Enjoying school is in your genes

The Tweet: “Genetic factors explain approximately 40% of whether a child will like school or not, according to a study.”

The biggest factor in whether a child will enjoy and be motivated at school is in their genes. Data collected from a number of studies were found to support this claim. A team led by academics from Goldsmiths, University of London performed a meta-analysis of the studies involving a total of 13,000 twins from the UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, Russia and the US.

These children were asked to fill out questionnaires to determine two things:  how motivated they were in the classroom, and how much academic ability they thought they had. The researchers concluded that ‘genetic factors explained approximately 40% of the variance and all of the observed twins’ similarity in academic motivation.’

“We had pretty consistent findings across these different countries with their different educational systems and different cultures,” said Professor Stephen Petrill, Ohio State University. The meta-analysis found that results were similar across ages, countries and academic subjects.

Studies using twins are good for differentiating between genes and environment, since identical twins share 100% of their DNA. Any difference between the two genetically identical twins therefore arises from environmental factors like their home, school, friends or family.

Nonidentical twins are used in research of this kind to see how a similar upbringing but different genes influence motivation. In this case, upbringing seemed to have less of an influence on motivation. Nor did the subject influence enjoyment, with the researchers concluding: “attending same vs. different classes did not affect twin similarity in motivation.”

“It was surprising,” said Petrill. “The knee-jerk reaction is to say someone is not properly motivating the student, or the child himself is responsible.”

“We found that there are personality differences that people inherit that have a major impact on motivation. That doesn’t mean we don’t try to encourage and inspire students, but we have to deal with the reality of why they are different.” This might come as no shock that each child is different and has their own needs, but perhaps it will shed new light into engagement at school.

Image: Dystopos/ Flickr

This post was first published on The Untweetable Truth (11/03/2014)

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