Maybe you are planning a trip over the summer. Are you going to tackle the Grand Canyon? Perhaps you’re going overseas to Italy, or some exotic place that has always been on your bucket list. Maybe you will stay home and enjoy relaxing in the backyard.
Why don’t we tell children that school is like a map? There are many destinations, and if you run into an academic wall, you can turn down another road—maybe one that’s more exciting!
For years, teachers have been sold on the virtues of growth mindset—that students should persevere on a task and learn not to give up. They call it “resilience” or “grit,” and, even if you have a disability, you’re told if you keep trying, you will achieve.
Even if you are poor and attend a poor school, with draconian rules, you are told to keep your eye on the prize.
Don’t veer off course or you won’t pass third grade. Don’t fail algebra or you won’t go to college.
Encouraging children is important. Good teachers have always been great cheerleaders. It’s important to put forth effort to overcome challenges. No one can deny that.
And sometimes children do need time to sit in one place and take it all in. Learning isn’t always easy.
But teachers, with the help of parents, good assessment (often teacher-made tests), and the students themselves, especially the students, are good at determining when a child becomes frustrated with a task, or that the task isn’t appropriate. They recognize the student is stuck, or that they need to turn down a different road.
For so long school has unfortunately been about one destination—getting high scores on high-stakes testing.
No! “Personalized” or “Customized” Learning is NOT a Map!
There’s tremendous pressure to transform schools to where children face computer screens for much of their learning. Instead of being tested at the end of the year, they will be assessed continuously online!
Called personalized or the new trendy word customized, only means that students will learn basic skills at their own pace. It’s not looking closer at the student and their interests. Please don’t tell me collecting personal information about children online indicates interest.
It’s still one road and one destination. The student just drives slower or faster on the same road.
We also learn, after millions of dollars spent, that growth mindset doesn’t work.
A new study co-authored by researchers at Michigan State University and Case Western Reserve University found that “growth mindset interventions,” or programs that teach students they can improve their intelligence with effort — and therefore improve grades and test scores — don’t work for students in most circumstances.
Uniqueness and Adaptation
Failing at one task doesn’t mean a student will fail at another. Discovery is much more complicated and lovely than working towards multiple choice questions and answers found on tests or learning online.
There’s a wealth of information and all kinds of avenues to learning it.
Some students are good at math and not writing. Others are good at writing but not sports. Others excel at the arts. Some are great athletes. Others sing or have talents.
Some students shine in a variety of areas, and they often have trouble making up their minds what they want to do career-wise.
But there are many roads to take.
Growth mindset, high-stakes testing, and Common Core imposes narrow standards on students. It forces them to all go to Chicago when they might want to go to Buffalo, New York, or Orlando. (No offense. I love Chicago!)
There are many roads for students to travel. There are many ways for a student’s uniqueness to shine!
Schools should provide a whole curriculum where children can explore and be curious. Then students should be able to choose the trip they want to take, always knowing they can take a detour any time they choose for their final destination. Even then, change is always possible. There are new trips to take!
Roger Titcombe says
Nancy is right to criticise the misunderstanding and corruption of the Growth Mindset movement, which has taken place here in the UK and in the US.
It is not the theory ‘that anyone who tries can succeed’.
This is an especially dangerous misunderstanding as it implies that anybody of any age who does not understand something has just not been trying hard enough. This false notion feeds much of the behaviourist disciplinarianism that is currently corrupting the English and US education systems and is being used to justify restrictive, rule-driven regimes for school students, especially in schools that have adopted the Hirsch knowledge based approach. You can read more about this here
Nancy Bailey says
There’s a lot of good information here. Thank you for sharing, Roger!
Nancy Bailey says
Thanks for your thoughts on this matter, John, and the article.
John Mountford says
This is an emotive subject, Nancy.
I came across this thoughtful article from last year in our Times Educational Supplement written By Professor Kathryn Asbury, in which she, too, writes about alternative destinations.
I agree with your views. “Encouraging children is important. Good teachers have always been great cheerleaders. It’s important to put forth effort to overcome challenges.” But, as your say, there comes a time when it isn’t just about having a positive mindset, even though that can, I maintain, contribute enormously to the eventual attainment of learners. We all understand, if you think you will never achieve something, the chances are you won’t.
However, I believe the problem with regarding Growth Mindset as ‘the solution’ to underachievement is misjudged. This comes about because it may be seen as a bit of a’cure-all’ by people wanting a quick fix, when such magic bullets don’t work, As a strategy for helping motivate learners, it would have a place in my ‘teachers’ tool-box’ simply because it is a way of reminding teachers of how important it is for them to engage positively with their charges.. I love your final paragraph and wholeheartedly concur with your statement, “There’s tremendous pressure to transform schools to where children face computer screens for much of their learning.” Sadly, it’s coming our way too and it needs to be challenged.
Thanks for another thought provoking article..
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you for your thoughts on this matter, John. And the article.