieces allows students to gradually overcome the challenge. Students learn strategies for overcoming challenging problems. In turn, they develop a confidence that they can figure out anything, if they try hard enough.

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