Setting out educational ideas for high achieving girls
There are, of course, particular educational issues that all pupils face, but some of them can seem more specific to clever girls than they do to other pupils, and it is important that we reflect on this and how best to support them in dealing with them. There is always a danger of generalising in any educational theory, so bear that in mind as you read this!
The first theory that I would like to reflect on here is the problem that was identified by Carol Dweck in her writings, the most current of which is called Mindset.
For Professor Dweck, intelligence perceptions fall into two categories: fixed and incremental. If you have the first you see your intelligence as a “fixed” entity which you cannot alter: you are as clever as you are and there is no altering this process. “In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits.” Research shows that this can be a particular problem for clever girls, as they are unwilling to do anything which will challenge or threaten their self perception of their intelligence. They are determined to “get it right” and find it hard to deal with areas of learning that tackle it. Unfortunately, the belief that intelligence is dynamic and incremental seems to result in the ability to do well in higher aspects of learning. “In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence.”
Clearly our challenge as educators is to encourage our pupils to develop an incremental approach to their learning. This can allow pupils to work independently and not be threatened by moving forward. As a teacher who has taught grammar school girls for twenty five years I know that one of their most common questions to me will be “But what should I write down?” They want to get it right! Their challenge is to realise that by tackling that for themselves, they are able to push their intelligence forward.
Next year we will be working to develop independent, critical thinking skills in our girls, helping them to engage more with their own learning and being less reliant on being fed with a correct answer. Much of the pedagogy behind this is shaped by the writings of academics such as Carol Dweck and I commend her to you.
Perhaps the best starting point is to analyse your own perceptions of intelligence to see where you yourself come from. You can do this on the Mindset website: http://mindsetonline.com.