Mindset

A student’s mindset is of the utmost importance when learning is concerned. Mindset includes self-confidence, gender stereotypes, grit, how a student reacts to challenges, what messages are received from parents, a student’s role models, mentors, messages received from teachers, and more. It is critical that every student develops a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. People who have a growth mindsets believe that the harder they work, the smarter they get, and the research proves out that our minds are incredibly powerful at achieving what they believe.

Take the research of Joshua Aronson and Claude Steele for example, which compared the efficacy of a few different mindset-changing interventions on a group of mostly low income seventh-grade students in Texas. Over the school year, each student in the study worked with a mentor, a college student who met with him or her twice for ninety minutes each time and then communicated with him or her regularly by e-mail. Some students were randomly assigned to hear from their mentors a growth-mindset message such as “Intelligence is not a finite endowment, but rather an expandable capacity that increases with mental work.” Students in a control group heard a more standard message about the way that drug use could interfere with academic achievement.  

At the end of the year, Aronson and his colleagues compared the two groups’ scores on Texas’s standardized achievement test, the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, and the students who had heard a growth-mindset message did significantly better than the students who heard the anti-drug message. The most impressive effect was seen in the scores of the female students. The effect of stereotype threat has been well demonstrated in the math scores of girls and women, who seem to be especially anxious in testing situations when they think they might confirm the stereotype that girls are bad in math. In the Texas experiment, girls who received the standard anti-drug message averaged 74 on the test, about 8 points below the male students who had heard the same message. The girls who heard a growth-mindset message averaged about 84, closing the gap with the male students completely.

Are you delivering the correct messages to your son or daughter? Sign up for a Quick Class and learn how to make the best impact you can on your son or daughter.


Environment

A student’s environment includes everything external to us that we can control, to some extent—sleep, hydration, exercise, the homework zone—lighting, temperature, chair, organization, reminders, distractions, technology, etc.—all of these have an impact on learning and the brain.

One of the most important things we need to care for is our internal environment when it comes to hydration, and thankfully, it is one of the easiest for us to manage inexpensively. The speed at which our thoughts can move is due to the speed of our neural connections and the health of the synaptic gap between each of those neurons in the brain. Each thought that originates as a spark must travel to various regions of the brain, and if it will control movement in our body, it will also need to travel down the spinal cord and out to the appropriate areas of the body. Our hydration impacts how well this works.

Hydration and cognitive decreases were measured through a study of subjects dehydrated by one to five percent of their body weight through heat, exercise, and absence of water. Several cognitive functions such as arithmetic efficiency, short and long term memory, and attention, showed impairment when the subject was dehydrated by at least two percent of their total body weight (Grandjean 459S). Mild dehydration has been seen to impair performance on tasks such as memory, perceptual discrimination, arithmetic abilities. “Attention, psychomotor, and immediate memory skills, as well as assessment of the subjective state, are the brain capabilities most vulnerable to mild or moderate dehydration.” 

Get your son or daughter (and yourself!) a glass of water and sign up for a Quick class to learn more about optimizing the rest of the environmental areas to benefit your child’s capacity for learning.


Memory Enhancement

Memory is not linear; it is complicated. Information is stored all over the brain, and information retrieval pulls from everywhere, non-linearly. There is even evidence that long-term memory is not permanent, and that remembering something from long ago can dislodge it and cause it to be forgotten later. 

What can we do then to improve memory? One way is to use your sense of smell, which is intertwined with your sense of taste. Memories connected to tastes/smells are some of the strongest we have. The taste of coca-cola will always bring me back to my grandmother’s kitchen when I was a little girl. Why is it such a powerful sense? All sensory information must pass through the thalamus to be directed elsewhere in the brain, except for smell signals. Right between your eyes, you have a patch of neurons the size of a postage stamp called the olfactory region. Smells enter our nose and land here before being processed in the brain. Smell goes straight to amygdala, bypassing the thalamus, so it immediately stimulates our emotions.  

So how do you use this to help out with learning?  It will help with memorization. To learn more about this and all the other ways to enhance your memory, sign up for a Quick Class on Memory Enhancement.