How do you talk about ‘intelligence’?

Thanks to Carol Dweck’s work on the Growth Mindset, we know it matters how we react to student performance. Compliments for “being smart” help foster a fixed mindset and a reluctance to embrace challenge, while shout-outs for “working hard” foster a growth mindset and a desire for challenge. That’s all well and good, but what…

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Do SMART goals limit teachers’ vision?

Writing SMART goals — “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound” — is now a fall rite of passage for public school teachers, right up there with crafting a syllabus, assigning seats and putting up bulletin boards. This process always strikes me as perfunctory. Do SMART goals really get us anywhere? Or is this just another…

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Let’s get serious about stereotype threat

It’s been 20 years since Steele and Aronson first published their work on “stereotype threat,” demonstrating that we are profoundly influenced by internalized cultural stereotypes about ourselves. Since then, more than 300 peer-reviewed experiments have found similar results. Time and time again, we find that individuals perform worse in school, limit their career options and…

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What do ‘experts’ have to offer us?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been going to physical therapy to deal with rotator cuff tendinitis in my right shoulder. At my intake appointment, I learned that I brought this problem on myself by doing what I thought was “the right thing.” For years, I thought I was helping my shoulders and preventing future…

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Why best practices don’t prevail

Bad news last week. My district’s school board has decided to delay implementation of later start times for high school students – a change that was scheduled for fall 2017. No reason was given, but I imagine it involved pushback by parents and teachers of elementary school kids, who don’t like the idea of their…

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Kids work like crazy when they have a purpose

What does motivation look like? I saw it in the faces of about 40 kids at Irondale High School (MN) on Saturday morning. They were the KnightKrawler robotics team members, gathered in the library at 9:30 a.m., waiting for the “big reveal.” Saturday was the day when organizers of the global FIRST Robotics competition announced…

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Stop telling students the answers

Students learn better when we ask questions before we provide the answers. They learn better if we ask them to generate their own strategies, interpretations and ideas before we tell them how to do things — whether it’s how to use an economic model, solve an algebra problem or write an essay. I learned this nugget…

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‘Common sense’ is failing us

Which is a better way to prepare for this week’s Psych test? Dedicate three solid hours to reviewing the textbook, notes, and practice questions, as well as quizzing yourself with flashcards. Spend 30 minutes writing a test for yourself over the content. Take a nap, eat a snack, do your math homework. A few hours…

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Is boredom actually good for you?

Boredom can be good for you, it’s true. But at school, not so much. After my last blog post, a friend challenged me and pointed out that boredom is not all bad. I spent a little time following up on that — to see what research says about the plus side of boredom. Researchers have…

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Help for students who lack logic

Have you ever had to teach logical reasoning to teenagers? I have — many times — and it’s very difficult. A few kids are fairly logical already; building on that is easy. But teens who don’t think logically at all have a hard time even understanding the task. Asking them to construct an argument with…

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