Friday, March 06, 2009

Passion and Flow as a Learning Strategy - Talent and Dyslexia

"When we look at highly successful dyslexic individuals, we see that they succeeded by following their substantial gifts, not by focusing on their difficulties." - Thomas G. West, In the Mind's Eye, Thinking Like Einstein

"I was at the bottom in reading skills and spelling. I was a very, very, slow reader and couldn't read out loud or silently...when I was a freshman in high school, I became fascinated with nitrogen chemistry so I got organic chemistry textbooks and read them and various aeronautic journals..." - Roy Daniels, dyslexic biochemist

When a student struggles with learning, the most common response of a parent or teacher would seem to be to have them work longer and harder on weaknesses. Presumably strong areas should be able to take care of themselves. But this strategy could backfire. Intrinsic motivation can powerfully harness cognitive resources (increase attention, increased cognitive control) so that not only will the best resources be neglected, but also existing resources will come under attack as students become swallowed up in feelings of low self-esteem. If all your time in school is spent on your worst subjects, why wouldn't you think you're a failure?

In a recent study from NYU, scientists showed that frontopolar activation correlated well both with the presentation of rewards and how subjects performed on a cognitive control task.

In an interesting study by Rosalie Fink, interviews of 66 successful adult dyslexics currently thriving in reading-intensive fields such as medicine, law, business, or physics, found that a common factor in everyone's history was their discovery of a burning passion as a child or young adult "Each individual had had a burning desire to know more about a topic of passionate personal interest. Spurred by personal passion, curiosity, and intrinsic motivation, they all read voraciously...they read everything they could find in order to learn more about a topic that fascinated them..." -(High Interest Reading)

If a child has trouble in core school subject such as reading, an equally intensive search should be made for a child's strengths and interests, remembering to specifically set aside time for gift / talent development.

The abilities of those with reading disabilities pdf
Motivational influences on cognitive control fmri pdf
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Money, motivation, adhd, and the brain

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