As warm weather approaches and parents sign up their kids for summer enrichment programs, many may wonder how long the effects of these programs last. Do their benefits persist into the school year, or do they disappear come September?
A study led by Stanford University psychologist Paul O’Keefe, released online this month by the journal Motivation and Emotion, offers some heartening news: Students’ improvements in attitude and motivation stick around well after summer turns to fall.
Over the course of nine months, O’Keefe and his coauthors assessed a group of eighth-, ninth-, and tenth-graders three times: once before the end of the school year, once during their summer enrichment program, and a final time six months after the end of the program.
Reward intellectual risk-taking, and avoid punishing students for failed experiments.
The researchers were looking at the teenagers’ “goal orientations”—were they interested in learning for learning’s sake, or in showing off their smarts? The first type of attitude, called a “mastery orientation,” has been linked to high levels of motivation and engagement, while the second, known as a “performance orientation,” has been tied to greater anxiety and less resilience in the face of failure.
During the summer enrichment program, the students became more apt to favor a mastery approach, endorsing statements such as “It’s important to me that I learn a lot of new concepts in science,” and discounting statements like, “One of my goals is to show others that I’m good at science,” which indicate a performance orientation.
The surprise was that the teenagers’ embrace of mastery remained strong even after they returned to school—which, with its tests and rankings, often places more emphasis on performance than on learning for its own sake.
As cheering as this finding may be, it in turn raises another question: How can we carry the mastery orientation cultivated in summer enrichment programs into the rest of the year? For the Continue reading