Back to school: Applying Stanford research to a new school year

With a new school year ahead, Stanford research shows how students, teachers and parents can better understand what leads to – or in some instances, undermines – a student's success.

As a new academic year approaches, parents, students and teachers are preparing themselves for challenges that might lie ahead, such as overcoming a fear of math, dealing with the stressful demands of school work or improving slumping grades. 

Also tackling these issues are Stanford scholars.

From the fields of medicine, psychology and education, Stanford researchers have examined what can help students flourish inside and outside the classroom. For example, they have found that when students approach math with a positive attitude, grades improve. And that cultivating a growth mindset – the belief that intelligence is not a fixed attribute but is developed over time – can have a transformative effect on not just students’ grades but their lives.

Here is some of what Stanford researchers have learned.

Changing students’ mindsets about learning improves grades

A new national study, co-authored by Stanford scholars, shows that high school students who took a course to cultivate positive beliefs about learning earned higher grades.

Positive attitude toward math predicts math achievement in kids

A positive attitude toward math boosts the brain’s memory center and predicts math performance independent of factors such as a child’s IQ, a Stanford study has found.

Among teens, sleep deprivation is an epidemic

Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood teens will suffer myriad negative consequences, including an inability to concentrate, poor grades, drowsy-driving incidents, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide and even suicide attempts.

Kids see words and faces differently from adults

A new study finds that young children’s brains have not yet fully developed the vision circuits they need to understand words and recognize faces, a finding that could help in understanding how children learn to read.

Teacher empathy reduces student suspensions, Stanford research shows

When teachers think empathically, and not punitively, about misbehaving students, they cultivate better relationships and help reduce discipline problems, Stanford research shows.

Perseverance key to children’s intellectual growth, Stanford scholar says

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck says that children are more motivated when they are told their intelligence or talents can grow and expand.

New research: Toddlers’ grammar skills are learned, not innate

Stanford psychologist Michael Frank and other researchers used a novel statistical approach to analyze children’s early speech and found evidence that toddlers develop knowledge of grammar with time and practice.  

Research shows how children can enjoy and succeed in math, Stanford expert says

Stanford Professor Jo Boaler says that research findings show how all students can learn to enjoy math and achieve at high levels without suffering from fear or failure.

Technology can close achievement gaps, improve learning

In a new report, researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Education identify secrets to successful technology implementation, particularly with students at risk of dropping out.

New online course: Learning to love math

Already some 20,000 teachers and parents have enrolled in a free online course that offers a new approach to engaging students in math.

Why ‘Find your passion!’ may be bad advice

The belief that interests arrive fully formed and must simply be “found” can lead people to limit their pursuit of new fields and give up when they encounter challenges, according to a new Stanford study.

Compassion meditation reduces ‘mind-wandering,’ Stanford research shows

The Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education found that compassion meditation training can reduce “mind-wandering” and encourage caring and benevolent behavior toward oneself and others.

Creativity can jump or slump during middle childhood, a Stanford study shows

A new study provides new clues about creativity during middle childhood.

School readiness impaired in preschoolers with ADHD symptoms

In a Stanford study, 79 percent of preschoolers with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder were not ready for school, compared with 13 percent of other children.

Will design-thinking strategies benefit students after class is dismissed?

A new study led by Stanford education researchers offers encouraging evidence, especially for lower-achieving students.

Using ‘active learning’ to teach critical thinking in the lab

Professor Carl Wieman helped two Stanford instructors overhaul a core course in chemical engineering.