Of Note: Knowing and Supporting Not Knowing


The Benefits of Admitting When You Don't Know by Tenelle Porter
Behavioural Scientist, April 30, 2018

This short article highlights a new piece of research that demonstrates the productive relationship between growth mindset perspectives and another feature of powerful learners, both student and faculty – the capacity for intellectual humility. A classroom culture in which mistakes are seen as valued opportunities to shed light on thinking and reasoning is a successful, knowledge-creating pedagogy. For these researchers, though, a question remained. Is there any inherent benefit to learners in having the humility to say, "I don't know" or "I hadn't thought of it that way?" The results were a compelling and resounding endorsement for supporting teachers and students in developing humility about the limits of their own knowledge. The first reason was straightforward: the students who rated highest on humility measures were also deemed by their teachers and their academic scores be more engaged than their peers, more likely to embrace discovery, and more successful in asking for help. The second reason has implications for all educators and students in navigating today's often declarative social and political discourse. This study found that recognizing the limits, and expandability, of one's knowledge via a growth mindset correlated to appreciating others' points of view and made disagreements more constructive. Teaching students how humility contributes to, and how certainty limits, the exchange of ideas is a lifelong lesson for all ages.

Submitted By: Elizabeth Morley, Dr. Eric Jackman Laboratory School, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario

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