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Our obsession with ‘natural’ talent is harming students

Results released from a major Victorian study on student learning show high achieving children’s performance in tests is “flat-lining”. The study, by Professor Patrick Griffin, followed 36,000 students…

Sorting high achieving students from their peers may be sending the wrong message. AAP/Dean Lewins

Results released from a major Victorian study on student learning show high achieving children’s performance in tests is “flat-lining”.

The study, by Professor Patrick Griffin, followed 36,000 students from years three to ten for six months. Student achievement in maths, reading comprehension and critical thinking was assessed at the commencement and end of the study. On the basis of the first assessment, students were placed in four achievement groups for each subject.

For students whose results were initially poor – the bottom 25% - the results of the study are very encouraging. By the end of the study these students had experienced achievement gains at five or six times the expected rate. The news was not so encouraging for students in the top 25%: their scores flat-lined.

The reception these results have received is interesting, particularly for a nation that prides itself on egalitarianism. Instead of delight that the strugglers have made great gains, an article in The Age yesterday dwelled on why students who were initially doing well did not go on to do even better. Attempts were made to find an answer in Australia’s decline in international standing on tests of student attainment. A number of answers are proposed, including that teachers don’t know how to instruct able children.

But a more plausible answer can be found: one that draws on decades of research into attitudes and their influence on behaviour, including achievement.

Stars aren’t always born

As a nation we love high achievers and enjoy the spectacle of gifted athletes, sportspeople and musicians performing at the highest levels. In our cultural belief system, those who make it to the top are the “naturals”, people born with extraordinary talents and abilities. As a result, we go searching for the talented few to recruit them into training programs, so that they may “realise their potential”.

This also applies to intellectual capacity and there is whole industry in promoting the need to identify intellectually gifted children and to provide them with special educational services.

The model of ability that reigns in Australia is that talent of any sort is an inborn gift. As a corollary, effort is to be denigrated, deplored even, because if one has to try hard, one is demonstrating that he or she is not a “natural”.

The belief that stars are born not made is demonstrated by the portrayal of genius in the media and popular entertainment. Higher achievers such as Mozart and Michelangelo are shown in plays and movies as having prodigious abilities from their earliest years, their talent the result of possession of some mysterious in-built gift. The role of studying and working at mastering anything – art, craft, intellectual pursuits or sport – is glossed over or ignored.

The fixed idea of greatness

Carol Dweck, an American psychologist, has studied people’s models of ability for several decades and demonstrated the outcomes of holding differing beliefs about achievement. Dweck calls these different models “mindsets”. The “fixed mindset” is the one that represents ability as innate and unchangeable.

Holding a fixed mindset about any ability comes with many disadvantages. People may decide ahead of time that they do not have the “right stuff” and never make an effort at all. Girls who believe that they “can’t do” maths because of their gender and avoid its study are a case in point.

And, perhaps unexpectedly, being identified as having ability in an area can be a source of difficulties for people with a fixed mindset. The marked tendency for such folk is to defend the original judgement and guard against anything that calls it into question, most notably any situation where effort is expended but failure follows. After all, if one doesn’t try, failure can always be attributed to that rather than any lack of ability.

Effort is seen as the enemy of “natural ability” in this way of viewing talent: “If I have to try I am not really smart/a natural swimmer/talented musician”. So challenging tasks are avoided, learning opportunities passed up and the preference develops for comparing oneself to those who do more poorly rather than learning from those who know more or do well. Instead of improving, achievement stagnates.

Regrettably, when clinging to an identity as a natural winner, any means to come out on top without trying can seem acceptable and the temptation to cheat can be hard to resist. Research has shown that those who have been identified as very competent are more likely to take short cuts and, quite frankly, cheat.

Changing mindsets

The opposite of a fixed mindset is a growth mindset. These people see talent as a work in progress: they don’t see musical talent, intellectual capacity, sports ability or anything else as something inborn but as something that can be grown with hard work, good teaching and consistent effort. People with a growth mindset relish challenge, seek out opportunities to learn from failure, after which they apply more effort and seek feedback that will help them improve.

Mindsets themselves are not inborn either. They are acquired. It is terrifyingly easy to push someone into a fixed mindset with all the disadvantages this entails. Praising a child for being “smart” will do it, and being put in the top group is arguably equivalent to such praise.

Rather than any defects in teaching or teachers’ “unreasonable” extra assistance to those children who were achieving poorly, mindset may explain why the top students in Griffin’s research experienced little academic growth. Having been identified as “top” students, the children’s efforts turned to holding onto that identity rather than learning and growing.

We label children at our peril and to their detriment. Parents aspiring to hear their children described as “gifted” should carefully consider the possible consequences, as should those policy makers and educators who advocate for different treatment and special provision for the talented few.

Join the conversation

128 Comments sorted by

  1. Michael Croft

    logged in via LinkedIn

    'Tis true, in the age of instant gratification, we have forgotten the parable of the tortoise and the hare.

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    1. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Michael Croft

      Hmm. Dweck said that parable is actually denigrates effort, as the only way 'plodders' can win is if the top guys skive off. Yes, do note that the one who expends effort is portrayed a plodder.

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    2. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      How in anybody's mindset can "slow and steady wins the race" denigrate effort? Bearing in mind it is a children's fable and not an over analysed treatise on the human condition.

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    3. Gayle Dallaston

      logged in via email @gayledallaston.com

      In reply to Michael Croft

      Dweck said that parable is actually denigrates effort?

      I have always thought the common interpretation is that the hare is lazy and complacent while the tortoise has admirable traits like perseverance, good concentration etc.

      This is an article I wrote many years ago for parents of gifted children when talent doesn't seem to convert into achievement at school - ie the sleepy hares.
      http://aspergicmoments.com.au/2012/04/falling-by-the-wayside/

      IMO, the real lesson from the fable is that it is silly to race hares against tortoises or to expect them to cover the same area in the same time.

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    4. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Michael Croft

      Maybe you should look at what Dweck says about it, which is that it based on a fixed mindset: there are tortoises and there are hares, that is born types.

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    5. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Gayle Dallaston

      Thanks. Lovely demonstration of a fixed mind set. There are types, born that way, who can not change or grow by effort. And we should not mix up the types, for fear, perhaps of contamination?

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    6. Gayle Dallaston

      logged in via email @gayledallaston.com

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      I didn't say that there are types born that way. It's a fable - figurative language not literal and an alternative interpretation of the more common reading of the tortoise and the hare that is used to promote the virtues of consistent effort.

      The interpretation that you have put forward that it actually denigrates effort is yet another.

      My "mindset" is such that I can see alternative interpretations as valid.

      The allocation of tortoise and hare labels are created within the race and…

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    7. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Thanks Catherine, and you have incorrectly assumed that I haven't read Dweck. I have and I disagree with her interpretation and 'reading into' the fable. Her interpretation is no more or less valid than my own or that of a child. In fact a fable is one of those rare occasions when relativism is the preferred method of interpretation, and so we can both be differently right about the same thing.

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    8. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Gayle Dallaston

      Please see my previous comment: it is Dweck who sees the fable as denigrating effort.

      Getting rid of age-based education would not get rid of labels but entrench them. Putting kids in a stream based on some initiial performance makes it very hard for them to ever break out of that.

      It is important to look at evidence from countries that do stream and segregate, like the US. It's quite alarming to see the harm done by putting kids in streams, holding them back, etc. This manifests in the US having the same low rate of social mobility as the class-ridden UK. In America children's educational attainment is largely determined by their parent's attainment, that is, what they get out of school is determined by what they bring to it.

      In Australia this is much less the case.

      Hattie has come up for mention here, so it's worth having a look his material on the effects of ability grouping.

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  2. Chris Aitchison

    logged in via Twitter

    This is article really nails it: Praise effort, not IQ.

    This hypothesis has been the subject of several studies.

    Duckworth, AL & Seligman, ME (2005)
    Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance in adolescents.
    Psych Sci 16(12): 939 - 944

    Ericsson, KA (2009)
    Development of Professional Expertise: Toward a Measurement of Expert Performance
    and Design of Optimal Learning Environments
    Cambridge University Press (UK)
    pp. 131 – 203

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  3. Kevin Pimbblet

    Senior Lecturer in Physics at Monash University

    Hi Catherine,
    This article resonates strongly with me. I regularly tell my cohorts that every single person within them can achieve results if they put the required time and effort in, seek help and feedback, and learn from mistakes.
    Thank you for writing the article.
    Kevin

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  4. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Emma Hartnell-Baker

      It would be useful to read Robin Alexander's 'Culture and pedagogy' for a very in-depth exploration of the effects on schooling of beliefs like 'teaching the individual'.

      Teachers try very hard to 'individualise' and the sorts of problems you describe are the result.

      You are refusing the poison with the antidote.

      Spruiking your business is also not what The Conversation is about. I have flagged your post as spam.

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    2. Emma Hartnell-Baker

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Actually everything offered - shared with parents and teachers- is free. If you were offended by my post in which I discuss my views on this piece, and relating it to support offered in a country where 46% of adults cant even read well enough follow a cooking recipe then perhaps this also highlights my views on certain groups in society who are part of the problem rather than the solution. I wanted a 'conversation' but it appears that this is not what is in fact encouraged, or other perspectives…

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    3. Catherine Scott

      Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Emma Hartnell-Baker

      I'm sorry that you were offended but the article is about something entirely different to your post. It is certainly not about teachers 'causing problems', but about a social issue, namely or models of talent.

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    4. Emma Hartnell-Baker

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      I was referring to your own comment, which I do not believe is accurate. A discussion another time about correlation and causation perhaps.
      You said 'Teachers try very hard to 'individualise' and the sorts of problems you describe are the result.'

      I dont believe that what the article is about is 'entirely different' to my post and thoughts at all. In simple terms I focussed on how we view or respond to 'natural' talent. I commented about how this relates to my own work training teachers, which…

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    5. Catherine Scott

      Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Emma Hartnell-Baker

      Well, we seem on many things to be singing fro the same hymn sheet. schools are mirrors of the society in which they are situated, in fact cultural reproduction is their job. it's our cultural model of talent that's the issue. One can't slam teachers for following the cultural script if no-one has taken the trouble to inform them of other ways and mindsets.

      You are assuming that I am teacher educator. Psychologist, actually (but not currently in clinical practice), which is probably why my evidentiary demands are so high. It's how we are trained, very evidence based.

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    6. Emma Hartnell-Baker

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      I do recognise that you would look first to 'evidence' and also why. Its always fairly apparent during these conversations who is speaking from a research perspective and who is speaking from more personal perspectives and beliefs. And many, of course, who are somewhere in the middle. I do agree that our cultural view of talent is an issue, as are numerous others within the education system. I emgirated from the UK as a former UK Gov Inspector of Education and the culture shock for me was huge (five…

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    7. Catherine Scott

      Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Emma Hartnell-Baker

      Very dangerous medium, this online stuff. Sorry if I sounded dismissive but there is no way, if one has to be brief (not my day job this), to replace the non-verbals that enrich face to face communication except by writing like a teenager and filling the post up with abbreviations, punctuation and icons (and thus hopefully avoid sounding terse OMG !!!! LOL !!!! :-) )

      I have also approached this discussion like a teacher 'Ah! Here's teachable moment!' which has probably annoyed people who just…

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    8. Emma Hartnell-Baker

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Diane would have an absolutely fit if she knew you were writing that her books indicate she promotes 'synthetic phonics' and dont ever suggest it to her daughter, Carmen.

      Synthetic phonics is a definite must teaching wise, but I go much further. It is not enough. The approach I take modifies brain networks, altering a previously scanned 'dyslexic brain' to then scan as a 'normal brain'. I wont go into it though or youll ask a moderator to remove my post altogether?

      My son doesnt run anymore, not interested, never was. Annoying to those who he beat at Nationals while running, who had trained all year. I was mentioning this because of the topic of mindset and how this relates.

      Its fascinating that if I stand back and try not to become annoyed by your posts (the way you make them) and instead focus on the content, Im in agreement much of the time. I wonder how often your message is lost because of this.

      But, again, thank you for the article.

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    9. Emma Hartnell-Baker

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Emma Hartnell-Baker

      Oh- forgot to mention- 'the predictor of children to read is whether someone, usually the mother, has taught them letter-sound correspondences before they start school' is incorrect.

      The bigggest predictor is phonological (phonemic) awareness which is the process by which the brain links speech sound to what we call sound pics- not what they come to school having been taught. Infact this is the very basis of my approach as it enables teachers to work out which these children are (around 35% of any new Prep intake REGARDLESS of prior experiences) and how to modify those brains. But this post isnt about that....

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    10. Emma Hartnell-Baker

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Emma Hartnell-Baker

      * around 35% of af any new Prep intake regardless of most prior experiences.

      Most havent had SSP before school, which doesnt just teach children to encode, and to decode for meaning but in the process overcomes phonemic awareness difficulties. It starts from speech (supported by Diane) - not print - synthetic phonics technically starts from print

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    11. Catherine Scott

      Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Emma Hartnell-Baker

      I don't mind disagreement. Is fine by me, as long as it doesn't include unnecessary unpleasantness.

      And I am not doing this because I want to be right, but because I might know some things that could be useful. And I've also some important things from the discussions here.

      We may be talking about different Dianes. The one I am thinking of is a retired American academic psychologist who writes very favourably about the Lippincott program, which by my understanding is a synthetic phonics program…

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    12. Gayle Dallaston

      logged in via email @gayledallaston.com

      In reply to Emma Hartnell-Baker

      > It starts from speech (supported by Diane) - not print

      That's interesting. There's also been research suggesting that it is the quality of the dinner table conversation that predicts reading ability.

      "Conversations at the dinner table expand the vocabulary and reading ability of children. This benefit is not dependent on the socio-economic status of a family; children in all families do better when they engage in dinner conversations.”
      http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1054

      you can see my take on it
      http://www.0to5.com.au/reading/eats-talks-and-reads/

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    13. Emma Hartnell-Baker

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Yes, we are talking about the same Diane. 'Why children cant read and what we can do about it' etc.
      I post on my facebook page etc that Dyslexia is far more a teaching disability than a learning disability. I am a n avid supporter. Infact I first came across her when undertaing the dyslexia module of my MA (Special Educational Needs) - and was fascinated by her argument regarding the social view of dyslexia. Well ahead of her time.
      What I was pointing out was that Diane (and especially her daughter Carmen) would not be pleased with you using the term 'synthetic phonics' alongside their work :-)

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    14. Emma Hartnell-Baker

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Emma Hartnell-Baker

      Apologies for the results of typing too fast, with a keyboard that sticks.

      No apologies for the smiley face though. Perhaps working with very young children for a living is why I choose to 'write like a teenager' LOL

      (I am saying this with tongue in cheek)

      Yes, my own work offers the 'how' of what Diane researches, and writes about.

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    15. Emma Hartnell-Baker

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gayle Dallaston

      Interesting !

      Yes, my own approach is based on speech first. Language skills, phonemic awareness, we take picture of speech sounds- and to do this we need to first be able to say the words, hear the smaller parts in those words, to take those pictures with our Speech Sound Cameras. Our Speech Sound Famil y can speak in speech sounds - which the children love- but it helps them to pronounce words, and the smaller parts. In a Brisbane state school all Preps were reading and spelling to above expected…

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  5. Comment removed by moderator.

  6. Peter Farrell

    teaching-principal at at a small rural school

    Thank you for writing this article, it certainly gave me pause to reflect on my own thinking with respect to fixed and growth mindsets. I tend to take a middle course when considering the makeup of my students. I think we do have pre-dispositions to demonstrate talent[s] in different areas. I think effort can extend an pre-disposition and ameliorate a weakness. In my multi-age classroom (grade 2 - 6 last year) someone is always better than someone else whether that is due to talent, effort and/or…

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    1. Peter Farrell

      teaching-principal at at a small rural school

      In reply to Peter Farrell

      Apologies for the typos and grammatical mistakes - A self edit function would be useful.

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    2. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Peter Farrell

      Thoughtful comment, thanks

      Sorry, but John Hattie did not invent effect size. It's been around for a long time in psychological research.

      It wasn't differentiated instruction at all. Patrick Griffin shows teachers how to use test data to improve learning (by diagnosing accurately what students do and do not know). Once the teachers knew what kids needed to be taught they were able to teach that and improve outcomes.

      Differentiating instruction on the basis of individual differences is a fad that has been around in various guises. It has been shown not to work. Good teaching is good teaching, to any and all sorts of students. And part of good teaching is knowing what kids can and cannot do. Know your students as learners and people.

      I wrote a chapter on it for Hattie's latest book, just published.

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    3. Peter Farrell

      teaching-principal at at a small rural school

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Catherine,
      I re-read the newspaper article and I see now that I have misunderstood what happened.

      'Professor Griffin said. ''Higher-ability kids should be able to improve at a faster rate than lower-ability kids, but we have the opposite problem.'' He said this puzzled the researchers, who held workshops to discuss strategies for teaching students with different skill levels. ''We were again alarmed, because teachers had oodles of ideas about how to improve kids at the lower levels, but at the…

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    4. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Peter Farrell

      Yes, effect size is very useful.

      It was invented because statistical significance doesn't always mean practical significance. Statistical significance is affected by a number of things, sample size included. This means in research using very large samples very small differences become 'significant'.

      For people making real world decisions about what to try and not try, it's the actual size of the effect (treatment, intervention, strategy used, whatever) on what you are doing that matters. No point throwing time and money at something that only causes a 0.03% improvement in learning despite producing statistically significant differences in a research project that featured 300,000 students (as a made up example).

      As Hattie points out just about everything makes a difference in education (Hawthorne/placebo effect?), so the average effect size for all educational interventions is .40, hence his advice to not waste your time on anything with an effect size smaller than .40.

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    5. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Peter Farrell

      And I am very impressed by the effort you expend to do the best for your students. Thank you.

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    6. JD Eveland

      semi-retired professor

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Measures of effect size have largely supplanted statistical significance in the psychology and ed psych literature. The AA Style manual now says that effect size measures are generally to be provided in preference to stat significance. As Catherine suggests, the reason is that with a large enough sample everything becomes "significant", while with the smaller samples more usual in ed research, it's often hard to find anything significant. BTW, "statistical significance" really says nothing about…

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    7. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Of the 136 influences reviewed by Hattie (2009) he called:

      19 ‘winners’, with an effect size of 1.44 to 0.62, where an effect size of 1 = 1 standard deviation;
      10 ‘among the winners’, with an effect size of 0.61 to 0.58;
      10 ‘exciting’, with an effect size of 0.57 to 0.53;
      10 ‘let’s have them’, with an effect size of 0.53 to 0.48;
      18 ‘average’, with an effect size of 0.48 to 0.38;
      10 ‘closer to average’, with an effect size of 0.38 to 0.34;
      20 ‘typical “average teacher” territory’, with an…

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    8. JD Eveland

      semi-retired professor

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Interesting! A meta-meta-analysis; it was bound to happen eventually! I would be very interested to see his lists; in particular, to note if he was dealing with ideas at approximately the same overall level of generality, or mixing up the highly specific with the highly general. A number of years ago I did some studies in the area of implementing educational innovations. One of the big issues is that such innovations are typically not just one thing, as they might be in the case of product technologies…

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    9. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to JD Eveland

      Hattie gives the full list of his studies and some of their salient characteristics in an appendix to his 2009 book wherein he considers this and other methodological issues, but not so much in his subsequent (more popular) books on the same topic. I am not sufficiently expert to judge the soundness of his method.

      Hattie has been doing education meta analyses for some time. My favourite is Hattie and Marsh (1996), which finds no relation between teaching and research. Unfortunately that paper…

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    10. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to JD Eveland

      And that's why education/psychology and medicine differ in whether a Type I or Type II error is a worse outcome.

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    11. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      I think Linda Darling Hammond's work would call into question any claim as to whether teaching teachers to teach leads to better student outcomes.

      And of course teacher preparation programs vary mightily and in important ways that are significant for teachers' competence. Have a look at LDH's work, once again.

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  7. JD Eveland

    semi-retired professor

    There's a real problem with the research reported here. Specifically, the authors appear to have fallen headfirst into one of the oldest methodological traps in educational and change research - the phenomenon known as "regression to the mean" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regression_toward_the_mean). Whenever you take a measurement of any sample phenomenon (such as, here, achievement) and then divide the sample into groups based on a ranking of that variable, a subsequent measurement of the same…

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    1. Chris Aitchison

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to JD Eveland

      This is a great point, but the other 3/4 of this article is definitely valuable advice and backed by research.

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    2. Peter Farrell

      teaching-principal at at a small rural school

      In reply to JD Eveland

      It is a while since my research methods course and I thank you for this reminder about regression of the mean. I found the link helpful too.

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    3. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to JD Eveland

      'Regression to the mean' is explained by there never being a correlation coefficient = 1.00.

      It simply does not explain why children from the lowest group learned a great deal and very quickly, while children from the top group did not improve.

      Freezing kids in their tracks by labeling them 'top' does, however, and there are very many research results that support that interpretation. Have a look at Dweck's research. It shows that fixed mindsets have predictable effects on behaviour and outcomes.

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    4. JD Eveland

      semi-retired professor

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Actually, that's pretty much exactly what it DOES explain. It's really just a function of the numbers - the kids in the top-scoring group.are presumably closer to the theoretical maximum score, and thus have fewer points to gain than those in the lower group. Say the lower group has an average score of 40 out of 100, while the high group has an average score of 90. The lower group can potentially improve 60 whole points, while the higher group has only a possible rise of 10 points; moreover, it's…

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    5. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to JD Eveland

      You are assuming that you know all about the tests that Patrick used. It would be a good idea to check whether your assumptions are correct.

      Give that the 'regression to the mean is a statistical artifact, it's hard to see ho wit would explain kids increasing their performance at 5 or 6 times the expected rate. That is not just random moving back to average, that is real achievement.

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    6. Peter Farrell

      teaching-principal at at a small rural school

      In reply to JD Eveland

      Prof. Griffin's study was about teaching teachers to use data effectively in teaching their students. One of the problem with giving a test is ensuring that the test captures the potential of all the students taking the test. In my thinking one test does not fit all, particularly if you are trying to determine what to teach next.

      In the Victorian government system we have on-line adaptive tests available to us and there is a grade 3 test for grade 3 and a grade 4 test for grade 4 etc and these…

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    7. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Peter Farrell

      Prof Griffin's work is about individualising feedback and further instruction, so is designed to help teachers look at individual attainment. He is being doing the work for a while and I suspect probably had input into the tests that you describe and use.

      I also suspect that the point of the tests was to generate data to give the teachers something to work on/from. I did try last week to get my hands on the original report but no luck.

      As I have said, probably best to contact him to ask for more information.

      I will say that he is an eminent researcher in the area and a world recognised expert, that is, not some green horn graduate student. It is highly likely the research is superbly well designed.

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  8. Helen Faulkner

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    You seem to be suggesting that the best way to teach our highest achievers is to ignore their achievements? Also that our high achievers are only high achievers because they cheat. This is tall poppy syndrome in action at its finest. You should be ashamed!

    Tell me, how does a child learn to apply effort if they can do all of their schoolwork effortlessly? How can they learn to relish challenge if they are unchallenged? How can they learn from failure if they never get to experience it?

    One of the most compelling reasons for identification of gifted and talented children is so that they can be provided with the opportunity to be challenged, to fail and try again, to apply their fullest effort to their work.

    If we want our high achievers to acquire and maintain a growth mindset the first problem is to understand their individual needs. The second and greater is to meet those needs. How on earth can we do this if we are afraid to identify a child as having talent?

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    1. Chris Aitchison

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Helen Faulkner

      I think the best approach is difficult to apply in reality: identify gifted and talented kids and ensure they get the opportunity to be challenged, without letting the kids identify with the fact they are gifted. The goal is for them to internally correlate success with effort, not intelligence. We all know people who were intelligent as kids and never made much of themselves as adults - don't let kids think that intelligence is all they need to have a good life (because it is not).

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    2. JD Eveland

      semi-retired professor

      In reply to Helen Faulkner

      Not at all. All I'm suggesting is that we shouldn't do bad research and then claim to have found real effects of our treatments when all we have actually detected were statistical artifacts. In this case, actually, the artifact made it appear that there was actually NO effect, when in fact there might really have been one if the research had been structured properly.

      Nothing that I said had anything to say one way or another on the merits or demerits of "identifying children as having talent…

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    3. Helen Faulkner

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to JD Eveland

      I wasn't replying to you, JD. You made a good point. I was replying to the author of the article.

      Totally agree with what you have to say.

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    4. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Helen Faulkner

      It's better if comments refrain from personal attacks.

      And from misrepresenting the arguments in the article.

      Don't take my word for it, have a look at the decades of work done by Dweck and her colleagues, which shows clearly that labels harm people, even 'positive ones, like gifted and talented.

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    5. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Chris Aitchison

      Yep, that's it exactly.

      Don't make kids think they ARE their IQ, and nothing but their IQ.

      I have seen the harm done to kids identified as gifted. I am from NSW and there has existed for many decades a system of 'opportunity' classes. 'OC" classes are for gifted kids. These are offered in selected primary schools and kids attend them for years 5 and 6.

      I was offered a place in one but my father (a special educator) thought they weren't a good idea, so I didn't attend. My classmate did. I…

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    6. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to JD Eveland

      I would just like to point out that Patrick Griffin's research has nothing to do with identifying talent. It's about the effects of helping teachers to use data (test results) to improve instruction.

      And please do look at Dweck's superb highly regarded research on labeling, mindsets, etc. if you'd like to see the basis of my interpretation of Patrick's results.

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    7. Helen Faulkner

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      True and I apologise for my rudeness. That was uncalled for.

      I am familiar with the work of Dweck etc. The question is not whether labels can harm people but whether the harm done by labeling a child is greater or less than the harm done when their needs are not understood and met in the classroom. I strongly believe that labeling is the lesser evil here, especially for highly and exceptionally gifted children, who require very different programming than most or all of their classmates in order that their educational needs be met.

      So, how do you propose we meet the educational needs of highly intelligent children without identifying them as such?

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    8. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Helen Faulkner

      Teach our children well, ALL our children.

      The children who need special provision are not the winners, they are the children who are disadvantaged in various ways, by background, family problems, illness, disability.

      It just goes to show how far we have sunk as a country that we accept a 'winner takes all' stance.

      The research on gifted and talented kids reveals that rather than the frail creatures the g&t industry portrays them to be they tend be well adjusted, socially adept, physically healthy and good at sports.

      No, this doesn't apply to all intellectually able kids but by the same token there is no proof that problems experienced by the kids who are the exception are due to their intellectual competence,

      It's only because IQ is seen as the one thing that 'matters' about these children that it seems okay to assume that everything that goes on with the child is due to that one and only significant attribute.

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    9. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to JD Eveland

      In case you missed my other comments, Patrick Griffin's research was on teaching teachers to use data to improve instruction. The rest is my commentary on the report I read of his results.

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    10. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      I shouldn't have said that 'most' kids identified as gifted have teacher parents. It's actually that they are more likely to have teacher parents.

      Anyone interested in the whole IQ debate should look at the work of James Flynn, for whom the Flynn Effect was named.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_R._Flynn

      IQ scores have been going up for decades, so much so that IQ scores have to be regularly re-normed. For instance a very large percentage of people taking IQ tests now would have been…

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    11. Gayle Dallaston

      logged in via email @gayledallaston.com

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      I don't think that answered Helen's question at all.

      What you are ignoring is that putting an intellectually gifted child in a standard age-ranked schooling system can do them a lot of harm.

      For every parent who "aspires" to a label of gifted for their child, there are parents who only start looking to this label while trying to work out why school is going so wrong for their able, well-adjusted children.

      I would say that children who are in a good school and good family situation are…

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    12. JD Eveland

      semi-retired professor

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      It's always problematical to try to make arguments on the basis of individual cases, particularly if it's oneself. Catherine, both you and I have here related our own personal experiences.with "labeling"; your experience was apparently negative, while mine was quite positive. Both experiences have utility, and have contributed to shaping our particular perspective. But your experience does not negate mine, any more than mine negates yours. In any group there is always going to be a range of experienced consequences; that's why effect sizes are almost always fractional rather than +1 or -1. Of course, our own personal experiences are always much more persuasive to us than anyone elses' could possibly be.

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    13. JD Eveland

      semi-retired professor

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      I appreciate your comments. But I would reiterate that any labeling based solely on a pretest is going to have statistical artifacts predominant in its results, regardless of the merits or demerits of the actual intervention. That's just basic math.

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    14. Helen Faulkner

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      You are not answering my questions, Catherine.

      Of course we should be teaching ALL our children well, that goes without saying. Of course some children face greater levels of disadvantage than others. Nobody here is suggesting otherwise, but that is beside the point to this discussion.

      A teacher who is teaching a highly intelligent child will either realise that or not. If they don't, they can not cater to that child's needs because that child has needs that go beyond what his/her classmates…

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    15. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Gayle Dallaston

      You have to produce evidence for claims like the one you make ie that putting able kids in ordinary classrooms harms them. The actual evidence from NSW is that segregating gifted kids does harm a significant proportion of them.

      Schooling can fail any child, and probably - or even certainly - more so those who are vulnerable for any reason. Being intellectually able does not make a child more vulnerable, rather the opposite, as ability makes it easier for people to make sense of things, including their own experience.

      I am sorry if you experiences have been harmful or difficult.

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    16. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to JD Eveland

      However, the stats from the state of NSW, that 60% of kids put in academically selective high schools do worse than their previous performance would have predicted they would goes way way beyond my experience or yours.

      Labeling did me no harm, because I was raised with a growth mindset. I just liked to learn and wasn't interested in whether my performance was better than anyone else's. I saw it harm others, however.

      BTW there were four people in my class who were offered places in the OC. The…

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    17. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Helen Faulkner

      I think you should look at the other comment, from a teacher, that said it is not about ignoring differences, including being very able, it is about not attaching great big flashing lights to kids that say 'gifted'.

      And it is about stressing to kids that effort is what matters and that what you bring with you to the classroom in no way determines what you'll learn. Kids everywhere on the achievement curve benefit from knowing that effort brings its own rewards, including the able kids who need a challenge.

      And of course Patrick Griffin's work, ironically probably, is all about teachers being able to diagnose accurately what kids know and don't, in order to tailor instruction to that.

      And it seems from his results that the kids that benefit most from that as an approach are those most at risk of slipping behind.

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    18. Gayle Dallaston

      logged in via email @gayledallaston.com

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Funny how you demand that I provide evidence for statements I make yet make some quite sweeping claims backed by personal anecdotes or "the evidence shows".

      Seeing as you are interested in NSW, try Miraca Gross's work including http://books.google.com.au/books/about/Exceptionally_Gifted_Children.html?id=0Lkvb6WtWicC&redir_esc=y
      although I realise that you may simply dismiss her work out of hand as a "fixed mindset" view of the world.

      Schooling tends to fail children who are significantly…

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    19. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Gayle Dallaston

      This is a site that is funded by a consortium of Australian universities and governed by the usual scholarly protocols, which include providing evidence for claims.

      I have given references web sites, etc for my assertions. Please ask for references etc for anything for which you would like supporting evidence.

      It is not an 'unwarranted assumption' to think that you are talking about your own circumstances if the post includes the words 'in my experience'.

      You could consider the possibility that the difficulties experienced by those with very high IQs are caused by being labeled in the ways that Dweck has investigated and found harmful, And they must have been made aware of their test scores, else they would not be identifying as highly gifted.

      And I know Marica from my days as an educational psychologist in NSW, for whence I come and am very familiar with her work.

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    20. Gayle Dallaston

      logged in via email @gayledallaston.com

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      >It is not an 'unwarranted assumption' to think that you are talking about your own circumstances if the post includes the words 'in my experience'.

      If I was talking about my own circumstances - of which you know nothing - I would have said in my circumstances or in my personal experiences. So, it was an unwarranted assumption.

      As for "You could consider the possibility..." what makes you think I haven't? And what makes you think I am only talking about children and those who have been labelled? Again, you are making assumptions.

      If you know Miraca Gross well and are familiar with her work - you will know that she provides ample case-studies of children who are harmed by placing them into standard schooling situations. The book I mentioned above actually advocates radical acceleration of 3+ years.

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  9. Chris Lloyd

    Professor of Business Statistics, Melbourne Business School at University of Melbourne

    JD Eveland is correct. This looks like classic regression to the mean exacerbated by a score ceiling...if you already score 95% there is not much room to improve.

    Catherine. Your link to the major victorian study goes to an article in the age. I really do INSIST that you provide a link to the research. If not, then I think the editors should remove this post. PLEASE FIX THE LINK.

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    1. Megan Clement

      Deputy Editor, Politics + Society at The Conversation

      In reply to Chris Lloyd

      Hi Chris,

      I edited this piece. At the time of publication the study was not available online, so I inserted a link to The Age article.

      Best wishes,
      Megan

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  10. Nick Fisher

    Programmer & Analyst, pt student

    I think Chris Lloyd makes an interesting point: my first thought on seeing the graphs in the original article was that the high achieving students had peaked earlier than the others. As far as I know the performance on basic skills tests improves fastest in early primary school then gradually levels off towards the end of high school, perhaps the high achieving students reach this point earlier.

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  11. Catherine Scott

    Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

    Predictably, I guess, 'winners' want to believe that they deserve their success, that it is due to some special thing about themselves, some inbuilt attribute.

    Dweck's research has shown that fixed mindset folk like to compare themselves to people who aren't doing so well, i.e. that doing better than other people is very important to them.

    I also wonder whether the idea that all those 'tortoises' might catch up with the right teaching, the right support and the right mindset is pretty scary. Who to feel superior to then?

    Not being invested on one's own superiority means one is more likely to enjoy everyone's success, not just one's own.

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    1. Gayle Dallaston

      logged in via email @gayledallaston.com

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Hmmm, seems that the "growth mindset" people may be feeling mightily superior to those whom they choose to diagnose as having a "fixed mindset".

      I think success usually results from a mix of luck, privilege, talent and well-directed effort. Rather than feeling superior or threatened, some of those whom you dub "winners" may believe they have a duty to use their talents for the benefit of those less lucky, privileged or talented - which is not the same as saying it is ok to use an intellectually…

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    2. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Gayle Dallaston

      I don't claim to be able to know what motivates any particular individual, except that it's a good bet that a parent will be trying very hard to do what's best for his/her child.

      As to this: 'In my experience, it is not uncommon to find a gifted child considered to be slow by teachers for the very subjects where they are most talented ' again, you need to provide evidence that goes beyond your own experience.

      Teachers, as with anyone else, find it hard to judge performance in areas where they lack expertise. The usual tendency, however, is to assign an 'average' grade rather than a below average one.

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    3. Gayle Dallaston

      logged in via email @gayledallaston.com

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      You were pretty harsh on those you dubbed "winners" and their supposed fear of tortoises.

      My comment about the misreading of children's abilities was not intended as criticism of individual teachers, it is far more complex than that. How for example can a child show they can read at an adult level if the only books on hand are those for beginning readers? How can a child show they understand more complex concepts than the schoolwork and tests provided caters for? Will a child who performs better than is expected be accused of cheating? It is not dissimilar to the problems of children from other cultures having different ways of showing their abilities.

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    4. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Gayle Dallaston

      It helps to be very familiar with what goes on in classrooms. Teachers spot kids who are doing very well, that is after all , their job, to know tneir pupils. My son's teacher knew that he had read The Hobbit when he was in 1st Grade; the teachers at his school were similarly aware of the achievements of other pupils who were doing well.

      Schools have libraries and children can borrow books. The school will not be completely unaware of what children are borrowing. And there are any number of…

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    5. Gayle Dallaston

      logged in via email @gayledallaston.com

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Catherine, this discussion is about your article and the argument that the fixed / growth mindset theory is an explanation for the lower than expected achievement in more able students and furthermore a reason not to label or segregate students based on their ability.

      It is the logic of that argument that I am questioning. Please correct me if I have misread your article.

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    6. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Gayle Dallaston

      Yes, correct.

      It's an argument based on 40 years of research by Dweck and her associates into the effects of mindsets, how these arise and their consequences for well-being and achievement.

      You are free not to like the results but you have to be able to show how Dweck's research is incorrect/inadequate/not reliable if you wish to dispute the findings.

      What do you mean by 'logic'? It's an argument that is empirical, that is, based on evidence and not derived hypothetically from some set of first principles. You have to be able to dispute and disprove the empirical evidence. You can't just dislike the findings.

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    7. Gayle Dallaston

      logged in via email @gayledallaston.com

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      The empirical evidence is that marks are at a certain level, or that people leave school. Nobody is disputing any of that.

      You have chosen to use Dweck's writing in your article to support your statements about what is happening in Australian education. Mindsets is an interpretation of observations and a theory, not empirical, not fact. You cannot see a mindset - you can only theorise that mindsets explains the behaviour that you see.

      There are other theories that may or may not explain…

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    8. Chris Aitchison

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Gayle Dallaston

      This is a good point. The hypothesis at the start of this article is that there is a fixed mindset in classroom, but it helps the 'less smart' kids and hinders the 'smart' kids.

      But according to the research, a 'fixed' mindset should harm the 'less smart' kids just as much as it harms the 'smart' kids.

      For the results to be attributable to mindset, the smart kids would have the be treated with a 'fixed' mindset, and the less smart kids with a 'growth' mindset - in the same class.

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    9. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Gayle Dallaston

      The article has plainly upset you but I can't claim to understand why.

      Dweck's work is empirical, as it is based on observation. All theories are generalisations from observation. Calling something a 'theory' does not in scientific circles make it unacceptable.

      Here's a google scholar search of Dweck's work if you are interested in looking at the research. You'll notice that her theory generates testable hypotheses that are tested experimentally and proven:

      http://scholar.google.com.au/scholar?hl=en&q=carol+dweck&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C5&as_sdtp

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    10. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Chris Aitchison

      I don't think you'll find that hypothesis expressed anywhere in the article.

      Mindsets are not what Dweck calls 'entities' - unchangeable human attributes. People can change their mindsets.

      Patrick showed teachers how to improve student outcomes. The low achieving students found themselves experiencing success. After all, they had nothing to lose but their chains. Perhaps they then moved to a growth mindset when the advantages of expending effort became obvious.

      The high achievers had their self image as super brainiacs to lose if they tried and failed.

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  12. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    I had the privilege of teaching the Advanced Stream students some years ago at a Melbourne school.

    What struck me was not how clever they werre, but how well they were able to work. A class of year 7 students doing academically-valuable work in the library without constant teacher intervention, for instance.

    It was quite clear that any margin they had in academic achievement was through consistent hard work, collectively and individually.

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  13. Catherine Scott

    Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

    I am a little concerned that people are going to contact Prof Patrick Griffin with critical comments about research that isn't what he actually did.

    Please be aware that Patrick's research was about the effects of teaching teachers how to use data to improve their instruction (and their students' outcomes).

    The material on Dweck's work and the effects of labeling on mindset is my commentary on the results. Patrick says nothing about this.

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  14. Ian Flynn

    High School Teacher

    I believe this article is half correct. I completely agree with the sentiment of "praise effort, not IQ", but I think this only reveals half the story.

    In the study cited, the lower performing students "had experienced achievement gains at five or six times the expected rate", yet the initially higher performing students "flatlined".

    I don't see a problem with The Age dwelling on why the higher performing students didn't do any better; when the lower performing ones do 5 to 6 times better than…

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    1. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Ian Flynn

      As to your comment:

      'However I dispute this: "The opposite of a fixed mindset is a growth mindset. These people see talent as a work in progress: they don’t see musical talent, intellectual capacity, sports ability or anything else as something inborn but as something that can be grown with hard work, good teaching and consistent effort." Of course the only way to grow is with hard work, good teaching and consistent effort, but that statement basically says that ability is not inborn- everyone…

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    2. John Harland

      bicycle technician

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Indeed, not everyone starts off equal in all abilities. However that is far the better approximation than pretending that we can measure potential.

      Experts will disagree on the methodology of such assessment and classroom teachers' assessments would seem to be less reliable than a random guess.

      That is from my own experience as a school student and as a schoolteacher who has experienced some seemingly-miraculous transformations of students assessed as of low ability. Also the most staggering…

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    3. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to John Harland

      No howling down here because it’s against The Conversation’s rules.

      Two points however:

      First, potential cannot be measured because by definition it is something that does not yet exist. Only current attainment can be measured. I guess we accept the non-existent can be measured because we are stuck in the fixed mind set in which things happen because of inborn lumps of stuff in people’s head. We don't really believe in potential, in other words, we believe in actual, which is why people are so cross about much of what I have said here. It challenges their beliefs about the world.

      And I know that teachers are caught between the necessity to assess people’s performance and the personal sympathy for those that are assessed. Caring for kids means giving the best chance possible, which includes knowing how they are progressing so that you can help do the best they can.

      And that’s what Patrick’s research is about: using what kids can do to make sure they can do more.

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    4. Gayle Dallaston

      logged in via email @gayledallaston.com

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      I don't think John or anyone else here has said that potential can be measured - but it does exist. Babies are born with the potential to walk and talk and if they don't go on to do those things, we'd be asking what has gone wrong.

      Potential can't be measured but it is safe to assume that everyone has the potential to learn more and attain more than their current level - otherwise why bother going to school? That is why the educational setting and curriculum needs to be adjusted so the goalposts…

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  15. Yoron Hamber

    Thinking

    True but disturbing at the same time. Disturbing as the bottom-line seems to be that we all should try to 'achieve', as we can, if we now only would get our lazy bottoms of the chair :)
    And that moral is one I don't enjoy. Stressing people to achieve is not cool and will produce a closed mindset anyway. Better to relax a little and enjoy life as it is, keeping you mind flexible, sort of :)

    But when you find something you like, then it's the time to remember this article.

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    1. Catherine Scott

      Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Yoron Hamber

      That's okay if all you aspire to is sitting in a chair. Great hours, but the pay is lousy.

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    2. Gayle Dallaston

      logged in via email @gayledallaston.com

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Accepting that children and adults have different measurements of success is important.

      Some people will measure success in terms of academic scores, some in terms of income, some prefer social success, others are driven by artistic and other pursuits. Many people chose a lower paid profession because they want to make a difference. People's aims can also vary over a lifetime.

      Getting good grades at school, going on to university for degrees and even PHD might mean success for some - but others…

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    3. Emma Hartnell-Baker

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Yoron Hamber

      I do think we need to identify what 'reaching their potential' (a phrase I often use myself) or being 'an achiever' actually means. To me it means helping that person feel confident in themselves, as 'happy' as they can be (feeling relaxed and at peace within themselves for most of the time regardless perhaps of external influences) able to recognise their abilities and limitations, and act accordingly to set and reach their own goals.
      I have a business that would enable me to sit in a chair most days and do nothing, and the pay is really good:-) I just choose not to. Why? Mindset?

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    4. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Emma Hartnell-Baker

      Not a bad definition Emma. What I don't like is the mindset leading to kids suiciding because they couldn't get into the right school, for example, take a look on 'achievement countries' as Japan, China, Korea for that. Education is very much a question about finding it fun learning as I see t. If the school system fails in making it interesting for all it becomes a dead end where only those forcing their kids to 'learn' will see a 'achievement'.

      Btw: was your business a direct result from school, or was it the school of life leading you there?

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    5. Emma Hartnell-Baker

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Yoron Hamber

      I dont like anything that prevents children from developing emotional resilience, and the inner strength to recognise the validity of my favourite quote

      'grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.'

      I have only just seen this as been in Papau New Guinea training schools. I LOVE going to places where teachers soak up as much info as they can, to help their students. I managed to model lessons in every…

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    6. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Emma Hartnell-Baker

      Don't think you are, it should be fun for both pupils and teachers. Learning is what we do from the instant we come out :) And outside school we learn the things we like more readily than those we find not to our liking I guess. and that also has to do with where you are emotionally, and age wise, of course. What I'm thinking is that most things can be presented in a good way if you're positive about what you teach, and believe in it. And a open mind of course, trying to see ways to get through to the kids with what you want them to learn. And do as the marines, don't leave people behind, just because they're slow starters :)

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    7. Gayle Dallaston

      logged in via email @gayledallaston.com

      In reply to Yoron Hamber

      "And do as the marines, don't leave people behind, just because they're slow starters :)"

      I think this is very important and takes us back to the original topic.

      Students learn at different speeds, and individual speeds may vary at different times of their lives. Children should never be pushed through the school system when their learning has fallen significantly behind their cohort. But equally children shouldn't need to mark time at school waiting for their cohort to catch up. Children at both extremes are being failed, and being set up to fail, when the extent of their different needs are not acknowledged.

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  16. Ari Sperings

    logged in via email @iinet.net.au

    Catherine,

    I am the mum of a gifted daughter and I have to say your comments concern me deeply, given your role in educating teachers - but they do not surprise me. Everything you say is based in commonly held myths about gifted children and their families.

    From the out set I’d like you to point me to the literature that shows that “the actual evidence from NSW is that segregating gifted kids does harm a significant proportion of them.” This comment in particular surprises me given that NSW…

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    1. Ari Sperings

      logged in via email @iinet.net.au

      In reply to Ari Sperings

      Sorry - realised I started a sentence mid way through that I didn't finish (early on in the above). I had meant to add the recommendation that you look at the classic work of Terman and Hollingworth (who did indeed show that gifted kids were often healthy, socially able, good at sport etc, but who also noted that often their needs - particular those with the highest IQs - were not met and that there were consequences for that). For something more recent, have a look at Aimee Yermish who deals with the consequences of poor educational fit as a psychologist specialising in counselling gifted children and the Davidson Institute (http://www.davidsongifted.org/).

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    2. Catherine Scott

      Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Ari Sperings

      People are assuming that I am a teacher educator. I'm a psychologist (developmental and educational), and therefore well aware of the work of Terman, etc.

      Telling me I am wrong is not going to negate the 40 years of research produced by Dweck and her colleagues that shows that labeling kids is very harmful. If you have been persuaded that labeling your daughter is going to help her I understand that you would find Dweck's message extremely unsettling.

      As to the Davidson Institute I am not going to be persuaded that Dweck's research findings are wrong on the basis that there exist - as there do, in large numbers - people who hope to profit from parent's concern for their children.

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    3. Catherine Scott

      Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Ari Sperings

      I repeat that what I say is not based on commonly held myths about g&t kids. Rather, it is based on research evidence that disputes the myth that the best thing to do with an academically able child is stick a great big flashing label to them.

      I cannot point you to the literature on NSW, because as I said, the NSW DET does not want it to be commonly known. That's political: governments have to get re-elected and failing to satisfy parental demands for special schools for their academically able…

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    4. Catherine Scott

      Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Ari Sperings

      Oh dear, I missed this bit 'no doubt given all the research you claim to have done'. I am writing about Dweck's research in the area, not my own.

      I write about all kinds of things and I must say that I have not endured so much hostility and so many personal attacks for writing about any other topic. The scorn, the derision, quite something really.

      No wonder politicians quail in the face of the demands of the gifted and talented lobby group.

      The savagery with which people respond to any whiff that their child will not be recognised as specially deserving is, again, quite something. You should think about how that comes across, particularly to parents with children with illnesses and disabilities.

      Have a little think about how your daughter would feel if she knew that you were talking about her and her difficulties in these terms and in a public forum.

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    5. Ari Sperings

      logged in via email @iinet.net.au

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Ok, so you evidently didn't read the type of environment my daughter is now in, which is a main stream school where she is in class with a range of kids - from those who have learning disabilities to kids like herself and where she is given differentiated instruction to meet her needs. My understanding (admittedly gained through media reports) of the study you reference in your initial piece is that it shows that normal classrooms were not meeting the needs of kids who were working above average…

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    6. Catherine Scott

      Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Ari Sperings

      You know, it's really better if you don't personalise this so much and make it all about how I want your child harmed.

      It becomes about attacking me in quite unreasonable ways. Much of what you say I have said is just plain not true. I haven't advocated that teachers teach to the middle or anything like it. Or that children be be locked up in Dickensian institutions where they are beaten and starved either.

      This sort of sneery personalised attack:

      'It’s highly convenient that the research…

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    7. John Harland

      bicycle technician

      In reply to Ari Sperings

      Let her join a rock'n'roll band, Art, but don't let her think you approve of it.

      Give her a chance to strive in an area in which you cannot or will not help her, then she will work. Not that she will let you see that she is working at it.

      Through her "illicit" study she will, incidentally, pick up a wealth of learning and skills that will help her later in formal study. It will also allow her to interact with her peers in their own ways, not the adult-structured interactions of school.

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  17. Catherine Scott

    Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at University of Melbourne

    A wee history of intelligence testing. The first standardised intelligence test was developed by Frenchman, Alfred Binet, in the first decade of the 20th century. The test was developed to give a reliable way of estimating children's academic performance to see who would benefit from special education assistance because they were of lower attainment. It was designed to be independent of what children were actually doing in their classrooms and free of potential bias in teachers' judgements.

    IQ…

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    1. Ari Sperings

      logged in via email @iinet.net.au

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Hi again,

      (just FYI, I wasn't talking about your research as in research you had authored, I was talking about your research in to the topic of the needs of high ability children in general that I had assumed you'd done given that you were commenting so specifically about it -it hadn't occurred to me that you'd simply relied on Dweck and studies that talk about solely about streaming given it is a complex topic).

      I am extremely aware of the limitations of IQ tests, and very aware of their…

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    2. Catherine Scott

      Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Ari Sperings

      As you have made many assumptions about me I am going make the assumption that you have never taught, do not understand the challenges of the classroom nor the dedication of most teachers to the well-being of all their students.

      I would also, as a final observations, note that the parents who get involved in the g&t lobby are not at all representative of parents who have academically able kids.

      I have a policy that when it becomes plain that a participant here is not interested in a discussion or considering other viewpoints, has made the issue personal and feels that it is all right to attack me I no longer read their posts.

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    3. Ari Sperings

      logged in via email @iinet.net.au

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      Ok,

      I think it's probably best if I explain where my responses are coming from and so I'll use some quotes from your initial piece and your comments.

      "Having been identified as “top” students, the children’s efforts turned to holding onto that identity rather than learning and growing."

      As I said, my example was ridiculous, but my point was that there is no way of NOT labeling children to some extent in a classroom. How do you propose teachers do 'great teaching', how do they provide an…

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  18. Catherine Scott

    Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at University of Melbourne

    This is from another thread on The Conversation. Widens the net a little and may be of some interest:

    Michelle Stevenson commented:

    "Might I suggest Professor John Geake's 'The Brain at School: Educational Neuroscience in the Classroom'. John co-founded the Oxford Cognitive Neuroscience Education Forum and conducted research at the Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain, Oxford, UK. This book exposes some of the myths and misunderstandings in education today. As an experienced teacher and cognitive neuroscientist he has written a very timely and empirically based book on this important topic. "

    To add your say go to http://theconversation.edu.au/weird-neuroscience-how-education-hijacked-brain-research-10663

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  19. Sandra Parson

    Social Worker

    I have often felt uncomfortable with "gifted programs" and labels such as "slow learner." I never knew quite why but this article spells it out very well. And the study speaks volumes. More research needs to be conducted into what motivated the lower 25% to gain so much.

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    1. Catherine Scott

      Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Sandra Parson

      According to the researchers, once the lowest 25% started to experience success because of more effective teaching targeted at their learning needs they worked very hard and experienced more success, so they worked very hard etc etc

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  20. Catherine Scott

    Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at University of Melbourne

    Have finally had a yarn with someone from the original research team, the one I start the article mentioning.

    The tests they used were purpose built (using Rasch modelling) and standardised, They were designed for kids from third grade through to 10th grade.

    Ceiling effects were not in evidence, with plenty of room at the top of the tests for kids to get even higher scores than were found. Regression to the mean also doesn't explain the results, with the lowest 25% of kids improving at 5 to 6 times the rate expected.

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    1. John Harland

      bicycle technician

      In reply to Catherine Scott

      In my experience, those who rise from low to high results are able people who have been held back by blockages, particularly their own low assessment of their own abilities.

      Once the blockages are cleared, they catch up quickly with their peers and sometimes surpass them, impelled by extraordinary levels of motivation.

      School results reflect the alignment of the student's outlook with the educational system they encounter. Results of school assessment show only a weak alignment to mental capacities of the student.

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  21. Yen Liu

    Analyst Programmer

    It's everywhere, in the media, in TV shows and in movies. The idea of the ______ but naturally brilliant protagonist. You can fill that space with lazy, criminal, college dropout etc, but his or her negative points is magically negated by a natural ability they never earned, but was lucky enough to win in the genetic lottery. This attitude is very convenient but morally murky.

    It boils down to a moral issue and our attitudes towards education. Do you reward effort or natural talent more? Don't take the status quo for granted. In many Asian countries the teachers will place more effort on the struggling students than put the high achieving students on a pedestal. To them, struggling is a sign of strength, not weakness, and I agree.

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    1. John Harland

      bicycle technician

      In reply to Yen Liu

      The more we pretend that talent is inborn and individual, the better we can downplay the centrality of collaboration in human learning, intelligence and achievement.

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