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ERIC Number: EJ1096062
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Apr
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0022-0663
Even Einstein Struggled: Effects of Learning about Great Scientists' Struggles on High School Students' Motivation to Learn Science
Lin-Siegler, Xiaodong; Ahn, Janet N.; Chen, Jondou; Fang, Fu-Fen Anny; Luna-Lucero, Myra
Journal of Educational Psychology, v108 n3 p314-328 Apr 2016
Students' beliefs that success in science depends on exceptional talent negatively impact their motivation to learn. For example, such beliefs have been shown to be a major factor steering students away from taking science and math courses in high school and college. In the present study, we tested a novel story-based instruction that models how scientists achieve through failures and struggles. We designed this instruction to challenge this belief, thereby improving science learning in classroom settings. A demographically diverse group of 402 9th and 10th grade students read 1 of 3 types of stories about eminent scientists that described how the scientists (a) struggled intellectually (e.g., made mistakes in investigating scientific problems, and overcame the mistakes through effort), (b) struggled in their personal life (e.g., suffered family poverty and lack of parental support but overcame it), or (c) made great discoveries (a control condition, similar to the instructional material that appears in many science textbooks, that did not describe any struggles). Results showed that participation in either of the struggle story conditions improved science learning postintervention, relative to that of students in the control condition. Additionally, the effect of our intervention was more pronounced for low-performing students. Moreover, far more students in either of the struggle story conditions felt connected to the stories and scientists than did students in the control condition. The use of struggle stories provides a promising and implementable instructional approach that can improve student motivation and academic performance in science and perhaps other subjects as well.
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education; Grade 9; Junior High Schools; Middle Schools; Grade 10
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New York
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: Patterns of Adaptive Learning Survey
Grant or Contract Numbers: DRL1247283
What Works Clearinghouse Reviewed: Meets Evidence Standards without Reservations