Modern research about how the mind works suggests the idea “some people are just born smart” is actually not true. Instead, with the right opportunities and support, all of us can get better at learning. The brain, like an athlete’s muscle, can improve with practise. That doesn’t mean we can all be an Einstein, or run as fast as Usain Bolt, but we can improve, and we’ll never know until we try.
The people who stand out at school at age 6, are very often not the same ones who stand out at age 16 and very often not the ones who become the successful adults. We are currently very bad at testing and predicting a person’s adult abilities. So, why not put our energies to where we can make a difference? Yes, brains and talent contribute to ability, but it’s dedication and hard work that develop them. That means that as teachers and parents, we should not be focusing on predicted grades and latest test scores, but on providing the support and opportunities that will motivate young people.
What does this mean for teachers?
It means that they should expect excellence from every pupil. All pupils need to be faced with tasks with high challenge and which demand high skills.
Provide feedback which is as immediate and as precise as possible to help pupils improve.
Always encourage pupils to be collaborative, to learn in groups and to help each other, but they also support them to take responsibility for as much as possible.
Give tough messages that improvement is not easy and dreams may not come true. However, that hard work will get one closer to ones dreams and just turning up and expecting to be taught will not. Education is not something that is done to you. Children have fires to be lit, not buckets to be filled.
It means modelling an endless curiosity for life and a love of learning, so that pupils know lessons are just the beginning of what you learn.
To help pupils to see the purpose in what they are doing and how it fits into the rest of their life.
It means making sure that all pupils have the chance to fail a lot and to learn from their failures.
How can you, as a parent, help your child?
As the most important adult in your child’s life, it really will help if you:
- Encourage your child to be curious, to experiment, to use their imagination and to be messy.
- Praise their hard work rather than the marks they get.
- Make it clear that being hard-working and intellectually curious is cool.
- Praise them when they think for themselves, work well in teams and change their minds after thinking something through.
- Accept that failure is a really important part of learning.
- Encourage them to do activities such as writing, reading, watching fiction, solving puzzles, exchanging cultural views and debating.
- Talk with teachers about support and opportunities rather than predictions.
See the attached links for more information and some further parenting dos and don’ts.