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Reading Room

Articles that I have been reading or read that I find fascinating but haven’t had time to blog or comment on. If you love one or hate it, let me know!

Neil Gaiman, Interviewed at the New York Public Library (Podcast, Nov. 2014). While titled “Fairy Tales Revisited”, this is a far-ranging interview that includes some compelling thoughts about why adults shouldn’t decide what books are worthy of our children’s attention. He makes a strong case that reading is a partnership between the reader and the author — that the reader plays an active role in conjuring up the worlds seemingly contained in the words. He also offers great insights into fairy tales. If your child is a voracious reader, don’t miss this!

Contrasting School and Summer (Reading) Growth for High-Achieving Students (2015)

The Mathematics of Hope (Jo Boaler) – Some valuable insights into mathematics learning and issues with our traditional ways of teaching math. I have some questions about some of her thoughts about differentiation as expressed in the video that accompanies the article — I suspect that they are are relevant to situations where kids are slightly ahead of grade level but not situations where kids are several grades beyond their peers in mathematical understanding. Worth a read in any case…

** Exceptionally and Profoundly Gifted Students: An Underserved Population by Miraca Gross – This article by Miraca Gross details the ways that traditional education fails highly asynchronous learners both socio-affectively and academically. It resonates deeply with my personal experience and the many tales that parents have told me about their own children’s experiences.

** Exceptionally Gifted Children: Long-Term Outcomes of Academic Acceleration and Nonacceleration. This paper is an important long-term longitudinal study of Australian kids that were identified with IQs of 160+. Of great importance is the data demonstrating that early acceleration (by which the kids received access to intellectual peers) correlates highly with positive socio-affective outcomes.

** Musings: Gifted children and the gift of friendship – Miraca Gross’ findings  indicate that intellectual age influences children’s concept of friendship and what they need from their friends. Finding true peers may require access to children with a developmentally similar notion of friendship.

** The “Me” Behind the Mask: Intectually Gifted Students and the Search for Identity – Beautiful article detailing the conflict between conforming to one’s peer group and being authentic to oneself when one is a an outlier.

** Social Development in the Gifted – This paper made me cry when I read it. It details the conflict between socialization (the normative process of accommodating the group) and social development (developing one’s authentic self) that occurs for age-atypical learners. I consider this a must-read article.

The Two-Edged Sword of Compensation:How the Gifted Cope with Learning Diabilities – When highly asynchronous children have learning disabilities or sensory deficits, they often compensate without anyone suspecting.

Vulnerabilities of Highly Gifted Children by Wendy Roedell. The title speaks for itself. An examination of the research with a framework for understanding why high degrees of asynchrony may need special attention if the child is to avoid issues of social adjustment.

These two short YouTube videos of actor Wil Wheaton make me tear up every time I watch them. If you have a child that hates “being different”, they make take heart from these:

Often misrepresented, misinterpreted and misunderstood, Carol Dweck’s work provides compelling evidence that an individual’s beliefs about the source of ability can influence one’s ability to learn. A growing body of research in other fields and by other researchers in her field (educational psychology) seems to corroborate her primary thesis. In my opinion, her academic papers are superior to her popular book, Mindset, whose presentation invites misinterpretation. Some of her post-Mindset provides important refinements to her theory. In particular, she now emphasizes that mindsets are not binary. Situation and context may influence one’s mindset.

Some of my favorite articles related to her work are these:

Is math a gift? Beliefs that put females at risk [2006]

This paper by Dweck summarizes some of her research related to how stereotypes about math ability may put girls at particular risk with regards to math (a subject where many people believe you either have an aptitude for it or you don’t). The paper also has a summary of many of her findings about how mindset influences resilience. It focuses on learner attitudes.

A key point of interest to me, is the discussion that implicit messages that teachers give about the source of ability have a profound impact on learners. One group of students was told in passing that the mathematicians (Riemann and Euclid) who had developed the concepts they were working on were geniuses with natural ability. Another group was told that Riemann and Euclid were “deeply interested and committed to math…who worked hard and thought deeply to make their contributions”. The two groups were given otherwise identical lessons but had very different outcomes when given a difficult math test.

Later studies by Dweck (see: “It’s Ok Not Everyone Can Be Good At Math”, 2012) have looked at the various ways that teacher attitudes about the innateness of math ability may play into the equation. These are especially interesting as they show that the widespread misconception that woman are inherently less mathy than men is often inadvertently passed on by teachers when teachers believe that native ability is the key to success. These perpetuated attitudes (rather than native ability) then impact performance.

“It’s ok — Not everyone can be good at math”: Instructors with an entity theory comfort (and demotivate) students [2011] – Aneeta Rattan, Catherine Good, and Carol Dweck

The researchers look at the question: “Can comforting struggling students demotivate them and potentially decrease the pool of students pursuing math- related subjects?” The conclusion they reach is “Students responding to comfort-oriented feedback not only perceived the instructor’s entity theory and low expectations, but also reported lowered motivation and lower expectations for their own performance.”  This article gives important support to the notion that implicit messages from teachers can influence student attitudes and negatively impact performance even when intended to be helpful.

Learning sometimes requires struggling through things and making mistakes. When teachers spare a student this struggle, they are also denying them important opportunities to learn.

Professor Steele’s book Whistling Vivaldi is, in my opinion, an eye-opening must-read. His experiments provide strong evidence for ways in which stereotypes about ability-deficits can affect the most able members of a stereotyped community. There are broad implications. His work is important and well regarded among social psychologists but is not well known to the public.


That’s Not Autism: It’s Simply A Brainy Introverted Boy (Enricao Gnaulati) – This article brings home the issue of how we sometimes mis-identify extreme asynchrony as a mental disorder — especially when it is couple with high degrees of introversion. I know several parents with kids similar;y mis-diagnosed.


Reading Room by Edward Spiegel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.