Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | May 16, 2014

Growing neural connections

NYT: “Who gets to graduate?”

“In the experiment, 288 community-college students enrolled in developmental math were randomly assigned, at the beginning of the semester, to read one of two articles. The control group read a generic article about the brain. The treatment group read an article that laid out the scientific evidence against the entity theory of intelligence. “When people learn and practice new ways of doing algebra or statistics,” the article explained, “it can grow their brains — even if they haven’t done well in math in the past.” After reading the article, the students wrote a mentoring letter to future students explaining its key points. The whole exercise took 30 minutes, and there was no follow-up of any kind. But at the end of the semester, 20 percent of the students in the control group had dropped out of developmental math, compared with just 9 percent of the treatment group. In other words, a half-hour online intervention, done at almost no cost, had apparently cut the community-college math dropout rate by more than half.”

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Responses

  1. The power of positive attitude…

    • More than that, I think. My guess is that this trick worked because a powerful metaphor of learning as growing something in ones’ head triggered in students some ***introspection***, activity that otherwise was more or less absent in their lives.


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