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Herding Children toward Science

A new Dutch study found that shy students are more likely to develop an interest in science in school, while their more extroverted peers tend to drop the subject despite whatever natural ability they may have, says New Scientist's Jo Marchant. Should teachers then herd introverted students toward the sciences? University of Gronigen researchers analyzed data from almost 4,000 students and found that their personalities often affected their choices of what to study as early as 15 years of age, Marchant says. Students who tended to be less extroverted chose science subjects. One of the study's authors, Hanke Korpershoek, says schools should do more to help students choose subjects based on their personalities. "[Korpershoek] argues that teachers should focus not just on a subject's content but on the type of job it would lead to," Marchant says. "For example if someone's talent is being tidy, orderly and precise, then they might enjoy working in a lab." But others, like the Institute of Education's Michael Reiss, say that herding students toward the sciences based on a personality test would disastrous. "We want all students, whatever their personality, to find things within science that intrigue and excite them," Reiss tells Marchant.

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