The District’s Mission of Self-directed Learning and Intelligence
Over the next six weeks our students will experience of number of classroom and standardized tests. One of the goals of all these assessments is to provide information to students about the progress of their learning so that they can own key aspects of it – hence, the District’s mission of self-directed learning. Sadly, students sometimes see the results of these assessments either as confirmation or contradiction of a fixed notion of their ability and potential. This is a shame, for we know that resilience and perseverance are highly valuable orientations at any stage in life. As importantly, we also know that students have great capacity for growth and change. But, do they really? Do parents know what modern research tells us? Enjoy this excerpt on “Theories About Achievement and Development” from The Skillful Teacher:
“Most Americans believe that intelligence is a fixed, innate entity that is endowed at birth, unevenly distributed, and determines how well a student can do. This belief in the bell curve of intelligence has huge implications for teaching and learning: that only a few students are smart enough to learn sophisticated academic material at high standards.”
“Our contention is that these assumptions are flat out wrong.... We...make the case that intelligence can indeed be developed and that effective effort and good strategies are the principal determinants of academic success. Our point is that a teacher’s beliefs about the nature of intelligence and its limits (or limitlessness) forms a powerful frame around the motivation to expand his or her teaching repertoires.”
By extension, we believe that parents’ and, more importantly, students’ own beliefs about their intelligence are as critical as those of teachers. If students believe their intelligence and capacity is fixed, they are more likely to interpret assessment results as merely confirmations or contradictions of permament notions of themselves. Instead, they should think of the results as important data that are part of their fluid and developing intellectual capacity.
Source: The Skillful Teacher – Saphier, J., Haley-Speca, M.A., & Gower, R. (2008).
Mr. Mark Richter, Principal, Attea Middle School
Ms. Allyson Thorne, Acting Principal, Springman Middle School