There has been a long standing debate in intellectual circles: what leads to superior performance? Is it due to talent or intelligence or is it due to efforts and hard work? Reams of books have been written on the subject including some of my favorites: ‘Talent is overrated’, ‘Outliers’ etc.
Applied to the classroom the question becomes why did Tom get an A or aced the JEE/GRE , was it because he is smarter that Harry or was it because he studied more and better? Answers to questions like these have profound implications for how children learn and grow- believing that effort matters more (a growth mindset) will likely make them more persistent in face of failures while having a intelligence is all that matter mindset (a fixed mindset) will perhaps make them more self-conscious and helpless in the face of challenges just beyond their current capabilities.
Long time readers of this blog will know I am more sympathetic to the effort/ hard work/ grit / conscientiousness camp and there are good reasons for that. Consider your middle school classroom: perhaps the smartest / most intelligent student does come first in the class, while the most hard working student comes say second. Now when you go to say college, then people with a minimum threshold of intelligence / smartness would be the ones who would make it to the college say due to winnowing due to SAT/JEE. Now in college, we can say that most students are already of high intelligence and this would not differentiate between their academic achievements. However, not all will be equally hard working/ conscientious . Those who are both intelligent and conscientious will have an advantage in college and will get higher academic achievement. This is not speculation, there have been studies demonstrating exactly that.
Consider again, the 10,000 hour rule of Anders Ericsson et al. What they found was that if you want to excel in any field you need to put in a minimum of average 10,000 hours of deliberate practice and to reach a genius level another 10,000 hours. Now what is clear is that for achieving well in any domain, say playing guitar, you do need to have some talent or ability in that area; but then you need to do riyaaaz or deliberate practice to build your skills and if you really want to perform and be counted among the geniuses, perhaps at that level all will have the minimum talent required and you can differentiate yourself mostly by practicing hard and putting in superhuman efforts. Thus, effort is what will really differentiate you.
So is that all there is to superior performance: Talent x Deliberate Practice or more colloquially Intelligence x Efforts.
When I teach grit and growth mindset to my students, I teach this equation by Angela that ‘effort counts twice’:
Talent x Effort = Skill
Skill x Efforts = Achievement
Today I think its time to modify the equation!!
Enter curiosity! This paper by Tomas Chamoro -Premuzic et al argues and makes a compelling case for adding a third element to the mix: curiosity measured as epistemic curiosity or Typical Intellectual Engagement (TIE) or need for cognition or Openness to experience. They did a meta -analysis and found that
- Intelligence does predict Academic achievement; correlation as high as .35
- Efforts measured by Conscientiousness does predict academic achievement: correlation as high as 0.20
- Curiosity as measured by TIE does predict academic achievement: correlation as high as 0.20
- Intelligence , Curiosity and Efforts have independent effects on academic achievement; none of them mediates the other.
- TIE and Intelligence are correlated (remember Openness/ Intellect are aspects of a single trait)
- Conscientiousness and TIE are correlated ( general factor of personality?).
- Intelligence and Conscientiousness are uncorrelated.
Thus Curiosity is a welcome (and at equal footing) addition to the (Academic) achievement equation.
I use VIA framework a lot so will try to reframe the equation using VIA strengths. I believe intelligence or talent is best reflected in Critical Thinking and Creativity. Effort or hard work is best captured by Perseverance and self control. Last but not the least comes Curiosity and Love of Learning.
Thus , combining the effort counts twice equations, my equation becomes:
(Creativity + Critical Thinking) x (Grit + Self-control) x (Curiosity + Love of Learning) = Academic Achievement.
Yay! I love it. Hope more people focus on all the components that are needed for high achievement and Curiosity and love of learning to find their seat at the table. Scott Barry Kaufman has written so passionately about Curiosity and its underused role in schools here.
I was recently at the World Positive Education Accelerator (WPEA) AI summit and conference in Fort Wroth, US and a subgroup there had come up with a project requesting all participants to post about their equation. to thrive I hope you like my equation and it has some real impact on how students are guided towards higher achievement. I know that academic achievement is just one part of the equation for students to thrive- the bigger part of well-being and character strengths is also required for thriving/ flourishing, but yes given the current realities academic achievement *is* an important part of the equation! #EquationToThrive