The key to a higher grade in high school chemistry may not be more studying or frequent pop quizzes, but rather teaching kids about the personal struggles of esteemed scientists, a recent study found.
The study split 402 students into three groups with different study materials on scientists like Einstein and Marie Curie: The first group learned about the scientists’ achievements, the second their personal struggles (like Einstein fleeing Nazi Germany) and the third their intellectual struggles (like Curie’s perseverance during a series of failures). Over a six-week period, the two latter groups improved their science grade while the first group had lower scores.
Researchers believe that when students learn humanizing details about great scientists, their work becomes more relatable and thus motivational.
“When kids just think Einstein is a genius, then they believe they can never measure up to him,” researcher Xiaodong Lin-Siegler said, according to Science Daily. “Many kids don’t know that all successes require a long journey with many failures along the way.”
Prior studies back Lin-Siegler’s findings that students can improve on subjects that don’t come naturally when they’re given guidance that emphasizes the importance of failure and struggle over immediate success.