Academic Performance Explained Podcast

Podcast #1: Redefining intelligence

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Mon, Mar 10, 2014 @ 15:03 PM

In the first episode of our new podcast, I introduce the podcast and share my personal academic story.  I discuss how, growing up, I oscillated between "remedial" and "gifted" math programs, and how being denied acceptance to my top three college choices fueled a different mindset and new study habits in college, which resulted in a drastically improved GPA.

Podcast Introduction

In our new podcast, I, along with special guests, will discuss ideas and explore strategies for improving academic performance and scores on standardized tests, without discussing any specific math, science, or English concepts.  Topics will include the grossly underestimated power of practice (i.e., doing homework, completing practice tests, showing up to class, working with experts to get help, etc.) relative to raw intelligence (we’ll discuss how intelligence, in fact, isn’t something you “have” it’s something you “build” over time), the impact of confidence, motivation and inspiration, the power of having the right mindset, and foundational topics like time management and organization skills. We’ll offer specific tips on how to study smarter, not necessarily harder, using powerful new “deep practice” techniques.

Key Insights from Podcast #1

1. Practice is Really Underrated

As in most areas of life, most people underestimate the power of practice when it comes to performing well in school and on standardized tests. Getting good grades and high test scores on the ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT (or whatever test) is less a function of being "smart" and more a function of working hard and fully engaging with whatever material you are trying to learn. I realized this after changing my attitude in college, and realized what may seem very simple; if you diligently do all of your homework, with a sincere effort to complete every problem with full understanding and a positive mindset, you are all of a sudden capable of understanding the most difficult concepts by the end of the semester.

When most of us look at someone who seems naturally bright in a given area, we don't realize that he or she may have years of intense, focused practice behind him.   Said differently, that 10th grade math "whiz" has probably been fully engaged and focused on his or her math homework every night since the 1st grade.  

There is lots of research that supports this point - the right type of practice does way more to explain intelligence, and certainly performance in general, than people tend to think.

2. Mindset matters more than you think

You might wonder, what causes some people to practice more and better than others?  The answer comes down to mindset.  Some people fundamentally believe that their intelligence is something that is fixed, given to them at birth.  Practice can help, but they are fundamentally constrained by their natural ability.  Others believe the opposite - that intelligence and ability is built over time.  The former group has a "fixed" mindset and the latter a "growth" mindset, and the growth mindset can often explain why some people put in the right type of practice to succeed in school.  This is a topic that we'll return to many times in future podcast episodes.

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Topics: academic performance, growth mindset, practice vs. intelligence