Learning about famous scientists’ failures and suffering makes a student succeed in science. This new study was published by the American Psychological Association, and also found that students who only learned about the scientists’ achievements and breakthroughs performed poorly in the test.
The study involved analysing 402 high school students that consisted of 37 percent Latino, 31 percent black, 11 percent biracial, eight percent Asian, seven percent white participants and the last five percent were categorised as others. Almost one in five participants were born outside the US and a third only spoke English half the time or less in their homes. Three-quarters of the students came from low-income backgrounds.
One group read an 800-word science book that wrote about the achievements of scientists that included Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and Michael Faraday. Another group were given books about these scientists’ personal struggles, which included how Einstein’s evaded Nazi Germany’s persecution of the Jews. The last group read about the scientists’ intellectual struggles and how they overcame these challenges, which included Curie’s failures before her success.
After a six-week grading period, those who learned about the intellectual and personal struggles of the scientists scored improved science grades. However, those who only read about the scientist’s achievements did not experience the same improvement. They actually received lower grades than the ones they received before the study.
Lead researcher Xiaodong Lin-Siegler, an associate professor of cognitive studies at Columbia University’s Teachers College, explains that the students who only read about the accomplishments believe these scientists were naturally gifted and that they would never measure up, hence the low grades. The scientists’ struggles, on the other hand, made the students relate to them.
Lin-Siegler adds that many students do not view the path toward success as a long journey that requires many failures. The students also do not see science as an integral part of their lives. The researcher laments that the current science curriculum is impersonal, which only forces students to memorise instead of actually understanding what the subject is all about and how to bring it to life.
The researchers recommend that science textbooks must emphasise the struggles of any scientist through personal, lively descriptions. This way, students would succeed in science just like those scientists.