You need to stop thinking you’re not “smart enough” to succeed in education.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Recent developments in education research are beginning to show that the much-loved American president was definitely onto something.
It’s true that some people have higher IQs than others, and academic tasks are easier for them as a result. But IQ is not the only thing that determines success in school. In fact, more and more studies are showing that “socio-emotional”or “non-cognitive”skills matter as much for academic success as academic ability. Some even find non-cognitive skills matter more than academic abilities.
Say what? Let’s Break it Down
So, what Exactly is an IQ and how does it Differ from an EQ?
IQ stands for Intelligence Quotient. People often refer to an IQ test, which is a series of standardised tests to asses intelligence. An EQ, or Emotional Quotient is a similar concept, however, it will assess your ability to identify, evaluate, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. According to workplace psychology, having a high EQ level is equally as important as having a high IQ level.
What are Socio-emotional Skills, and what can you do to Improve yours?
The term “socio-emotional skills” covers a wide range of traits, from self-esteem to aspirations. A number of studies have found that self-confidence in one’s academic abilities are a major determinant of academic performance. Likewise, perseverance and motivation have also been shown to strongly predict academic success. This is the case even for students who don’t score high on IQ tests.
Where do These Skills come from?
It’s all good and well to know that motivation helps for academic success, but where does motivation come from? Why do some students have more of it than others? A growing body of evidence suggests that underlying many of these socio-emotional skills is learners’ “academic self-concept”; that is, the beliefs you hold about yourself as learners. This is closely linked to the extent to which learners identify with school. For many, a school is an alienating place that holds no promise of success. These learners are unlikely to put much effort into school since they don’t believe that this effort will be rewarding. On the other end of the spectrum are learners who identify strongly with school and exert a lot of effort in their studies as a result. In this sense, our effort in school is largely determined by the beliefs we hold about ourselves, as learners, and our ability to succeed.
How can I Improve my Academic Self-concept?
These findings hold a hopeful message for students: Change your beliefs about yourself as a learner, and you can succeed.
If this sounds too simple to be true, consider that your academic self-concept is largely determined by your initial experiences in school. In other words, your beliefs about your academic abilities probably emerged as early as Grade 1, and every school experience since then has molded and shaped what you currently believe about yourself and your academic abilities. Every time a learner fails a test or disappoints a parent or teacher, they hear the message “I am not smart”, and, as a result, “I will never succeed in school”. These beliefs prevent learners from developing the socio-emotional skills that are required for academic success. You can’t persevere at something you think you will fail at.
The thing is, these messages about your academic performance are not always a reflection of your true abilities. There are so many other things that also influence these messages. You may have been dealing with emotional stress on the day of the test, which made it hard for you to concentrate. You may have an older sibling who was “smarter” than you, and as a result, your parents treated them as the “smart one”, which didn’t leave space for you to be smart too. Or your teacher singled out a group of “smart” learners, and you weren’t one of them
Situations like these have a massive impact on our beliefs about ourselves and our abilities, which in turn shape the socio-emotional skills that are so important for academic success. However, it’s important to realise these situations, and the messages they give you about yourself, are not necessarily the result of your innate ability. Once you acknowledge this, you can start to believe you can succeed. And when you’re able to do that, well, you’re halfway there.