How Can I Help Slow Learners
This whole book has been a very interesting read, but this chapter was motivating because we all have students like this (slow learners). According to Daniel Willingham, “Americans view intelligence as a fixed attribute………but, in China, Japan, and other Eastern countries, intelligence is more often viewed as malleable. If students fail a test or don’t understand a concept, it’s not that they’re stupid-they just haven’t worked hard enough yet……..intelligence is under their control.” (pg. 169)
The cognitive principle that guides this chapter is:
“Children do differ in intelligence, but intelligence can be changed through sustained hard work.” (pg.170)
It is argued that intelligence comes from either genetics (all nature) or from experience (all nurture).
Most researchers seemed to have believed that the range of intelligence was set mostly by genetics,…but during the 1980’s they discovered that over the last half century IQ scores have shown quite substantial gains……huge increases in IQ scores. This was observed in dozens of countries, including the United States. (pg. 176) Upon being investigated, the studies showed that there is strong evidence that the environment has a powerful impact on intelligence, because geneticists agree that the gene pool could not change rapidly enough to account for the change in IQ. The effect is called the “Flynn Effect,” named after James Flynn, who first described it. (pg. 176-177)
Implications for the Classroom
How does this affect our students and our teaching? “If intelligence were all a matter of one’s genetic inheritance, then there wouldn’t be much point in trying to make kids smarter.” (pg. 179)
Daniel Willingham lists several things teachers can do to help our students: (pgs. 183-187)
1. Praise Effort, Not Ability – You want to encourage your students to think of their intelligence as under their control, and especially that they can develop their intelligence through hard work. Therefore, you should praise process, rather than ability.
2. Tell Them that Hard Work Pays Off – Praising process rather than ability sends the unspoken message that intelligence is under the student’s control.
3. Treat Failure as a Natural Part of Learning – Try to create a classroom atmosphere in which failure is neither embarrassing nor wholly negative. Failure means you’re about to learn something. Model this attitude for your students. When you fail, let them see you take a positive, learning attitude.
4. Don’t Take Study Skills for Granted – All students must learn new skills as homework becomes more demanding-skills of self-discipline, time management, and resourcefulness. Don’t take for granted that your slower students have these skills, even if they should have acquired them in previous grades.
5. Catching Up Is the Long-Term Goal- It is important to be realistic about what it will take for students to catch up. If your slower students know less than your brighter students, they can’t simply work at the same pace as the bright students; doing only that, they will continue to fall behind! It may be smart to set interim goals that are achievable and concrete.
6. Show Students that You Have Confidence in Them – Ask 10 people you know, Who was the most important teacher in your life?....most people will always respond with an emotional response such as, “She made me believe in myself…..or She taught me to love knowledge.” In addition, people always say that their important teacher set high standards and believed that the student could meet those standards.
Listed as a footnote at the end of the chapter, Daniel states, “This is not to say that students don’t have learning disabilities. Some do. My conclusions in this chapter do not apply to these students.” (pg. 187)