At the NYC Gifted & Talented Symposium on October 26, the keynote speech was given by Carol Dweck, Stanford professor and author of the book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
And what she said was destined to strike terror in the heart of every New York City parent in attendance.
For one thing, you know all those IQ tests NYC parents have their children take for admission to public, private and specialized schools?
Before the age of eight or so, a child’s IQ score may go up or down as much as 15 points depending on the time and day when you administered the test (and what kind of mood they were in). In NYC, 15 points is the difference between getting a seat in a Gifted & Talented program (or, rather, being allowed to enter a lottery for a seat in a Gifted & Talented program) and being shut out pretty much until High School (though, in theory, children can continue to test in subsequent grades, there are no spaces for them left, even if they do qualify).
Oh, and even if the high IQ score were reliable, a high IQ is still meaningless when it comes to achievement.
In fact, it might even hinder it.
Bright children who are told they’re bright have a tendency to decide that being smart means never putting in any effort. So when they encounter something truly challenging, they shirk away from attempting it, for fear of appearing less smart than everyone believes them to be (not to mention as smart as they believe themselves to be).
Dr. Dweck spoke of two mind-sets:
* A fixed mindset, which is focused on not looking stupid, on getting good grades, on avoiding challenge at any cost
* A growth mindset, where anyone – child or adult – believes they can master a difficult task as long as they put in the work and don’t give up when the going gets rough
Read more at: http://mindsetonline.com/whatisit/about/
Dr. Dweck made several concrete suggestions to help parents put their child in the right frame of mind for success and achievement (regardless of what that number the tester gave you said) in any field or pursuit. She advocated telling a child, “You haven’t done this right… yet,” suggesting that the objective is attainable, you just need to put in some more elbow-grease. Reminding that it doesn’t come easy for anybody. Yes, even geniuses need to work hard.
She also advocated not praising your child but, when they come home with an A test, telling him/her, “Oh, you must have already known this. I’m sorry we wasted your time.”
In Po Bronson’s book, NurtureShock, he writes about the worst Gifted & Talented testing system in the country. That would be NYC. Dr. Dweck recommended everyone read his piece on the inverse power of praise in New York Magazine. She is quoted prominently:
A growing body of research—and a new study from the trenches of the New York public-school system—strongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.
For the past ten years, psychologist Carol Dweck and her team at Columbia (she’s now at Stanford) studied the effect of praise on students in a dozen New York schools. Her seminal work—a series of experiments on 400 fifth-graders—paints the picture most clearly.
Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a nonverbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles—puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”
Why just a single line of praise? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were,” Dweck explained. “We had a hunch that one line might be enough to see an effect.”
Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out.
You can find the entire piece at: http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/