A Simple Story Can Improve Students’ Grades in Science

According to a new study, reading about scientists’ struggles can help students who aren’t doing so well in science.

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“Growing Up, Einstein saw his father struggle to provide for the family. Looking for work, Einstein’s father moved the family several times for different jobs. This meant that Einstein had to change schools more than once during his childhood. Moving between schools was very difficult. Einstein not only felt out of place, but it was also challenging for him to catch up to what his new class was working on.” Einstein’s story can help improve students’ grades.

This story can’t be found in your regular science textbook, but maybe it should be: According to a new study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, reading stories about the struggles of famous scientists can improve students’ grades than reading about their achievements. The way we currently teach science—by focusing on great feats of knowledge by larger-than-life geniuses—may not be the best way to encourage students to pursue scientific careers.

Researchers at Columbia University and the University of Washington recruited just over 400 freshmen and sophomores at a low-income, mostly non-white high school. The students read stories about Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, or Michael Faraday, just 800 words centering on one of three themes:

“The Story of a…