I recently read Hamlet and the Power of Beliefs to Shape Reality by Maria Konnikova, a Literally Psyched blog post in the Scientific American Blog Network. The piece summarizes some of the results of research into our perceived views ourselves and our abilities.
"What’s more, our beliefs and construals can actually alter our reality. What we believe can, quite literally, be what becomes true. As an example, take intelligence, something that many people believe to be a genetically predetermined entity. While intelligence may indeed have a large genetic component, that is far from all it is."
Essentially, we become who we think we should be. There are two divergent theories of intelligence: incremental and entity. Incremental theorists believe that intelligence is open to change through hard work, learning more, and so forth. An entity theorist believes that intelligence is fixed. There is nothing you can do that will make you any smarter.
Furthermore, an incremental theorist views failure as a learning opportunity, while an entity theorist sees it as a personal shortcoming that was inevitable.
"… our world is what we perceive it to be, and our place in it, how we imagine it. If we think of ourselves as able to learn, learn we will—and if we think we are doomed to fail, we doom ourselves to do precisely that …"
Read the full article here
As an educator, relate these theories and ideas to the students you have taught. How many doomed themselves to failure because they didn't believe that any action on their part could improve their lot? On the other, I'm sure you had students who were challenged by failure and determined to overcome their shortcomings.