Task 10

Posted by Senay on Apr 25, 2016

Jocelyn K. Glei article/interview with Carol Dweck



Douglas Barton: What do top students do differently?



How do the article/video add to what has been discussed and explored in the previous Mathagogy units?

What will you do differently (at work and elsewhere) as a result of the ideas in the article/video?



The TED talk by Douglas Barton titled “What do top students do differently” (link given above) touches on several important points made in previous units. His three rule approach is simple and yet innovative. Whilst he is not openly challenging the concept of “talent” or IQ in his advice he does make it the first of his three rules that students should not become obsessed with it. The second rule: “don’t just aim to work hard” goes back to Syed’s idea of high quality practice. The statistical evidence in relation to exams and exam success is striking. The best practice (as shown) is to do practice exams. The reason for this is that it encourages the kind of analytical thinking which teachers are looking for in exams (as opposed to the memorising-based revision techniques adopted by most students). Discipline is given as the third rule and Duckworth is mentioned by Barton in this context (her “grit” concept came up in unit 8). Making a timetable and sticking to it is the method given by Barton, with the golden rule seemingly not to fill up a schedule with too much “study” at the expense of leisure time and leaving space for the things you enjoy doing. Getting the balance right between academic work and other activities is a point often missed in our education system. Sport is the most obvious example, which along with a healthy diet can make students stronger and happier, and as a result more able to concentrate in lessons and when studying (and by this logic achieve better results).


Glei’s article/interview with Carol Dweck supports all previous ideas about growth mindset and the problematic nature of the concept of “natural talent”. The article is not specific to the academic world and focusses more on business situations, but the principles apply just as well. We can train students from a young age not to think of their mistakes as failures and to see them as opportunities to critique the process they went through to arrive where they are.  We must move away as students and teachers from a fixed mindset and embrace struggle and effort. These ideas are not new and have been explored in previous units. The thing I like about Dweck’s interview is that the principles are so easily transferred to the workplace that it goes to show how healthy attitudes learned at school, can be carried by students forward into their working lives. This addresses one of the other recurring themes that has come up in previous units, namely, how the education system can prepare students for working life and provide a real benefit to the economy and society as a whole.

I have mentioned before the idea that students should be taught how to learn more effectively. I really embrace the ideas in both the article and the video. Barton’s three rules are so simple and could easily be imparted on students in a classroom setting. Efficient use of time when revising/studying outside of the classroom setting is something that is rarely shown to students and is a major factor in the frustration that many experience in my opinion.

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