Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why by Paul Tough

18. Mindsets and Stereotype Threats

  • Students with a “fixed mindset” tend to shy away from challenges that might expose their perceived intellectual shortcomings. By contrast, when students adopt the “growth mindset” message that intellectual struggle expands one’s intellectual ability, they seek out bigger challenges and more advanced work. For more see my summary of Carol Dweck’s book on the subject. A stereotype threat refers to the way individuals who are part of vulnerable group respond when anxieties about their identities are triggered.

19. Relationships and 20. Pedagogy

21. Challenge

  • In almost every school observed by researchers, the instruction students receive is repetitive and undemanding, limited mostly to the endless practice of basic skills. Cooperative learning and small-group instruction are rare, taking up less than 5 percent of classroom time, and so were opportunities for students to practice or develop analytic skills like critical thinking, deep reading, or complex problem-solving. The zero-tolerance approach to discipline sends precisely the opposite psychological message to disadvantaged kids than what we now know they need in order to feel motivated and engaged with school. So do many basic elements of traditional American pedagogy that work in direct opposition to what the psychological research tells us will help those children succeed. As innovative US schools and those in other countries show, it doesn’t have to be this way. (See the programs cited in the last chapter.
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