The Effects of Intelligence Theories on Motivation, School Performance, and Learning

The Effects of Intelligence Theories on Motivation, School Performance, and Learning

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Most children possess either a fixed or a malleable theory of intelligence. A child’s beliefs about intelligence have an enormous impact on his or her learning. According to Dweck (2007), some children believe that intelligence is a fixed trait and that they possess only a certain amount of it. This belief is known as the entity theory of intelligence. Other children believe that intellectual ability can change and grow with increased effort which is known as the incremental theory of intelligence. Each of these beliefs has a completely different effect on a child’s learning.
Research has shown that learning causes changes to the physical structure of the brain (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007). Helping students understand how the brain works and that intelligence is malleable can be effective at improving motivation and learning (Aronson, Fried, & Good, 2002; Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007; Mangels, Butterfield, Lamb, Good, & Dweck, 2006). This paper examines the previous research on the development, influences, and effects of children’s beliefs about learning.

Theories of Intelligence
According to Dweck & Leggett (1988) children possess different “theories” about the nature of intelligence. Some believe that intellectual ability is more of an unchangeable or a fixed entity. While others believe that intelligence as a malleable quality that can be developed. Research has shown that students of both theories showing equal intellectual ability, their beliefs about intelligence shape the way they respond to academic challenge.
Students who believe the entity theory tend to measure their ability and become excessively concerned with how smart they are (Dweck, 2007). They also only seek tasks that will prove the...


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...s' standardized test performance: An intervention to reduce the effects of stereotype threat. Journal Of Applied Developmental Psychology, 24(6), 645-662. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2003.09.002
Haimovitz, K., Wormington, S. V., & Corpus, J. (2011). Dangerous mindsets: How beliefs about intelligence predict motivational change. Learning And Individual Differences, 21(6), 747-752. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2011.09.002
Mangels, J. A., Butterfield, B., Lamb, J., Good, C., & Dweck, C. S. (2006). Why do beliefs about intelligence influence learning success? A social cognitive neuroscience model. Social Cognitive And Affective Neuroscience, 1(2), 75-86. doi:10.1093/scan/nsl013
Mueller, C. M., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Praise for intelligence can undermine children's motivation and performance. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 75(1), 33-52. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.75.1.33

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