This video is great, but don’t miss the article that goes with it–The Learning Myth: Why I’m Cautious About Telling My Son He’s Smart. In the article Sal Khan of the Khan Academy discusses a topic I have been following for several years, ever since I read a book called Nurture Shock. Nurture Shock reports on some experiments made using classrooms of kids as gunea pigs to find out what type of praise encouraged children to expand their efforts on a project and what types of praise (if any) might tend to tempt them to quit and go no further. Turned out that praising a child for being smart had a natural tendency to make the child want to stop with whatever success he’d already achieved. The child didn’t want to chance messing up the teacher’s (or parent’s) good opinion. He/she didn’t want to fail. Failure was anathema. In contrast, the study found that the classrooms in which the children were praised for effort, caused the children to almost unanimously opt for taking another test even when they were told the next one would be harder. Effort was the thing praised, not a particular level of success. Therefore failure was not a dreaded outcome–only effortlessness. When you think about it, it starts to make sense, doesn’t it?
So, back to the article by Sal Khan. I saw it in my Facebook feed and loved everything he had to say. He has explained the whole premise so clearly and I wanted to share it with as many parents and teachers as I could. In fact, the evidence suggests that incorporating this new approach into your child-rearing or classroom (or both) may be the single most important thing you do for the education of your child (apart from spiritual matters). Here’s a brief excerpt–
Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones. What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed: and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.
Watch the video and read the article, but don’t stop there. There’s much more on this important subject. Click here for a few more videos and links regarding this concept. And I can’t mention the Sal Khan and his Khan Academy without saying that every homeschooling parent, teacher, and tutor should know about this completely free online academy (middle-high school)–it’s an incredible resource! Khan’s personal story in itself is fascinating and I guarantee you’ll love him and what he is doing!
Also related–Playing Video Games–Some Real Benefits for Kids (They learn to fail but keep trying)