Sunday, September 22, 2019

Telling children that they 'can do anything if they put their minds to it' can actually lead to POORER results, study finds

Artificially boosting pupils' self-belief might do more harm than good by 'papering over' serious problems in schools.

A study of primary schools in Scotland found those that tried to motivate children to try harder in subjects they struggled with were not improving their exam results.

Instead, grades were found to be falling across the country and experts warned catchphrases and platitudes weren't helping.

'What we see is grades going down across the whole country, so saying, "I love maths because of a cartoon superhero" is kind of papering over pretty big troubles in education,' Dr Timothy Bates, the leader of the study, told The Times.

The psychology expert, from the University of Edinburgh, referenced a quote from a young child who said she felt better about a subject because of mascots.

A girl at Lasswade Primary School in Midlothian said: 'I love maths now because the superheroes help me,' after teachers there introduced 'Tough Tina' and 'Mike the Mistake Maker' to try and encourage children.

Dr Bates's study said that in fact pupils are likely to have subjects they are naturally worse at and telling them they can do it if they try may not be ideal.

Although a positive attitude is important, overdoing it might ignore the science behind people being naturally gifted in different areas.

The researchers called telling children they could use effort to overcome their nature a 'growth mindset'. 'A growth mindset attitude suggests you can reprogramme your brain,' Dr Bates said.

'Our study tested whether invoking a growth mindset would improve grades, and we found that it didn’t.

'In the one study where we did find a significant change it was in the wrong direction, with the kids who were taught a growth mindset getting worse grades.'

In their study the Edinburgh researchers found that grades were actually falling across Scotland. There was a two per cent drop in the number of children achieving high pass rates and notably worse performances in maths and English.

The research was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.


Chicago Public Schools CEO Says NYT 1619 Project to Be Taught in All City High Schools

The CEO of Chicago Public Schools announced this week that the New York Times‘s 1619 Project is being provided as a supplemental resource to every one of the system’s high schools.

“Thanks to our partners at the Pulitzer Center, every CPS high school will receive 200–400 copies of the New York Times’ The 1619 Project this week as a resource to help reframe the institution of slavery, and how we’re still influenced by it today—from the workforce management system created to harness enslaved labor and the incredible wealth that came from its unsparing efficiency to the music that you may very well be listening to now,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson wrote in an essay published Tuesday.

The 1619 Project, a collection of writings and photography marking the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery, has been challenged by critics as containing several misrepresentations and inaccuracies. The Times has said the project is designed “to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”

“As educators, we are always looking for new tools and strategies to help students contextualize the world around them so they may one day become informed and effective citizens,” Jackson said. “In order for our students to engage with the issues of today, it is essential that they have an honest accounting of our country’s past.”

“It is my sincere hope that parents and families explore the project with their children; teachers examine these curricular materials and share it with their students; and principals support staff and students as they tackle this subject,” she added.


A small comeback for the classics in Australia

Less than a year ago, Aadita Menghani knew nothing about Latin. "I had never even heard of it before," she said.

But the 13-year-old Blacktown Girls High student is discovering the ancient Roman language in the first NSW class to be offered Latin outside the fully selective or private school systems in more than 20 years.

More than 80 per cent of Blacktown's students are new or recent migrants, and their native tongues - Mandarin, Arabic, Hindi - have little crossover with the 3000-year-old language that influenced modern English.

But advocates of the classics say that's exactly why they should learn it, as new research suggests students with the least access to Latin and Classical Greek are the ones who benefit most.

Blacktown Girls' High, a partially selective school, was able to offer Latin to year eight this year thanks to the arrival of Lance Shortus, a second-year teacher who studied the language as part of his ancient history degree at university.

Like most teachers of the classics, he embeds the language in wider lessons about ancient Roman culture. This year's course is open to students from the selective and non-selective but gifted streams, but if it succeeds, he hopes to offer it to more.

"It would be great to see it appearing in more public, non-selective schools," he said. "Please don't call it a dead language. Latina est immortalis. It's an immortal language."

Emily Matters, the president of the Classical Languages Teachers' Association, said Latin could be instrumental in developing a category of vocabulary that was particularly useful to students from a non-English speaking background or disadvantaged community.

While they were already bi-lingual, had a rich understanding of conversational words, and learned scientific, technical words such as 'photosynthesis' or 'hypotenuse' at school, they often had little exposure to the complex English vocabulary found scholarship and literature, she said.

The children most likely to pick up this type of vocabulary - largely derived from Latin and Ancient Greek - were from highly-educated, native English-speaking families, giving them an advantage in high school or university, said Dr Matters.

"By the age of 10, the division [in vocabulary] is quite clear," said Ms Matters.

"For some children, if they can't learn these words at school, they are not going to learn them. That's the kind of thing that learning Latin will give children - that enrichment of their English vocabulary."

A single Latin word can unlock many English ones. For example, if a student knows ardere means 'to burn', they can work out the meaning of ardent, ardour or arson. The word tractare, to drag or pull, is a clue to words such as subtract, attractive, and detractor.

Arlene Holmes-Henderson from Oxford University is finishing a longitudinal study into the impact of classical languages on children's cognitive development.

"Initial and interim findings suggest that learning Latin can unlock significant literacy gains for certain pupils, but not the ones who traditionally have had access to the study of classics," she told the Herald.

Dr Matters said the last comprehensive school to teach Latin was Turramurra High School, which closed its course in the early 1990s.

Fully selective schools were more likely to be able to offer Latin or ancient Greek because they could attract enough interested students to fill a class, while private schools had the resources to teach smaller groups, she said.


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