Think you're born with all your brainpower? This theory will make you think again.

'Students are now aware of the idea that the more you learn, the more your brain will grow.'

Do you think you're born with all the smarts you'll ever have or that you can get smarter over time?

It may sound like a silly question, but many kids aren't aware of the power of their own brains.

This was especially true of Griselda Rutherford's students. In her 20 years of teaching in the District of Columbia Public School System, she'd often have a tough time getting them on board the learning train.


She noticed many students seemed to feel defeated before even starting a task. They weren't willing to take risks during lessons and assignments and were afraid to ask questions. Sometimes they wouldn't even answer her questions for fear of being wrong. It's as if they were terrified of failure, and as a result, their progress in class slowed to a crawl.

Then, in 2013, Rutherford's district started implementing a teaching technique called the "Mindset Method." It changed everything.

Teacher and students working in the Mindset program. All photos via MindsetWorks.

The Mindset Method was developed by Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, and her colleagues. Researchers and education experts like Angela Duckworth and others have added to the body of knowledge over the last two decades to support these theories.

The theories explain that learners think about their abilities in two ways: as a fixed mindset or a growth mindset

People with a fixed mindset think how smart they are is set in stone and that time and effort won't really change much. On the other hand, people with a growth mindset think the brains they were born with are just the beginning, and hard work can improve them. Growth mindset learners are more willing to take on challenges, see failures as an opportunity to learn and persist to overcome obstacles rather than giving up.

In order to prove this theory, Rutherford began working with schools to help teachers apply methods of fostering growth mindsets to their classrooms. The basic teaching principle was to encourage and reward effort rather than just praise achievement.

Teachers also had access to Brainology, a computer program that showed students how their brains were like muscles that strengthen with regular exercise. Through interactive animation and prompted activities, students learn how simple it is to grow and improve their brains. This helps them gain confidence in their abilities, which makes them want to take on more challenges and reach higher levels in the classroom.

Slowly but surely, Rutherford began noticing her students were gaining confidence. And lo and behold, their schoolwork also improved.

A student uses the Brainology program.

"The program helped them to identify what a growth mindset looks like," Rutherford writes in an email. "Students are now aware of the idea that the more you learn, the more your brain will grow."

The program also encourages students to be responsible for their own learning and self-monitor their mindset growth. Rutherford actually noticed one of her students doing just that during a class assessment when he asked her for another sheet of paper.

"I saw him write some words on the blank paper and then place a big X on the words," writes Rutherford. "He explained to me he was using the test stress reliever strategies he learned in Brainology." He was crossing out negative words and replacing them with positive ones, which helps knock out defeating thoughts.

The positive effects of encouraging a growth mindset can also be seen across the board in testing scores.

A teacher helpsf students with an assignment.

After just one year of using the Mindset Method in her classrooms for fourth through eighth grades, Rutherford says all of her students did better in reading and math. After year two, 83% scored advanced levels in reading and 23% scored advanced levels in math.

Similar improvements were seen in a case study performed at Fiske Elementary School in Massachusetts. They saw a 75.5% growth in state comprehensive test scores in math after a year on the Mindset Method. That's one heck of a jump!

However, it's not just about the students' growth. The teachers working within the Mindset Method program are changing for the better too.

Teachers do a Mindset Method exercise.

Rutherford, for example, learned how important it was to praise her students for their efforts rather than just tell them they're smart.

"This type of praise empowers all students to take risks and allows them to understand it’s OK to make mistakes," explains Rutherford.

If giving an "A" for effort becomes a real thing in every classroom, it could give so many more kids the chance to reach their full potential.

By constantly repeating the idea that intelligence is not fixed and limitless growth is possible with extra effort and dedication, teachers are giving confidence back to kids. And confidence is the foundation upon which true greatness is built.

Most Shared
True
XQ
Photo by Toni Hukkanen on Unsplash

Are looks more important than the ability to get through a long work day without ending up with eyes so dry and painful you wish you could pop them out of your face? Many employers in Japan don't permit their female employees to wear glasses while at work. Big shocker, male employees are totally allowed to sport a pair of frames. The logic behind it (if you can call it that) is that women come off as "cold" and "unfeminine" and – horror of all horrors – "too intelligent."

Women are given excuses as to why they can't wear glasses to work. Airline workers are told it's a safety thing. Beauty industry workers are told they need to see makeup clearly. But men apparently don't have the same safety issues as women, because they're allowed to wear their glasses square on the face. Hospitality staff, waitresses, receptionists at department stores, and nurses at beauty clinics are some of the women who are told to pop in contacts while they're on the clock.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via The Guardian / YouTube

Beluga whales are affectionately known as sea canaries for their song-like vocalizations, and their name is the Russian word for "white."

They are sociable animals that live, hunt, and migrate together in pods, ranging from a few individuals to hundreds of whales. However, they are naturally reticent to interact with humans, although some solitary belugas are known to approach boats.

Once such beluga that's believed to live in Norwegian waters is so comfortable among humans that it played fetch with a rugby ball.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

No reward comes without risk - or in the case of Vilnius - risqué. The capitol city of Lithuania has a population of 570,000 and regularly makes lists as an underrated and inexpensive European destination. Lonely Planet called it a "hidden gem" of Europe. In 2016, it was rated the third cheapest destination for a bachelor party in Europe by FairFX. And you've probably never heard of it. In August of 2018, the city started running racy ads to increase tourism, calling it the "G-spot of Europe." The ad features a woman grabbing a map of Europe, clutching the spot where Vilnius is located. "Nobody knows where it is, but when you find it – it's amazing," reads the caption.

VILNIUS - THE G-SPOT OF EUROPE youtu.be

Keep Reading Show less
popular

The truth doesn't hurt for an elementary school teacher in California who's gone viral for teaching her class an empowering remix of one of Lizzo's hit songs.

Ms. Mallari — who teaches at Los Medanos Elementary School in Pittsburg, east of San Francisco — took the singer's song, "Truth Hurts," and reworked the lyrics to teach her students how to be great.

Lizzo's song made history this year for being the longest running number one single from a female rap artist. The catchy original lyrics are about boy problems, but Mallari's remix teaches her students about fairness, helping each other out, and embracing their own greatness.

Keep Reading Show less
popular