Katrin Poom-Valickis – Do Beliefs have an Effect on our Abilities?


Beliefs about our abilities can sometimes change the result more than our actual capability. Teachers and parents should compliment the effort and work put in, rather than the result, says Associate Professor of General Didactics at the TU School of Educational Sciences, Katrin Poom-Valickis.

Professor Carol Dweck from Stanford University has shown in research that people who believe that intelligence and ability is innate and unchangeable try to avoid challenges, and tend to become overanxious in performance situations. When they fail, they do not see the point in trying harder, because the abilities they have will not help them achieve better results. This is called a fixed mind set.

Research shows that a fixed mindset causes worse results in studies. On the contrary, the people who believe that intelligence and abilities are things one can change by practice and studies, are ready to try harder even when there is no immediate success. They enjoy challenges, are more persistent and are interested in feedback.

Such a system of beliefs is called a growth mindset. These beliefs support success and motivation in studies, as students with this mindset believe that learning and understanding happens gradually, it takes time and the abilities to do it can be developed.

Even though our beliefs about our abilities have a direct effect on what we can achieve in reality, it is good to know the mindset can be changed. If we wish to change our beliefs and the reactions and actions they bring about, we have to learn to notice the situations and actions where we tend to think that we could not possibly succeed. They can be situations from our work or personal life, such as using new technologies, public performing, managing finances, cooking or doing sports.

When you find yourself showing signs of a fixed mindset concerning something important in your life, ask yourself: if I had the time, the coaching, the persistence and motivation to work on these skills, would I become better at this? You probably would…

As our beliefs about our abilities come from the information and feedback we receive in our environment, parents and teachers should compliment the effort rather than the result to enhance development in any area. We all know that practice makes perfect!

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