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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: Science of learning

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February 6, 2015 at 5:00 AM

Beliefs about raw talent can skew academic career choices

Who performs the best: Students who believe they’re naturally smart or students who believe they get smarter through effort?

Research suggests it’s the latter.

Students who think they’re born with smarts are reluctant to jeopardize their self-image with challenging tasks. On the flip side, students who belong to groups stereotyped as naturally inferior may get anxious about those biases and perform below their potential on tests.

A recent study suggests those attitudes may help shape university careers, too.

That study, based on a nationwide survey of academics, shows that women and African-Americans are least represented in the fields where professors believe that raw, innate talent is the main requirement for success, according to the journal Science.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: growth mindset, higher ed, Science of learning

November 6, 2014 at 6:00 PM

Mr. Marshmallow Test to talk about willpower at UW

Credit: McClatchy Newspapers

Credit: McClatchy Newspapers

The researcher who explored the lifetime benefits of delayed gratification by tempting preschoolers with marshmallows will speak at the University of Washington on Nov. 17.

Walter Mischel, now at Columbia University, devised the now-famous marshmallow experiments in the late 1960s at Stanford University. He tested the willpower of preschoolers by giving them a simple choice: Get one tasty treat immediately, or get two about 15 minutes later.

Kids were left alone in the room with a bell. Ringing the bell brought back the adult and the child got the sweet. Holding out long enough without ringing the bell, and the child got two.

Children employed clever strategies to distract themselves from looking at the marshmallow, like turning their backs on the treat.

Mischel found that kids who were able to delay gratification at age 4 had greater success decades later in school and adult life.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: early learning, Science of learning, University of Washington

October 31, 2014 at 5:00 AM

NYU research: Don’t punish students for their temperaments

It’s easy to overlook and underestimate shy children, and they can suffer academically because they aren’t the squeaky wheel getting the grease.

But you can’t just force them out of their shells anymore than you can turn an antsy kid who easily flips out into someone who handles stress calmly and quietly.

Sometimes parents and teachers believe a shy kid (or a typically jumpy kid prone to disruption) can just be forced to change. But core personality traits ­— a complex amalgam of genetics and early experience — can’t just be transformed on command to fit the requirements of school.

“To discipline or punish a child for their temperament is really cruel because that’s not going to change,” said Sandee McClowry, a professor of counseling psychology at New York University.

So rather than trying to change a child’s temperament to fit the school, McClowry is looking for ways that schools can work with different types of kids, easing them into more productive behaviors.

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Comments | Topics: school discipline, Science of learning, Teacher-student relationships

August 8, 2014 at 5:00 AM

National report praises Rainier Beach High for discipline fix

Paul Tong / Op Art

Paul Tong / Op Art

When students show up late for class at Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School, they aren’t marched off to the principal’s office for punishment, they’re greeted at the door by a “welcome team” of school staff that gets them talking about why they’re tardy and how to fix it.

Maybe they’re having problems at home, or they need help with transportation or even an automated wake-up phone call if that’s what it takes.

Those three-to-five minute conversations have reduced tardiness at Rainier Beach and are cited on page 48 of a massive report on discipline issued earlier this summer as an example of how stronger relationships between students and adults can nip misbehavior in the bud.

Far too often, middle schools and high schools are suspending and expelling students for minor misconduct, according to the report by the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

And students of color, students with disabilities, and students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are suspended or expelled at a higher rate than other students.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Council of State Governments, Rainier Beach High School, school discipline

August 1, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Myth that we use only 10 percent of brain is 100 percent bunk

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Morgan Freeman and Scarlett Johansson in “Lucy” / (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Science journalists are throwing a wet blanket on the premise of the new movie, “Lucy” — that we humans only use 10 percent of our brains, leaving vast expanses of cortex untapped.

The movie features Scarlett Johansson in the title role as an American student abroad who develops extraordinary powers by unleashing the potential of all that unused neural territory.

The 10-percent notion is one of those zombie ideas about the brain that refuse to die.

The short answer is that we already use all of our brain, which makes sense because while it comprises about 2 percent of body mass, the brain gobbles up 20 percent of the oxygen we breathe and 20 percent of the energy we consume. That would be a big fuel bill for an organ that was 90 percent idle.

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Comments | Topics: Neuroscience and education, Science of learning