I wouldn’t want my child anywhere near the new ‘excellence’ program

Oct 30, 2019 by

Christopher Scanlon –

Spend time with parents of school-age children and the conversation will sooner or later turn to gifted children. You’ll be told that the school curriculum is not stretching their child enough.  All of which makes me think that the Victorian government is on to a political winner with their announcement of $60 million in funding for a Student Excellence Program.

Research suggests that treating or labelling kids as “excellent”, “gifted”, “high achievers”, or whatever other superlative you want to use, isn’t good for them.
Research suggests that treating or labelling kids as “excellent”, “gifted”, “high achievers”, or whatever other superlative you want to use, isn’t good for them.

The program, to be aimed at grades 5 to 8, will include online and face-to-face lessons as well as excursions and incursions to cultural and scientific institutions, such as universities, technical schools, the CSIRO, art galleries and zoos.

Good stuff, you might say, but I wouldn’t want my daughters anywhere near this.

The reason? Because research suggests that treating or labelling kids as “excellent”, “gifted”, “high achievers”, or whatever other superlative you want to use, isn’t good for them. It can even be detrimental to their learning and academic achievement – which arguably defeats the whole purpose of gifted and talented programs.

As Stanford Professor Carol Dweck demonstrates in her book Mindset, telling kids they are gifted is demotivating because they can begin to think of their academic ability as a fixed character trait, rather than something they have to work at.

In one study, Dweck and her colleagues had students complete a test where some students were praised for their innate ability (“you must be smart at this”) while others were praised for their effort (“you must have worked really hard”).

Even though the students were roughly equal in ability at the outset, students who were praised for their innate ability were less likely to take on a new, more challenging task.

By contrast, 90 per cent of the students who were praised for their efforts took on the more challenging task. Dweck says that the “talented” kids “didn’t want to do anything that could expose their flaws and call into question their talent”.

Worse, when the students were asked to write about problems they had been asked to solve and record their scores, almost 40 per cent of the “bright” kids lied about their scores.  As Dweck writes, “Telling children they’re smart, in the end, made them feel dumber and act dumber, but claim they were smarter. I don’t think this is what we’re aiming for when we put positive labels – gifted, talented, brilliant – on people.”

continue: I wouldn’t want my child anywhere near the new ‘excellence’ program

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