Education Beat Podcast — Why aren't more districts investing in tutoring? — Listen Now!

News Update

Intelligence is mutable and can be boosted, study says

One in five American students will not earn a high school diploma, as UC reports, and young adolescents who fall behind in school risk never catching up, leading to unemployment, poor health and poverty, research has shown.

 A new University of California Davis study of intermediate school students in urban California and New York, however, gives some hope to underachievers. Researchers found that early interventions with teachers, training students that intelligence is malleable and achievable, caused struggling students to flourish and improve their grades.

“These results were exciting,” said the study’s lead author, Tenelle Porter, a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Human Ecology who studies the psychology of education. “Here we show that we can change people’s minds about how education works — that abilities can improve with effort, and struggling students can see progress.”

Porter explained that there is often a mindset among children, their families and even teachers that students who are low achievers in middle school may never catch up — that intelligence levels do not increase.

The study showed, however, that buying into the educational philosophy that the brain, like a muscle, can be strengthened and trained — combined with training teachers how to use this knowledge in classrooms — raised grades a couple of percentage points over a year, on average. The intervention program used in this case was called “Brainology.”