Effort is. MindShift asks the question, Can Everyone Be Smart at Everything? and seems to conclude that we don’t need to be. My only quibble with the article is that the headline doesn’t seem to me to fit the article very well. But I like the article itself. We’ve known for awhile that telling a kid, “You’re so smart!” isn’t very effective. “Great effort!” works better. Even “Good job!” doesn’t work–kids tend to interpret as “you’re smart” or “you’re talented.” They don’t see that as something they have any control over, whereas they do have control over their effort.
“[T]elling kids they’re smart when they get good grades encourages them to continue focusing on the grade rather than the learning process,” they say.
More importantly in light of recent practices, though, is this: the emphasis on learning styles can be just as counterproductive. When you tell a kid that he is a visual learner, it can leave the message that no one expects him to learn, say, via auditory means–again, he has no control over it. “Taking that idea one step further, kids might think that if they have to work hard at something, that must mean they’re not smart.”
“Clearly, people have distinctive abilities and aptitudes. Some people have higher visual ability, and some have higher auditory ability,” said UCSD professor Hal Pashler, lead author on the report. “But the question is whether that predicts anything about the most effective way to teach them. … There is a complete lack of evidence of the sort.”
There’s a lot more food for thought there. Go take a look at the article to see the implications that seem, to me, to point beyond educating kids (as important as that is) to educating college students.