Should Schools Teach Personality?

Should Schools Teach Personality?
By Anna North
January 10, 2015

Self-control, curiosity, “grit” — these qualities may seem more personal than academic, but at some schools, they’re now part of the regular curriculum. Some researchers say personality could be even more important than intelligence when it comes to students’ success in school. But critics worry that the increasing focus on qualities like grit will distract policy makers from problems with schools.

In a 2014 paper, the Australian psychology professor Arthur E. Poropat cites research showing that both conscientiousness (which he defines as a tendency to be “diligent, dutiful and hardworking”) and openness (characterized by qualities like creativity and curiosity) are more highly correlated with student performance than intelligence is. And, he notes, ratings of students’ personalities by outside observers — teachers, for instance — are even more strongly linked with academic success than the way students rate themselves. The strength of the personality-performance link is good news, he writes, because “personality has been demonstrated to change over time to a far greater extent than intelligence.”


Intelligence and How to Get It (Nisbett, 2009)

Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count
February 17, 2009

Richard Nisbett talked about his book Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count
(W.W. Norton and Co.; February 2, 2009).
In his book Professor Nisbett contends that a person’s cultural background provides the greatest influence on their potential intelligence. Mr. Nisbett counters the argument that genetics dictates intelligence

Richard Nisbett is a distinguished university professor and a professor in psychology at the University of Michigan.
He is the author of several books, including The Geography of Thought.

Long-Term Positive Associations Between Music Lessons and IQ

Long-Term Positive Associations Between Music Lessons and IQ
Journal of Educational Psychology. 2006, Vol. 98, No. 2, 457–468
E. Glenn Schellenberg
University of Toronto

In Study 1 (N  147), duration of music lessons was correlated positively with IQ and with academic ability among 6- to 11-year-olds, even when potential confounding variables (i.e., family income, parents’ education, involvement in nonmusical activities) were held constant.

In Study 2 (N  150), similar but weaker associations between playing music in childhood and intellectual functioning were evident among undergraduates.

In both studies, there was no evidence that musical involvement had stronger associations with some aspects of cognitive ability (e.g., mathematical, spatial–temporal, verbal) than with others.

These results indicate that formal exposure to music in childhood is associated positively with IQ and with academic performance and that such associations are small but general and long lasting.


  • cognitive development,
  • intelligence,
  • intellectual development,
  • musical training,
  • positive transfer