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Why there’s no such thing as a gifted child | Education | The Guardian
"Even Einstein was unexceptional in his youth. Now a new book questions our fixation with IQ and says adults can help almost any child become gifted"



"When Maryam Mirzakhani died at the tragically early age of 40 this month, the news stories talked of her as a genius. The only woman to win the Fields Medal – the mathematical equivalent of a Nobel prize – and a Stanford professor since the age of 31, this Iranian-born academic had been on a roll since she started winning gold medals at maths Olympiads in her teens.

It would be easy to assume that someone as special as Mirzakhani must have been one of those gifted children who excel from babyhood. The ones reading Harry Potter at five or admitted to Mensa not much later. The child that takes maths GCSE while still in single figures, or a rarity such as Ruth Lawrence, who was admitted to Oxford while her contemporaries were still in primary school.

But look closer and a different story emerges. Mirzakhani was born in Tehran, one of three siblings in a middle-class family whose father was an engineer. The only part of her childhood that was out of the ordinary was the Iran-Iraq war, which made life hard for the family in her early years. Thankfully it ended around the time she went to secondary school.

Mirzakhani, did go to a highly selective girls’ school but maths wasn’t her interest – reading was. She loved novels and would read anything she could lay her hands on; together with her best friend she would prowl the book stores on the way home from school for works to buy and consume.

As for maths, she did rather poorly at it for the first couple of years in her middle school, but became interested when her elder brother told her about what he’d learned. He shared a famous maths problem from a magazine that fascinated her – and she was hooked. The rest is mathematical history.

Is her background unusual? Apparently not. Most Nobel laureates were unexceptional in childhood. Einstein was slow to talk and was dubbed the dopey one by the family maid. He failed the general part of the entry test to Zurich Polytechnic – though they let him in because of high physics and maths scores. He struggled at work initially, failing to get academic post and being passed over for promotion at the Swiss Patent Office because he wasn’t good enough at machine technology. But he kept plugging away and eventually rewrote the laws of Newtonian mechanics with his theory of relativity.

Lewis Terman, a pioneering American educational psychologist, set up a study in 1921 following 1,470 Californians, who excelled in the newly available IQ tests, throughout their lives. None ended up as the great thinkers of their age that Terman expected they would. But he did miss two future Nobel prize winners – Luis Alvarez and William Shockley, both physicists – whom he dismissed from the study as their test scores were not high enough.

There is a canon of research on high performance, built over the last century, that suggests it goes way beyond tested intelligence. On top of that, research is clear that brains are malleable, new neural pathways can be forged, and IQ isn’t fixed. Just because you can read Harry Potter at five doesn’t mean you will still be ahead of your contemporaries in your teens.

According to my colleague, Prof Deborah Eyre, with whom I’ve collaborated on the book Great Minds and How to Grow Them, the latest neuroscience and psychological research suggests most people, unless they are cognitively impaired, can reach standards of performance associated in school with the gifted and talented. However, they must be taught the right attitudes and approaches to their learning and develop the attributes of high performers – curiosity, persistence and hard work, for example – an approach Eyre calls “high performance learning”. Critically, they need the right support in developing those approaches at home as well as at school.

So, is there even such a thing as a gifted child? It is a highly contested area. Prof Anders Ericsson, an eminent education psychologist at Florida State University, is the co-author of Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. After research going back to 1980 into diverse achievements, from music to memory to sport, he doesn’t think unique and innate talents are at the heart of performance. Deliberate practice, that stretches you every step of the way, and around 10,000 hours of it, is what produces the expert. It’s not a magic number – the highest performers move on to doing a whole lot more, of course, and, like Mirzakhani, often find their own unique perspective along the way.

Ericsson’s memory research is particularly interesting because random students, trained in memory techniques for the study, went on to outperform others thought to have innately superior memories – those you might call gifted.

He got into the idea of researching the effects of deliberate practice because of an incident at school, in which he was beaten at chess by someone who used to lose to him. His opponent had clearly practised.

But it is perhaps the work of Benjamin Bloom, another distinguished American educationist working in the 1980s, that gives the most pause for thought and underscores the idea that family is intrinsically important to the concept of high performance.

Bloom’s team looked at a group of extraordinarily high achieving people in disciplines as varied as ballet, swimming, piano, tennis, maths, sculpture and neurology, and interviewed not only the individuals but their parents, too.

He found a pattern of parents encouraging and supporting their children, in particular in areas they enjoyed themselves. Bloom’s outstanding adults had worked very hard and consistently at something they had become hooked on young, and their parents all emerged as having strong work ethics themselves.

While the jury is out on giftedness being innate and other factors potentially making the difference, what is certain is that the behaviours associated with high levels of performance are replicable and most can be taught – even traits such as curiosity.

Eyre says we know how high performers learn. From that she has developed a high performing learning approach that brings together in one package what she calls the advanced cognitive characteristics, and the values, attitudes and attributes of high performance. She is working on the package with a group of pioneer schools, both in Britain and abroad.

But the system needs to be adopted by families, too, to ensure widespread success across classes and cultures. Research in Britain shows the difference parents make if they take part in simple activities pre-school in the home, supporting reading for example. That support shows through years later in better A-level results, according to the Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary study, conducted over 15 years by a team from Oxford and London universities.

Eye-opening spin-off research, which looked in detail at 24 of the 3,000 individuals being studied who were succeeding against the odds, found something remarkable about what was going in at home. Half were on free school meals because of poverty, more than half were living with a single parent, and four in five were living in deprived areas.

The interviews uncovered strong evidence of an adult or adults in the child’s life who valued and supported education, either in the immediate or extended family or in the child’s wider community. Children talked about the need to work hard at school and to listen in class and keep trying. They referenced key adults who had encouraged those attitudes.

Einstein, the epitome of a genius, clearly had curiosity, character and determination. He struggled against rejection in early life but was undeterred. Did he think he was a genius or even gifted? No. He once wrote: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.”

And what about Mirzakhani? Her published quotations show someone who was curious and excited by what she did and resilient. One comment sums it up. “Of course, the most rewarding part is the ‘Aha’ moment, the excitement of discovery and enjoyment of understanding something new – the feeling of being on top of a hill and having a clear view. But most of the time, doing mathematics for me is like being on a long hike with no trail and no end in sight.”

The trail took her to the heights of original research into mathematics in a cruelly short life. That sounds like unassailable character. Perhaps that was her gift."
sfsh  parenting  gifted  precocity  children  prodigies  2017  curiosity  rejection  resilience  maryammirzakhani  childhood  math  mathematics  reading  slowlearning  lewisterman  iq  iqtests  tests  testing  luisalvarez  williamshockley  learning  howwelearn  deboraheyre  wendyberliner  neuroscience  psychology  attitude  persistence  hardwork  workethic  andersericsson  performance  practice  benjaminbloom  education  ballet  swimming  piano  tennis  sculpture  neurology  encouragement  support  giftedness  behavior  mindset  genius  character  determination  alberteinstein 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Whither the Liberal Arts College? Or, Why Bloom’s Critique Doesn’t Matter | Front Porch Republic
"The hallmarks of these places are professionalization and specialization, and in the process they lose sight of the one (truly liberal) question that would help make an education coherent: the question of what it is to be a human being."

"as they become more specialized and professionalized in their internal functioning, they encourage the development of a faculty who are invested in not raising the larger questions about the purpose of education, and a student- body who will increasingly mimic this professionalization and specialization in pursuit of a well- paying job."

"…Not understanding leisure, neither can we understand work"

[via: http://randallszott.org/2012/10/19/liberal-arts-uselessness-and-leisure-against-mere-work/ ]
gilmeilander  stanleyfish  allanbloom  us  militaryindustrialcomplex  cronycapitalism  authority  virtue  highereducation  highered  universities  colleges  jeantwenge  sherryturkle  josephpieper  alastairmacintyre  comfort  jeffreypolet  2012  capitalism  society  community  slowlearning  education  learning  slowness  slow  work  labor  leisurearts  leisure  values  purpose  living  life  sensemaking  meaningmaking  generalists  liberalarts  humanism  professions  professionalization  artleisure 
october 2012 by robertogreco
SLA, 3i, Finding Common Ground and Looking Backward to Go Forward. - Practical Theory
"In reading those documents, you can see the valiant struggle to create something meaningful and powerful and democratic for students in the school. Kids and teachers made decisions together... classes were purely democratically chosen... students powerfully owned their learning. But I also read some of the same problems that we've seen in varying degrees at SLA. Student motivation to make those decisions or find learning on their own waxed and waned.... figuring out what to do when given ownership and freedom was hard... and maintaining the spirit of the revolution, so to speak, could be exhausting."
education  pedagogy  inspiration  irasocol  inquiry  chrislehmann  alanshapiro  neilpostman  tcsnmy  lcproject  schools  schooldesign  schooling  unschooling  deschooling  democracy  democratic  teaching  learning  teachingasasubversiveactivity  3iprogram  newrochellehighschool  1970s  1980s  policy  cv  fatigue  burnout  criticalthinking  meaning  meaningfulness  empowerment  identity  slowlearning  charlesweingartner  flexibility  respect  curriculum  2011  revolution 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Chaos Theory at Play in the Middle School: A Redeeming Vision | Santa Fe Leadership Center
"…rarely do I make it to the end of day & look back at a purposeful, sustained march…In spite of ability to adapt to unexpected & turn surprise into teachable moment, teachers…are often uncomfortable w/ change & uncertainty…there may be something inherent about middle schoolers that requires, even dictates, a more flexible, free flowing style of management…There is probably no age group in a greater state of flux & transformation…In some ways, life in MS may mirror…world of quantum physics.…random events that seem to defy pattern & determinism…relationships btwn students, teacher & parents give meaning to our action…in seemingly endless series of encounters…saving grace, redeeming motif that makes it all worth it is the quality of the relationships & one’s ability to alter & affect life in MS by the humanity, kindness & humor one brings to each new crisis/encounter/situation."

[Linkrot workaround: http://santafelead.org/464/ ]
middleschool  cv  teaching  learning  quantumphysics  chaostheory  predictablity  messiness  tomrosenbluth  relationships  tcsnmy  lcproject  slowlearning  slow  flexibility  growth  adolescence  pedagogy  flow  structure  planning  education  unpredictability  humor  grace  kindness  connectivism  connections 
january 2011 by robertogreco
Myths Related to Learning in Schools
"This chapter focuses on the intellectual stultification of learners, the first of three fundamental problems that limit the quality of thinking and efficacy of the educational experience. Students in increasingly lower grades and educators at increasingly earlier points in their careers lose their joy for their work. They become jaded by the limitations on their imaginations, frustrated by the questions they are not allowed to pursue, and depressed by the more experienced peers around them who seem uninterested in their ideas. Somewhere along the way, we—educators, parents, and students alike—decided that schooling was supposed to feel this way, that the drudgery of school was necessary in order for learning to happen. We are all culpable for perpetuating this reality."
unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  learning  schools  education  via:hrheingold  drudgery  pedagogy  teaching  lcproject  tcsnmy  criticalthinking  curiosity  engagement  boredom  coping  wastedtime  attention  homework  superficiality  myths  grades  grading  motivation  speed  slowlearning  slowness  slowpedagogy  slow  intelligence  pace  risk  riskaversion  treadmill  treadmilleducation  racetonowhere  sageonthestage  hierarchy  freedom  autonomy  burnout  creativity  curriculum 
december 2010 by robertogreco
education should be inefficient [Great post from Astra Taylor, way too much to pull quotes, but here are two anyway.]
"I think one reason highly educated and credentialed people latch on to alt ed theories is there’s a sense that we are at heart autodidacts, despite schooling.…

I was unschooled without highspeed Internet (first logged on freshman year of highschool); my youngest sister doesn't remember life without constant highspeed access. I would say for both of us though, unschooling has been more about slowness, about paying attention, immersing ourselves bizarre art projects, volunteering, staring off into space, talking to friends, and reading books, reading books, reading books. We sometimes learned quickly, when motivated or excited to master some skill, but typically we learned at our own pace, which was often slow (sometimes so slow it looked as though we were doing nothing at all) and with lots of detours."

[A reply is here: http://permalink.gmane.org/gmane.culture.media.idc/1877 ]
astrataylor  unschooling  slow  inefficiency  learning  deschooling  glvo  slowlearning  boredom  credentials  schools  schooling  education 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Eide Neurolearning Blog: The Most Creative Brains are Slow
"...One study of 65 subjects suggests that creativity prefers to take a slower, more meandering path than intelligence. 'The brain appears to be an efficient superhighway that gets you from Point A to Point B” when it comes to intelligence, Dr. (Rex) Jung explained. “But in the regions of the brain related to creativity, there appears to be lots of little side roads with interesting detours, and meandering little byways.'"
creativity  slow  slowlearning  learning  cv  intelligence  adhd  dyslexia  teaching  schools  unschooling  deschooling  gifted  lcproject  tcsnmy  brain  neuroscience 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Big Thinkers: Howard Gardner on Multiple Intelligences | Edutopia
"The student may have a good grade on the exam, we may think that he or she is learning, but a year or two later there's nothing left...I think that we teach way too many subjects and we cover way too much material and the end result is that students have a very superficial knowledge...I actually don't care if a child studies physics or biology or geology or astronomy before he goes to college. There's plenty of time to do that kind of detailed work. I think what's really important is to begin to learn to think scientifically...The most important thing about assessment is knowing what it is that you should be able to do...In school, assessment is mystifying. Nobody knows what's going to be on the test, and when the test results go back, neither the teacher nor the student knows what to do. So what I favor is highlighting for kids from the day they walk into school the performances and exhibitions for which they're going to be accountable."
howardgardner  assessment  schools  education  tcsnmy  projectbasedlearning  learning  technology  multipleintelligences  iq  inquiry  teaching  slowlearning  childcenteredlearning  grading  grades  testing  tests  gamechanging  cv  edutopia  pbl 
december 2009 by robertogreco
In a world of distraction, here’s how (and why) to find your focus. | GlimmerSite
"In trying to design an environment that allows for more focus, some people opt for an austere “quiet room,” while others recommend something more playful (designer Brian Collins thinks you should turn a space into your own personal kindergarten classroom, with chalkboards and walls covered with drawings and other scraps of inspiration). The décor may not matter as much as the wiring—or the desired lack thereof. Too many interruptions can disrupt the connections and “smart recombinations” that may be forming in the designer’s mind. One study, by Hewlett-Packard, found that constant interruptions actually sap intelligence (by about ten IQ points, in fact)."
distraction  concentration  slowlearning  design  problemsolving  intelligence  brucemau  stefansagmeister  sabbaticals  tcsnmy  cv  learning  environment  space  lcproject 
december 2009 by robertogreco
Artichoke: Crack learning, the achievement gap and Sisyphean struggle.
"This made me think of “crack learning” and how we might understand learning based on actions of removal rather than by constantly adding new layers and materials to our schools, classrooms and students. I wanted to ask .. What would happen to learning if we removed "the din"? ... What would happen to learning if we removed the expectation that "progress" requires unrelenting change and innovation ... What would happen to learning if we removed "the rush", if we slowed down, learned how to see and took time to realise that all things connect? ... Reading Gladwell made me fret that all our MoE sanctioned interventions to reduce our achievement gap are perhaps a Sisyphean struggle – made me think that perhaps we are doomed to always struggle because in targeting schools we are targeting the wrong intervention. ... Should our focus on reducing disparity look at the effect on learning of time spent outside of school rather than what happens within school?"
slowlearning  slowpedagogy  geethanarayanan  teaching  schools  schooling  achievementgap  learning  education  unschooling  deschooling  slow  progress  artichokeblog  pamhook 
may 2009 by robertogreco
Japan for Sustainability - Kakegawa Declares Itself a "Slow Life City"
"SLOW PACE: We value the culture of walking, to be fit & to reduce traffic accidents. SLOW WEAR: ...beautiful traditional costumes... SLOW FOOD: ...Japanese food culture...dishes & tea ceremony & safe local ingredients. SLOW HOUSE: We respect houses built with wood, bamboo & paper, lasting over 100 or 200 years & are careful to make things durably...to conserve our environment. SLOW INDUSTRY: We take care of our forests, through our agriculture & forestry, conduct sustainable farming with human labor & ultimately spread urban farms & green tourism.
slow  sustainability  slowlife  japan  education  sloweducation  slowlearning  meaning  community  aging  industry  happiness  environment  life  local  simplicity  2002  slowfood  homes  housing  walking 
november 2008 by robertogreco
Artichoke: Unwarranted assumptions, slow pedagogies, and shop front learning
"Technological fluency - now that is something I could tilt at in an ictpd cluster. I just love the way Geetha goes on to identify the false driver in those various “outsourcing means your children will be left behind unless you give them access to blisteringly fast ICTs and teach them how to be creative” TeacherTube videos doing the rounds of teacher meetings in New Zealand this month. They all ignore the reality that if the ordinary task is able to be outsourced more cheaply overseas so will the extraordinary or creative task. Creative and original thinkers are a global resource as are call centre thinkers and accountants. I am still waiting for someone in the audience to challenge the essentially xenophobic and marketing message of these videos as succinctly as Geetha does.
Further, this pressure is resulting in a disconnect between the means and ends of education. The larger democratic ideals of social justice, of interdependence and of co-evolution through cooperation and collaboration are being increasingly marginalised in favour of greater accountability through testing, the drive towards nationalised curriculum, which suffers from a ‘one size fits all’ mindset, and the need to develop competitive advantages in a networked world that has a globalised economic structure.

What Geetha Narayanan has identified as important for her kids in Bangladore is not unlike what Lohnes and Kinzer’s liberal arts college students identified as important for their learning.

Learning is all about people being with people - small groups, real time human contact, and frequent interaction with teachers in settings outside the classroom."

[See also (broken link within): https://web.archive.org/web/20071015133539/http://kt.flexiblelearning.net.au/tkt2007/?page_id=33

"So what is the dangerous idea I have been exploring and why do many people across the world consider it powerful?

The dangerous idea is that school reform, in India in particular, but across the world too, is impossible.

Changing education, at the systemic level or at the institutional or school level, or educating teachers and school leaders in change can be classified as largely first order change - that of school improvement, which involves doing more of the same but doing it better (where the focus is on efficiency) and that of school re-structuring, which involves re-organising components and responsibilities (where the focus is on effectiveness).

The power behind the dangerous idea is the realisation that if one cannot reform education by improving the system or by re-structuring the schools, then the way forward must be through design. The need seemed to be to re-envision and to design a new system - one that supports both personal and social transformation creating 21st century learning."]
slow  slowlearning  technology  schools  pedagogy  learning  education  culture  critique  networks  online  internet  schooldesign  children  lcproject  homeschool  society  family  relationships  interaction  teaching  comments  slowpedagogy  artichokeblog  pamhook  geethanarayanan  socialjustice  interdependence  accountability  democracy  cooperation  collaboration  testing  standardizedtesting 
june 2007 by robertogreco
Artichoke: "Forget the damned motor car and build the cities for lovers and friends"
"we adopt terms like “learning community” and “home group”...[but] the environments we provide, and the institutional hierarchies we create, fail to meet the most basic expectations of what is necessary for either community or home."
slowlearning  slow  education  learning  space  architecture  schools  schooldesign  lcproject  future  size  cities  design  artichokeblog  pamhook 
june 2007 by robertogreco

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