Study: Kids Who Learn About Scientists’ Struggles Do Better In Science

Lillie M. Thomas | March 8, 2016

Study: Kids Who Learn About Scientists’ Struggles Do Better In Science

We’re all familiar with Thomas Edison’s famous quote, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” But, seeing real-life examples of this principle in action might actually help motivate kids to work harder in school.

A new study in the Journal of Education Psychology suggests that students who learn about famous scientists’ struggles do better in their science classes than students who learn only about the scientists’ accomplishments. According to PBS:

“The researchers studied a group of 400 freshmen and sophomores from the Bronx and Harlem. Some of the students read about scientists’ accomplishments, as they might read in a traditional textbook—while two other groups of students read about celebrated scientists’ personal struggles and professional hurdles, respectively…

‘For low-performing students, the exposure to struggling stories led to significantly better science-class performance than low-performing students who read achievement stories.’”

The study also found that students who read only about scientists’ accomplishments were more likely to chalk their success up to a “natural talent for science.”

Is there something particularly human about deriving motivation from knowing we are all struggling down in the dirt together?