psychology

/psychology

The nail in Growth Mindset’s coffin?

2019-01-25T13:50:03+01:00March 6th, 2018|psychology|

As I'm sure everybody already knows, mind sets are beliefs about the nature of characteristics like intelligence. The theory is that students with growth mindsets believe their ability can be changed with effort and therefore do better academically than their peers who have fixed mindsets. Given the appeal of this theory, it's small wonder that schools around the world have rushed to intervene with their students in order to mould their mindsets. In January last year I wrote one of my most popular blog posts to date, the controversially titled, Is Growth Mindset Bollocks? In it I detailed the reasons for doubting the efficacy of what [...]

When do novices become experts?

2018-02-17T22:33:26+01:00February 17th, 2018|psychology|

It's a fairly well established principle of cognitive science that experts and novices think differently. Being aware of these differences can make a big difference to teachers. For instance, if we assume that most children in most situations are likely to begin as novices this could help point the way to more effective instruction. Here's a summary of some of the main differences between experts and novices. One of the most interesting findings to come out of the research into Cognitive Load Theory is the finding that experts and novices both experience cognitive overload, but experience it differently. Novices, by definition, [...]

Handwriting matters

2018-02-13T14:09:04+01:00February 13th, 2018|psychology, writing|

Some years ago, during the interview for a role as Head of English in a secondary school, all the candidates were asked to speak about what we would prioritise if we were to get the job. I have no memory of what I said, but I vividly recall one of the other candidates saying he would focus on improving students' handwriting. My bland inanities resulted in me getting the job; he didn't make the cut and was sent home after lunch. How we laughed. At the time it struck me that focussing on improving students' handwriting as a secondary English teacher [...]

Getting culture right Part 2: Understanding group psychology

2018-01-12T15:20:49+01:00January 12th, 2018|behaviour, psychology|

This is the second post on getting cultures right in schools. You can find Part 1, on social norms and using normative messages, here. We are essentially social animals and have evolved to thrive in groups. Although we tend to be disposed to share resources and cooperate with those we perceive as belonging to our group, we are worryingly ready to discriminate against anyone we see as an outsider. Creating a community with a sense of belonging is the ambition of all schools. In part, this involves creating a sense that students are part of an in-group – whether in a local [...]

Teaching to make children cleverer – Part 2

2018-01-07T11:28:33+01:00January 7th, 2018|psychology|

In my last post I reviewed those aspects on intelligence which are likely to be most malleable by teachers. Briefly, research into individual differences suggests that intelligence is fairly stable and that environmental factors - parenting and teaching - seem to wear off over time. At the same time, research into social attitudes (the rise in IQ scores over that last century) clearly demonstrates that something really is changing and that these changes have real world significance. This present us with a paradox which perhaps can be explained by saying that g (the tendency of cognitive abilities in individuals to correlate [...]

Reading aloud might boost students' memories

2017-12-07T10:26:28+01:00December 7th, 2017|psychology, reading|

In the latest edition of the British Psychological Society's Research Digest, Bradley Busch writes about a new study which compared the effects on memory of reading in silence to those of reading out loud. Noah Forrin and Colin MacLeod's paper, This time it’s personal: the memory benefit of hearing oneself, explores what's been termed the 'production effect' - a neat name for the memory advantage of saying words aloud over simply reading them silently. The speculation is that the effort of saying something out loud appears to make information more cognitively 'sticky', creating stronger schematic connections in long-term memory. This advantage appears [...]

Getting culture right Part 1: Normative messages

2017-08-02T15:25:28+01:00August 2nd, 2017|behaviour, psychology|

If you want to change anything within a school, culture is crucial. As Tom Bennett argues in Creating a Culture: How school leaders can optimise behaviour, culture is "the way we do things round here". His advice to school leaders is to purposely design the culture you want in your school and then work hard to communicate your vision so that it becomes something that lives in the minds of everyone within the school community. Easy to say, hard to do. Any attempt to change culture has to start with acknowledging and then shifting what's considered socially normal. If the social norm [...]

What does the Theory of Multiple Intelligences tell us abut how to teach?

2017-05-28T15:12:53+01:00May 26th, 2017|psychology|

As I explained here, the scientific consensus is that intelligence is general. That is, if you are good at verbal comprehension, you'll also tend to be good perceptual organisation, and if you're good at maths, you're also likely to be good at English. This is counter-intuitive. Most people believe that mental abilities trade off against each other and the doing well in one area means doing poorly in another. Of course, this might be true for some people, but just because your mate John can barely count his own fingers but happens to be a literary genius, doesn't disprove the fact that [...]

What teachers need to know about intelligence – Part 2: The effects of education

2017-05-22T15:24:05+01:00May 22nd, 2017|psychology|

In Part 1 of this series I laid out why IQ matters and that, far from being a banal measure of merely of how well some people do in a series of irrelevant tests, IQ actually has real power to predict people's life chances. What seems incontrovertibly true is that a higher IQ leads to a better life. This could easily seem like a counsel of despair if it automatically meant that children with lower IQs lived shorter, less fulfilled lives. Thankfully, there is something we can do and in this post I want to show the effects education has on raising IQ. [...]

What teachers need to know about intelligence – Part 1: Why IQ matters

2017-05-22T15:14:22+01:00May 21st, 2017|psychology|

Intelligence is required to be able to know that a man knows not. Montaigne Although it’s become a truism to say we know relatively little about how our brains work, we know a lot more now than we used to. Naturally, everything we know is contingent and subject to addition, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore it or pretend we don’t know enough to draw some fairly clear conclusions. Despite the many myths surrounding it, intelligence is a good candidate for being the most well researched and best understood characteristic of the human brain. It’s also probably the most stable construct [...]

The problem with problem solving (or, why I struggle to reset my clock)

2017-05-14T10:28:40+01:00May 14th, 2017|psychology|

When the clocks went forward in March and we arrived in British Summer Time, I made an abortive attempt to change the time on my car's clock. I knew, from having eventually changed it six months ago, that this is a process entirely within my grasp and yet, after about 10 minutes of frustrated fumbling, I'd only succeeded in moving the time forward by 20 minutes. I gave up and resigned myself to having a clock that is 20 minutes fast for the foreseeable future.  This has resulted in a few moments of confusion and panic over the past few weeks. Things [...]

Can we improve school interviews? Part 3: The interview lesson

2017-05-11T17:48:54+01:00May 11th, 2017|psychology|

In Part 1 of this series I reviewed some of the evidence on what makes for effective interviews, and in Part 2 I looked specifically at creating a less biased, more structured formal interview. In this post I'm going to lay out my thoughts on the usefulness of the interview lesson. One of the peculiarities of teaching is that teaching a sample lesson has become a ubiquitous part of the interview process. The received wisdom is that we can work out a lot of what we want to know about a prospective employee's teaching ability by watching them teach a class [...]