Do we give students a choice?

Happy school holidays to my colleagues here in South Australia, last day of term today!

So you’ll probably all have copious amounts of time to read my latest post amidst the marking, professional learning and development, marking, lesson planning, marking, curriculum mapping and did I mention marking?

Anyway, I came across an interesting ad the other day made by Dove (the group that do lots of beauty products) and I think it’s worth a look.

It got me thinking about what messages we are sending our students when we perpetuate similar labels in our classrooms – the ‘gifted & talented’ door.

The Australian Curriculum website provides a useful statement for what we define as ‘gifted’. It states:

Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (2008) provides research-based definitions of giftedness and talent that are directly and logically connected to teaching and learning. According to Gagné, gifted students are those whose potential is distinctly above average in one or more of the following domains of human ability:

  • intellectual
  • creative
  • social
  • physical.

It goes on to highlight two other models: Tannenbaum’s Sea Star model and Renzulli’s Three-ring model. So by definition from these models if a student is gifted then they are deemed to be above average; or beautiful as Dove might put it. So what kind of message are we sending students that are in the remedial class, are they below average? Are they the equivalent of ugly? I know there is considerable debate about the educational benefits of streaming students into these classes, and of course a wealth of research saying we shouldn’t (just Google ‘Ability grouping students’ to start reading if you haven’t already).

But perhaps it’s time we start talking about the longer term psychological impact of this type of labelling, not just the suggested academic outcomes. Is it even possible to quantify this? I’m sure there is a PhD in this for someone.

Many times have I heard parents say that it’s ok to be in the remedial class because they themselves were never any good at Maths, Science or English and therefore the hereditary nature of algebra, chemistry and past-participles explained their child’s achievement… *sigh*.

Teachers are just as guilty! Subject counselling at year 10, 11 and 12 where we dissuade students from enrolling in subjects because of their grades and our professional judgement that they are basically not going to be successful in that course. How does this correlate with the fixed vs growth mindset approach gaining significant traction in education as we speak?

I wonder how society would react if we started streaming students into ugly, average and beautiful classes? Imagine the parent meetings… I can see why your child is in the ugly class Mr. and Mrs. Parent. You’ve obviously made the right choice.

What do you think?

(Image adapted from: Two Pink Doors)

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