Getting better or feeling better

I was listening to No Stupid Questions and for some reason I just couldn’t recall and capture the specific episode and reference where I got this from but Angela was mentioning that she is working on a paper that looks at some of the kids in school doing some kind of activity. And the conclusion was somewhat related to how they deal with the particular experience, whether they approach it with the desire to feel better about themselves or to improve themselves through the experience.

I thought that was a very interesting dichotomy; and I’ve never really thought of experiences being set up this way. But indeed, as we go into various experiences, that intention lurking in the background is important. There can be mixed intentions but there will likely be a dominant one; and that can affect our functioning.

If we go into an examination thinking of it as a means for us to be sorted into different boxes, to be defined and ‘caught out’ for the level of proficiency we are at, we are going to enter it with a negative fear. That’s when we think the exam is there to make us feel good or bad about ourselves rather than help us get better thanConsider an alternative where we see the exams as a means to look at how far we have progressed and to uncover our weaknesses so we can work on them. There will be nervousness from anticipation but not that overwhelming kind of negative fear. It will also define how we approach the exam papers when we get them back – whether we just check the grade and toss it aside or mine it for the gold of identifying how we can improve.

Is our education system set up to bother about this? To inculcate the right attitudes? How about the parents? Are parents imparting the right attitude towards test-taking?