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Does kissing up to the teacher work?

This may not be shocking, and indeed the psychologists offer a fairly simple explanation: students who see learning as a path to competence in school and life—that is, students who want to be smart rather than popular—tend to adopt study strategies that enhance real mastery: deep processing and effortful memorization, intrinsic pleasure in reading. Those who are seeking approval leave their motivation at the professor’s desk.

These findings may illuminate some disturbing results from another, unrelated analysis. A review of almost 100 separate studies found that the connection between learning goals and classroom performance steadily diminishes from elementary school through college. This suggests that, as kids make their way through the educational system, they learn that claiming to love learning is socially desirable. They increasingly do it not because they believe it, but because they can see that their teachers like it. After all, they’re not stupid.

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