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Could it be that the problem is not, the way we provide feedback to children, but that the expectations we place upon children has more to do with our own expectations than the child's innate ability?

Take a class of 30 children, they will have a wide range of intellectual abilities, ranging from borderline intellectually disabled to the highly gifted. Give them all the same task. Some will achieve well, and have no difficulty, one or two may not be able to complete the task without assistance. Take the same class the next day and have them perform the same task. Those who struggled will may perform better, those who completed the task the first time, will achieve the same result. Perform that same task for the next week or so, until the ones who struggled can perform the task. Now you will find that those children who initially had no problems with the task, have not even bothered to start it, and may well indeed be causing disruption in the class.

What I've described is what happens for most classes of children in most schools. The focus on ensuring all children reach some minimum performance in key areas has resulted in those children in the normal to high ability range are being shown that there is no value in being smart, as you are just going to have to do the same as everybody else anyway... so why bother?

The problem with Bright Kids is not that they never learn how to work hard on difficult tasks. It is that because they meet the minimum safety net requirements, they never are never even exposed to the difficult tasks, so is it any wonder that they grow to doubt the value of their abilities?

What I would love to see is every child in primary school be tested every year, for both potential and ability. This would allow Parents, Teachers and the students themselves to get an understanding of how hard the student is actually working. Are they really "smart" and bored out of their brains and therefore not meeting the academic requirements, or are they intellectually challenged, but through a lot of hard work, are achieving a reasonable standard?

Children do not all come from the same mould, why is it that we try to have them fit the same mould when it comes to education?

Anecdotes here and elsewhere (e.g. my own bright children) show they actually shy away from tasks they are not immediately good at! Because it contradicts what they've been told (Wow! you sure are smart!) they develop a 'sour grapes' attitude toward anything novel.

This has been a primary problem in education, and what you've said is quite true. And as said in PG's what you'll wish you'd known essay, the bright kids should seek hard problems so that they don't lose their abilities by thinking that there's no value in being smart.

I'd recommend watching Sir Ken Robinson's iconic talk with respect to what you said: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/ken_robinson_says_schools_k...

Maybe we just set the bar too low. By doing so, not only do we hurt the bright kids by boring them to tears, but we presume based on test scores(?) that certain children could through sheer effort never exceed what level we presume they are capable of reaching- we lower our expectations of them. We deny the "bright" kids a reasonably stimulating education and the other kids the chance to prove what they can do.

Standardised testing does not test for ability to improve.

It's one thing if a kid fails because he didn't try hard enough. That can be explained to him. And it's a good lesson. But it's another thing to give him a standardised test and decide a priori what's he capable of. That just creates a strange value system where all kids, bright or not, may be denied an opportunity to show what they can do and they learn to think of ability as fixed. And it creates a lot of fascination with "innate" ability.

Is it true there's growing evidence that ability is perhaps not as "fixed" as we think?

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