In our last installment, we listened to K12Science podcast, which was all about STEM education and how to effectively engage students. A study on that very issue was covered on the U.S.’s National Public Radio (NPR) show Morning Edition.

During the episode, host David Greene talks to NPR social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam about the study, authored by Columbia University educational psychologist Xiaodong Lin-Siegler. In the U.S., scientists and mathematicians are often depicted as naturally intelligent geniuses while elsewhere the success of such people is attributed to their hard work. Lin-Siegler wanted to know if how we think of scientists and mathematicians and how we describe them to students can affect the way students feel about STEM fields.

For the study, she describes how groups of students were told different types of stories about famous researchers. Some stories were about them being geniuses, but other stories focused on their struggles. For example, Albert Einstein having to ask for help with some of his math equations and Marie Curie being denied education because she was a woman. Lin-Siegler and her colleagues found that when students were told stories of scientists’ struggles, they were not only more interested in STEM subjects, but performed better on tests.

This suggests that how we frame STEM fields and those with STEM careers can have a huge impact on how children see themselves fitting into them. To hear more on this study and its findings, take a listen to the episode:

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