"It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” – Albert Einstein
Now that TAME’s Competition season is over, it’s a good time to talk with your students about winning and losing. In this article, we’ll explore the “growth mindset,” a simple but revolutionary approach to learning that celebrates the process of learning, rather than fixed intelligence or answers.
Great Science and Great Adventures
When it comes to STEM, being smart is great, but being curious and persistent might be even more important. In fact, not knowing something is where great science (and every great adventure) begins. For all students, but especially for under-represented minorities, learning how to fail is a necessary part of learning how to succeed. What’s more, approaching education with a “growth mindset” – a mindset that values curiosity and persistence – makes learning more fun for everyone!
Good scientists start with a question. They learn by guessing (or “hypothesizing”), by experimenting, and by failing. Question by question and guess by guess, scientists get closer to finding an answer to their original question. And once they’ve got that answer, they start all over again.
The Goal is to Fail?
“If you haven’t failed yet, you haven’t tried anything.” – Reshma Saujani, Founder of Girls Who Code
In many disciplines, but especially in science or math, the goal is to fail repeatedly. Failure allows us a deeper understanding of how and why things work, or don’t. Of course, failure and the threat of failure can have serious effects. Research on stereotype threat
shows that people are likely to perform poorly when they are reminded that they don’t fit the stereotype of someone successful in the field they are pursuing. It’s easy to get discouraged and give up. The students who stick with it, however, who keep asking questions even when other people give up, are the ones who become scientists and discover asteroids, design satellites, unwind the laws of physics and reveal the inner workings of the human genome.