Learning Pays Off

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Science  16 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5989, pp. 259
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5989.259-b

The current trend in education is to focus on testing. Are potentially gifted scientists being weeded out by graduate schools' reliance on standardized assessments and grades as a measure of scientific prospects? Hazari et al. led a second round of Project Crossover, a study designed to examine the transition from graduate student to independent researcher in chemistry and physics, and developed a 145-question survey to assess individuals' goal orientation. Respondents were asked to indicate from a list of 20 options what had been the two most important factors in their decision to attend graduate school. Respondents identifying “received good grades in science” and “received a fellowship” as factors influencing their decision were classified as performance-oriented, whereas those responding with “enjoyed thinking about science” were classified as learning-oriented. Learning-oriented respondents proved significantly more successful in attaining grant funding and primary author publications than the average respondent. No significant effects were seen for performance-oriented individuals in this domain. These results suggest that nurturing the personal engagement of students is something to be considered seriously by science educators at all levels.

Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 6, 10107 (2010).

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