09 December 2007

Mastering Intelligence

Assorted Stuff has a link to a recent Scientific American article entitled "The Secret to Raising Smart Kids." It's well worth your attention if you have a few minutes to spare. The information interested me because it is an extension of my dissertation work. Instead of applying mastery vs. performance motivational beliefs to student achievement, researchers have been applying these perceptions to intelligence. Kids who believe that intelligence is a fixed commodity (performance orientation) have behaviors that keep them from improving their performance; children who believe that that being smart is something you can learn (mastery orientation) will continue to improve. (There is more on the research over at Edutopia: Tell Students to Feed Their Brains.) The implications for educators are sprinkled throughout the article, but if you're looking for something you can directly apply to the classroom, check out the last two pages talking about "Brainology." Kids who learn how their brain works to learn make marked improvements over those who solely receive tutoring/help with study skills.

After attending the Sound Grading Practices conference this week, I am even more convinced of the need to work with teachers around building classroom environments that emphasize mastery goals. Grading is one piece of the puzzle, to be sure, but there is so much more that can be included. Looks like teaching kids that their brains are plastic in ability and how to harness that quality is one more. The role of feedback and how teachers word it is also a key piece. We can help kids be masters of their intelligence.


Hugh O'Donnell said...

SG, although it might seem that I'm monomaniacally focused on grading, a much bigger concern of mine in the classroom was, and still is, teaching kids about the power of their brains.

I started going there with my post on mnemonics, which are based on association. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

I taught students that their ability to learn is limitless for all practical purposes, unless injury or organic imbalance interfers. I didn't just tell them, I put them through exercises that gave them a taste of learning power. (One of my favorite lines was, "Hey, we have to talk about it in social studies, because nobody else is, and you weren't born with a brain operations manual attached to your big toe."

We enjoyed a lot of laughs while learning.

Hugh aka Repairman

PS: There's so much to talk about that is related to learning, assessment, grading, that this medium really sucks. We can only hit one thing at a time, and not all that well, either. (But, I have to admit, it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, i.e., not talking at all.)

The Science Goddess said...

Blogging definitely has limitations in terms of discussions related to learning. I think that if I were a "big" blog, I would do fewer posts and just let the discussion happen. As it is, I tend to write multiple posts when I have various ideas in mind and then just queue them to post as time permits (because there are always times when I have blogger's block).

I think that too many educators excuse themselves from talking with students about cognitive science or other facets of learning because they (teachers) feel that they have so little influence. There's less than an hour of time with kids at the secondary level. But, hey, it's still an hour. We have to make the most of it and accept our responsibility for doing the best we can during the time we have.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Hey, maybe you're not a big blog, but I think you're a smart blog. ;)

Just go easy on poor Rick. (Maybe you'll be thinking I'm a dumb blog, but I didn't see that his message was all that far removed from facilitating and encouraging intrinsic motivation to learn. :) )

It's just that his total assessment for learning secondary "report card" vision ain't gonna happen in our lifetimes.

Hugh aka Repairman

The Science Goddess said...

Maybe Ricky needs to move his Assessment for Learning vision off of report cards. Even if secondary report cards changed, it is unlikely that they would communicate all of the information for all of the stakeholders. Classroom communication is so much deeper than a report card. He would just be better served by taking those communication goals and pushing them as vehicles for assessment for learning (with or without the report card). Hopeless, I suppose.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

I tend to agree with you about report cards. The whole purpose of student-involved conferences was to allow students to "take ownership" of their achievement reporting, but it never worked in my school because the wingnut grade freak teachers wanted to include their computer grading printouts with samples chosen by the child.

Mine was the only voice raised against this barbarity and the principal bowed to the louder voices.

Guess what parents focused on? Grades, of course. Forget the work samples. Strictly a walk-on part for the kid.

Parents, it seems, need a report card like a baby needs a pacifier. (Not to mention "higher education," which, in general, is taking on the aspects -- as a phrase -- of an oxymoron.

I think the idea about separating progress reporting from summative assessment reporting is a good way to go. Then we develop a vehicle to report summative assessment reporting like a strip out of your gradebook for each kid.

I think Myron Dueck from Penticton is on that trail.

Hugh aka Repairman

The Science Goddess said...

I think we should just bottle Myron and sprinkle him around. :)

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Yeah, if I was a principal, I'd sure as hell hire him! :)