Adjusting your "learning mindset" — the way you approach and think about learning — can help you get more out of your undergrad experience.
Review the ideas and material below. The findings may surprise you.
Adjust your approach
Many undergraduates have had the experience of finishing a course only to find that a short time later, they have forgotten much of what they studied. In other courses, though, they retain and continue to build on what they've learned.
Researchers believe it is due to the way students approach learning:
- Surface approach: students seek to reproduce the information they get in class, memorizing content without really seeking to understand it.
- Deep approach: students seek to transform their knowledge, looking for patterns and making connections among ideas.
- Strategic approach: students may combine either deep or surface with an organized effort to earn the highest possible grade.
A key finding is that these approaches are not "hard-wired" characteristics, but can be modified. For instance, teachers who expect students to learn deeply encourage students to do just that.
- Approaches to Learning: Southern Cross University
- Deep and Surface Approaches to Learning: The Higher Education Academy
Change your view on intelligence
Researchers have found that students who view intelligence as "fixed" — something you have or don't have – are less likely to be successful academically than their peers who see intelligence as malleable — as something you can shape and reshape.
- It's Not About How Smart You Are: Chronicle of Higher Education
- Students' View of Intelligence Can Help Grades: NPR
- The Power of Belief: TED Talk
Rethink your goals
Some people strive for success to learn and grow, while others work hard in order to perform well — or to avoid performing poorly. These differences in goal orientation can make a real difference in academic outcomes.
Students who put a lot of energy into not doing poorly tend, ironically, to do more poorly than those who work hard simply to learn.
- Achievement goals can be shaped by environment: Stanford University News
- Focus on Learning, Not Performance Goals: CIO
Recognize stereotype threat
When people are put into situations where they worry that they might confirm a negative stereotype about their group, their ability to perform deteriorates — regardless of their actual level of preparation, skill, or intelligence. This is known as stereotype threat.
Many studies on stereotype threat in all sorts of situations in which people may feel stereotyped — women taking math tests, men taking a social sensitivity "test," African American students taking standardized tests, older adults doing memory tasks — have offered strong support for the theory.