Two items from the book by Nisbett

Since I haven’t read many posts lately, I hope this isn’t tossing hand-grenades, more like firecrackers, but I couldn’t resist passing on a couple of items from a book titled Intelligence And How To Get It by Nisbett. Here are two items:

Re tutoring
Bad tutoring: a surfire way to do it is to regard yourself as a debugger. You explicitly tell the student she has made a mistake and you give direct guidance in how to fix the error, preferably by using an abstractly stated rule. None of Lepper’s [researcher] most effective tutors took such a strictly cognitive, error-correction stance.

Effective tutoring:
foster a sense of control in the student, making the student feel she has command of the material.

Challenge the student – but at a level of difficulty that is within the student’s capability.[i+1?]

Instill confidence in the student, by maximizing success (expressing confidence in the student, assuring the student that the problem she just solved was a difficult one) and by minimizing failure (providing excuses for mistakes and emphasizing the part of the prblem the student got right)

Foster curiosity by using Socratic methods (asking leading questions) and by linking the problem to other problems the student has seen that appear on the surface to be different.

Contextualize [sounds familiar] by placing the problem in a real-world context or in a context from a movie or TV show.

And….. don’t correct minor errors; head off errors or let them make errors when it can result in a learning experience; never dumb-down the material for the sake of self-esteem but instead change the way it is presented;ask questions; don’t give so much positive feedback b/c it gives a sense of being evaluated but do be nuturing and empathetic.

[I realize these findings go against the values of many teachers but some might find them useful or supportive]

cultural expectations: The greater attention to context allows East Asians to make correct judgments about causality under circumstances where Americans make mistakes. [in a chapter on the cultural reasons behind Asian and Asian-American success in science and math school courses] Social psychologists have uncovered what they call “the fundamental attribution error.” People are prone to overlook important social and situation causes of behavior and attribute the behavior instead to what they assume are attributes of the actor – personality traits, abilites, or attitudes. For example, when reading an essay that an instructor in a course or an experimenter in a psychology study has asked someone to write in favor of capital punishment, Americans assume that the writer must hold the view that he expressed. And they do this even when the experimenter has just requested that they write an essay upholding a view the experimenter chose. Koreans in this situation correctly make no assumption that the person whose essay they read actually holds the position he takes in the essay.

[for me, this explains what happened to me on several occasions e.g. on flteach when I explain a theory or method and get comments as if I hold those views. One example I’ve written about was in a workshop when a teacher asked me what tprs is and I explained it, then the teacher next to her said to me, “Since you do so much tprs……….”!!!!!????
On flteach, I often find myself explaining the origins of English usages condemned by list members as grating, illogical, unclear, inelegant, etc. only to find members addressing me as if I use that language myself or advocate it somehow. I’ve always thought of this as a kind of denseness but here it’s explained as cultural]

The book is published by Norton and the bulk of it is devoted to disputing the idea of intelligence being handed out at birth in a measureable and unchangeable amount and that certain ethnic groups are more intelligent than others. He shows schools and programs that have substantially raised test scores and life success rates by changing children’s living and/or learning environments.
Pat Barrett

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