I’m just a natural, or am I……..

Posted by Phil on May 19, 2016

For me the 2 articles were among the best I have seen/read thus far, as so many of the concepts and ideas struck by both Syed and Willingham mirrored many of my own beliefs. It could be just so because Syed’s talk had a large interaction with sport, one of my own passions (at least to follow!). I have a strong belief that almost anything that is humanly possible is possible for every individual. I often consider the best sportsmen/women and try to link attributes that they all share, and it is pure hard work and dedication and not accepting second best. Children at school firstly need to believe in the possibilities, so often children are labelled as not being as gifted as others and this will severely undermine their belief before they have started. We shouldn’t highlight the elite as what they should be but more of what they CAN be!!


I think the recent success of British cycling, as highlighted by Syed, being an exceptional example. As a nation, historically we had little resources devoted to such and as a result, although there was sporadic evidence of success (no doubt down to the individual’s focus and devotion) it has changed somewhat in recent times. Possibly through a variety funding schemes, the sport has put key personnel in place to make sure we have the best training leaving no stones unturned and as a result the success has been overwhelming. Individuals have “stretched” themselves with their own belief coupled with the belief of experts. Like Britain’s cyclists have, pupils need to have the correct environment, culture and mindset, all of which can be heavily influenced by teachers.


The memory discussion prompted equally hard thinking, I myself have always had a good memory and I couldn’t tell you whether that is down to practice or not, but certainly some of the techniques I have used work well. I recall Peps towards the beginning of the course, remembering our names, with Ray (Rayfish!) standing out as my own strong memory from the process. I have always found the use of acronyms incredibly helpful especially if you can successfully put a link in some of the individual topics and their meaning. Willingham puts an emphasis on the importance of understanding the meaning of something that we learn, and suggests the pupil should look to ask why? I think this ties in exceptionally well with the concept of relational understanding discussed a number of weeks ago.


On the subject of belief, I think Willingham highlights a critical misconception most children have, in that “their learning is more complete than it really is….”. I think children, in fact most people, have a propensity to worry about the size of a task in hand but in reality the said task is more often far less complex and time consuming, but I guess that‘s just human nature. Belief that a task can be done by a student is often missing but if instilled would help the journeys of practice and memory.

1 Comment

  1. Fintan Donnellan
    21 May 2016

    I think you’re right Phil that the key is us in teachers getting the students to believe in the possibilities of their own potential. I was going to write in this comment that we need to make sure that students realize that they may have to work harder than other students to achieve the same success, which is true, but not what students should be thinking about. Instead, we as teachers should be getting the students to ask themselves ‘Have I given it my all?’ and if they have, then they can rightly feel proud, regardless of how other students have performed. If they do give 100%, then they will achieve great things.

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