Monday, January 14, 2008

Beyond IQ Byte #3: Academic Ability Conception

Thanks to Jeff Evans for alerting me to an article in the most recent issue of Scientific American Mind [Note....see prior post where SAM gave IQ's Corner a nice pat on the back]. The article is by Dweck, who has written extensively about effort vs entity self-perceptions of ability. This construct is labeled academic ability conception in the Model of Academic Competence and Motivation (MACM). Just recently Dweck published a book (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success) on the topic that is receiving considerable attention in popular press and popular bookstore markets...Kudos to Dr. Dweck.

Below is the specific text from the MACM model re: the definition and explanation of academic ability conception.

  • A person’s beliefs, self-evaluation, and self-awareness regarding their academic-related skills and abilities.
  • Research suggests that “a person's view of how intelligence works determines how persistently the person will invest in a challenging intellectual task” (Perkins et al., 2000, p. 285). Contemporary goal setting theory suggests that the development of adaptive or maladaptive learning patterns, vis-à-vis the adoption of different academic goal orientations, may be mediated by a student’s perception and beliefs about their personal skills and abilities (Kaplan &Midgley, 1997). Academic ability conception is an individual’s beliefs and self- evaluation regarding the nature of their academic-related skills and abilities. This includes the student’s personal view on how their skills and abilities operate or work (Dweck, 2002; Kaplan & Midgley, 1997; Perkins et al., 2000).
  • Although related to academic self-efficacy, academic ability conception is concerned with the student’s personal beliefs about the nature and level of their academic competence. Academic self-efficacy focuses on the student’s conviction or belief that they can succeed at a given academic task. Ability conception is hypothesized to play an important role in the development of academic motivation. Once students “have developed a clear and coherent understanding of ability, the particular conception of ability they adopt will determine a great deal about their motivational patterns. It will influence such things as whether they seek and enjoy challenges and how resilient they are in the face of setbacks” (Dweck, 2002, p. 59).
  • Ability conception research is related to research on "thinking dispositions" (Perkins et al., 2000), particularly the distinction between individuals who hold "entity" versus "incremental" theories of intelligence. Entity learners believe intelligence (ability) is fixed and non- changing. Entity learners are typically motivated by successful displays of ability and attaining favorable judgments. They may quit when problems prove difficult, assuming they are not smart enough. In contrast, incremental learners view intelligence (ability) as learnable. Incrementalists tend to be motivated to increase their knowledge and abilities, approaching challenging situations with persistence a desire to learn (Bandura and Dweck, 1985; Elliott and Dweck. 1988, as cited in Dweck, 1986). An incremental mindset has been shown to contribute to better cognitive and academic performance

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