Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

July 9, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Malcolm Gladwell’s New Story On The Importance Of Being A Good Listener

Photo Credit: James Vaughan via Compfight

In my books, I have useful classroom lessons on helping students become better listeners, and I also have The Best Ideas To Help Students Become Better Listeners here on this blog.

The newest addition to that list is the transcript of a talk journalist Malcolm Gladwell gave on BBC radio. The BBC just published it, and its title is Viewpoint: Could one man have shortened the Vietnam War?

The story is about Konrad Kellen, who, among other things, did interviews with captured Viet Cong guerrillas for the United States to try to figure out what the “enemy” was thinking. It’s a short enough piece that students could read.

Here’s an excerpt:

he would say that his rethinking began with one memorable interview with a senior Vietcong captain. He was asked very early in the interview if he thought the Vietcong could win the war, and he said no.

But pages later, he was asked if he thought that the US could win the war, and he said no.

The second answer profoundly changes the meaning of the first. He didn’t think in terms of winning or losing at all, which is a very different proposition. An enemy who is indifferent to the outcome of a battle is the most dangerous enemy of all.

Now why did Kellen see this and Goure did not? Because Goure didn’t have the gift [of being a good listener].

Goure was someone who filtered what he heard through his own biases.

September 12, 2009
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Book By Malcolm Gladwell

I always enjoy reading articles in The New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell, as well as his books. He shares great stories, though sometimes I think he stretches his conclusions a bit. I think quite a few of his writings are useful in education, as I’ve shared in previous posts.

He has a new book coming out, and it’s a collection of articles he’s written for The New Yorker. This post at not only shares what will be included, but also includes links to each of those articles so that you can read them all online for free.

December 11, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo

Malcolm Gladwell’s Article on Teachers

Malcolm Gladwell has an intriguing article on what makes a good teacher in this week’s issue of The New Yorker Magazine. It’s called Most Likely to Succeed: How do we hire when we can’t tell who’s right for the job?

I’d be interested in hearing people’s reactions.  I’m still thinking about it myself…

May 21, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Research Studies Of The Week

'magnifying glass' photo (c) 2005, Tall Chris - license:

I often write about research studies from various fields and how they can be applied to the classroom. I write individual posts about ones that I think are especially significant, and will continue to do so. However, so many studies are published that it’s hard to keep up. So I’ve started writing a “round-up” of some of them each week or every other week as a regular feature.

By the way, you might also be interested in My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2013.

Here are some new useful studies (and related resources):

Here’s how much your high school grades predict your future salary is an article in The Washington Post about a recent study. It’s gotten quite a bit of media attention.

How Well Do Teen Test Scores Predict Adult Income? is an article in the Pacific Standard that provides some cautions about reading too much into the study. It makes important points that are relevant to the interpretation of any kind of research. For that reason, I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research.

Visible Learning Conference with John Hattie … Know Thy Impact seems like a good review of the most up-to-date research from John Hattie.

You Had Me At Hello: The Science Behind First Impressions is from NPR, and reinforces the importance of what happens on the first day of school.

To Get Help From A Little Kid, Ask The Right Way is a piece from NPR on a recent study. Here’s how it begins:

Motivating children to stop playing and help out with chores isn’t exactly an easy sell, as most parents and teachers will attest. But how you ask can make all the difference, psychologists say.

If you say something like, “Please help me,” the kids are more likely to keep playing with their Legos. But ask them, “Please be a helper,” and they’ll be more responsive, researchers report Wednesday in the journal Child Development.

OECD has published a short post with links titled Why policy makers should care about motivating students. I’ve got a lot of issues with the PISA test (see The Best Posts & Articles On 2012 PISA Test Results). However, the report the post links to contains a lot of important information on motivation. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On 2012 PISA Test Results.

Two Things Experts Do Differently Than Non-Experts When Practicing is from The Creativity Post. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The 10,000 Hour Rule & Deliberate Practice.

While I’m at it, I’m adding Are Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hours of Practice Really All You Need? from National Geographic to the same list.

In findings not surprising to teachers everywhere, Duke researchers found that learners were both more engaged, and and more self-control, when they participating in a learning activity they were enjoying and found relevant.

Take notes by hand for better long-term comprehension is a report from Science Daily on a recent study that has received lots of media attention. Here’s an article from The Pacific Standard on the same research. I’m adding them to The Best Resources For Learning About Handwriting & Learning.

March 20, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Is The Best Piece I’ve Seen On The Role Of Social Media In Making Social Change


Three years ago, Malcolm Gladwell’s article in The New Yorker, Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted, created a fair amount of controversy. He poked some holes in what was, at the time, a celebration of the role of Twitter and other social media tools in Arab Spring.

Now, the New York Times has published an even better, and more succinct, column on the same topic which hits the nail on the head. It’s headlined After The Protests, and is written by Professor Zeynep Tufekci.

Here’s an excerpt:

And whether these take place in Turkey, Egypt or Ukraine, pundits often speculate that the days of a ruling party or government, or at least its unpopular policies, must be numbered. Yet often these huge mobilizations of citizens inexplicably wither away without the impact on policy you might expect from their scale.

This muted effect is not because social media isn’t good at what it does, but, in a way, because it’s very good at what it does. Digital tools make it much easier to build up movements quickly, and they greatly lower coordination costs. This seems like a good thing at first, but it often results in an unanticipated weakness: Before the Internet, the tedious work of organizing that was required to circumvent censorship or to organize a protest also helped build infrastructure for decision making and strategies for sustaining momentum. Now movements can rush past that step, often to their own detriment.

I’m adding this info to The Best Posts & Articles On Building Influence & Creating Change.

October 25, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Role Of Technology In Progressive Social Change

'twitter-revolution-2' photo (c) 2010, Bruce D'Arcus - license:

As regular readers know, I was a community organizer for nineteen years before becoming a high school teacher ten years ago. So I have a keen interest in thinking about, writing about and actually Building Influence & Creating Social Change.

An element of this topic is the role of technology in building power for progressive social change. I tend to align more (though not completely) with Malcolm Gladwell’s skepticism of its role.

Today, NPR ran a short piece about the role of technology in starting a small business, and I was struck by the last part of the story which I think — if you just change the words from business to social change — really speaks some wisdom.

I’ll publish that excerpt in a second but, to summarize it, the story suggests that technology now makes it a lot easier to start a small business. However, sustaining and growing it is another story, and that can only be done through developing face-to-face relationships.

That, I think, is a good summary of the role of tech in progressive social change — it makes it easier to start a bit of a groundswell around an issue, but, the vast majority of the time, it has to be followed by face-to-face relationship-building to grow genuine power and trust so it can withstand the challenges that are sure to come.

Here’s the excerpt — and let me know what you think:

Don Weiss, another entrepreneurship professor – he’s at Columbia – says even so it’s still easier to start a business to today. But the hardest part of business remains making and maintaining relationships.

DON WEISS: There’s only one way to do it, and that is by pressing the flesh, by doing things face-to-face and by forming relationships and listening to what your customer or your partner or for that matter your employee has to say.

GLINTON: Weiss says the key to a successful entrepreneur is the ability to listen. And there’s no app for that – not yet at least.

October 5, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Second Quote Of The Day: “David and Goliath”

I’ve previously posted about Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath.

This morning, I was listening to an interview that Dan Pink did with Gladwell and, while he was talking about the battle between David and Goliath, he made an important point that’s known and used by community organizers, and is also something worth remembering by those of us fighting against many of the harmful efforts of “school reformers.” Here it is:


September 8, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Studies Highlight Blurry Line Between Nature & Nurture

'Blurry Canada Line - 20100824_048.jpg' photo (c) 2010, Roland Tanglao - license:

There’s recently been some pushback on the “10,000 Hour Rule” for developing expertise. I think Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Coyle respond well to critics saying that it downplays the role of genes.

An overly-long article in the Pacific Standard, The Social Life of Genes, highlights a number of recent studies which particularly reinforce some points made my Gladwell — that, yes, genes play a big role, but that people’s environment and how they choose to respond to that environment has a huge influence in if and which genes get activated.

Here are some excerpts:

Changes in gene expression can make you thin, fat, or strikingly different from your supposedly identical twin. When it comes down to it, really, genes don’t make you who you are. Gene expression does. And gene expression varies depending on the life you live.

an individual’s social environment might exert a particularly powerful effect. Who you hung out with and how they behaved, in short, could dramatically affect which of your genes spoke up and which stayed quiet—and thus change who you were.

“You can’t change your genes. But if we’re even half right about all this, you can change the way your genes behave—which is almost the same thing. By adjusting your environment you can adjust your gene activity. That’s what we’re doing as we move through life. We’re constantly trying to hunt down that sweet spot between too much challenge and too little.”

Interesting stuff, and well worth integrating into my lessons on deliberate practice.

August 21, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Quote Of The Day: “Complexity and the Ten-Thousand-Hour Rule”

Complexity and the Ten-Thousand-Hour Rule is a new short piece by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker.

I don’t think there’s anything particularly new in it – if you’re familiar with what he’s previously written about the topic – but it’s worth a read.

Here’s how he ends it:


I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The 10,000 Hour Rule & Deliberate Practice.

July 25, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

July’s Best Posts From This Blog



I regularly highlight my picks for the most useful posts for each month — not including “The Best…” lists. I also use some of them in a more extensive monthly newsletter I send-out. You can see older Best Posts of the Month at Websites Of The Month (more recent lists can be found here).

Here are some of the posts I personally think are the best, and most helpful, ones I’ve written during this past month (not in any order of preference):

If You Want To Influence People To Change, Then You Want To Read Atul Gawande’s New Article

Article On Learning & The Brain That’s Perfect For Tenth, Eleventh, & Twelfth Graders

It Looks Like Nate Silver Is Bringing His Stats Knowledge To Education

“Teachers As ‘Givers, Takers & Matchers’: An Interview With Adam Grant”

What In The World Is Rahm Emanuel Thinking?

Nine California Districts (Including Ours) Seek Waiver From NCLB — Duncan Should Turn It Down

Whew! Just Finished First Chapter Of Third Book On Student Motivation

“ColAR” Could Be The Coolest Tablet App Out There, & Here’s How I Would Use It In Class

If You’re Ever Teaching About Racial Profiling, You Definitely Want To Show This Video

The New Google Maps Is Now Open To Everybody!

Stop The Presses! Study Finds Student Prior Knowledge Is Important & Best Explored Through “Flipped Flipped Classroom” (not a typo)

Video: “Kids React to Controversial Cheerios Commercial”

New Kindle Versions Of My Student Motivation Books (& All Eye On Education Books) Available Soon

All My Ed Week Posts On Brain-Based Learning In One Place

Thoughtful Resources On Trayvon Martin Case & Verdict

Standardized Tests & Student Motivation

“Urban Observatory” Is The Coolest Map Site I’ve Seen In Awhile….

Wonderful Video: Brazilian Kids Learn English By Correcting Tweets From Celebrities

Infographic: How Much Of Their Own Funds Do Teachers Spend In The Classroom?

Important Advice For Anyone Who Wants To Be Effective At Making Change

Malcolm Gladwell’s New Story On The Importance Of Being A Good Listener

You Can Read & Download The Entire First Chapter From Our ELL Book For Free

Quote Of The Day: Hannah Arendt & The Origin Of Evil

All My Ed Week Posts On Teaching Math & Science In One Place!

Video: Charlotte Danielson — “We Better Hold Off On Making High-Stakes Decisions” Based On Student Test Scores

Excellent PowerPoint On Feedback Promoting A Growth Mindset

My Most Popular Parent Engagement Posts Over The Past Four Years

Quote Of The Day: You Won’t Hear Better Classroom Management Advice Than This….

Great Student Hand-Out On Learning & The Brain

More On The Research Showing Reading When Young Slows Alzheimer’s Later

Great Interview With My Teaching Partner, Katie Hull-Sypnieski

Create A 28 Year Timelapse Animation Of….Anywhere

That Was Quick — My New Publisher Has Made Even More Free Downloadable Figures From My Newest Book Available

A Surprising Study Only To People Who Have Never Worked In The Community: Low-Income People Care About Their Neighborhoods

“News In Levels” Looks Like An Excellent Site For ELLs

All My Ed Week Posts On Teaching Reading & Writing In One Place!

What Are They Thinking? Cleveland Paper Publishes Teachers’ VAM Ratings


December 26, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Week’s “Links I Should Have Posted About, But Didn’t”

I have a huge backlog of resources that I’ve been planning to post about in this blog but, just because of time constraints, have not gotten around to doing. Instead of letting that backlog grow bigger, I regularly grab a few and list them here with a minimal description. It forces me to look through these older links, and help me organize them for my own use. I hope others will find them helpful, too. These are resources that I didn’t include in my “Best Tweets” feature because I had planned to post about them, or because I didn’t even get around to sending a tweet sharing them.

Here are This Week’s “Links I Should Have Posted About, But Didn’t”:

Supporting English Language Learners, Grades 1 to 8 Video and Print Resources has a number of useful classroom videos. I’m adding it to The Best Online Videos Showing ESL/EFL Teachers In The Classroom.

Machu Picchu: The world’s highest resolution image released is from The Telegraph. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Machu Picchu.

Meeingl is a super-easy tool for creating online conference calls. You can read more about it at Richard Byrne’s blog. I’m adding it to The Best Online Tools For Real-Time Collaboration.

Why Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule is wrong is from The BBC. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The 10,000 Hour Rule & Deliberate Practice.

What’s Worth Investing In? How to Decide What Technology You Need is from The Mind/Shift blog. It doesn’t quite fit, but I’m adding it to The Best Research Available On The Use Of Technology In Schools.

Maine’s Decade-Old School Laptop Program Wins Qualified Praise is from The Huffington Post, and I’m adding it to the same list.

NCLR Latino Kids Data Explorer is a really interesting interactive from The National Council of La Raza. You can read more about it at Education Week. It doesn’t quite fit, but I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Keep-Up With Current ELL/ESL/EFL News & Research.

In Pursuit of the Excellent Game is an excellent piece from TESOL on using games with ELL’s. I’m adding it as a “bonus” to A Collection Of “The Best…” Lists On Learning Games.

Calorie Count is an accessible tool that tells you the number of calories just about every commercially produced food contains, and also shares information on different types of exercises and how much you have to do of them to work off those calories. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Learning About Nutrition & Food Safety.

Power Is Where You Find It is from The New York Times. I’m adding it to The Best Ideas On How To Stay Electronically Connected When The Power’s Out.

Here are some other regular features I post in this blog:

“The Best…” series (which now number 975)

Best Tweets of The Month

The most popular posts on this blog each month

My monthly choices for the best posts on this blog each month

Each month I do an “Interview Of The Month” with a leader in education

Periodically, I post “A Look Back” highlighting older posts that I think are particularly useful

The ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival

Resources that share various “most popular” lists useful to teachers

Interviews with ESL/EFL teachers in “hot spots” around the world.

Articles I’ve written for other publications.

Photo Galleries Of The Week

Research Studies Of The Week

Regular “round-ups” of good posts and articles about school reform

This Week In Web 2.0

Around the Web In ESL/EFL/ELL

September 15, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Week’s “Round-Up” Of Good Posts & Articles On Education Policy

Here are some relatively recent posts and articles on education policy:

Economists: Return Your Salaries for Producing Flawed Studies is by Barnett Berry. I’m adding it to The Best Posts On “Loss Aversion” & Schools.

This is a very interesting short video interview with Malcolm Gladwell, especially the last minute:

Berliner on Education and Inequality is from Diane Ravitch’s blog. I’m adding it to The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher & Outside Factors Have On Student Achievement.

Lowering the Temperature on Claims of “Summer Learning Loss” is by Alfie Kohn and gives a different perspective from what we usually hear. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On The “Summer Slide.”

Education reform’s central myths is from Salon. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Getting Some Perspective On International Test Comparison Demagoguery.

In Math and Science, Have American Students Fallen Behind? is from The National Education Policy Center. I’m adding it to the same list.

Khan Academy: Rise and Backlash is a Storify from Education Week Teacher. I’m adding it to The Best Posts About The Khan Academy.

Privatizing Public Schools: Big Firms Eyeing Profits From U.S. K-12 Market is from Reuters. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles Explaining Why Schools Should Not Be Run Like Businesses.

Education jargon: What ‘no excuses’ and other terms really mean appeared on Valerie Strauss’ blog.

Time, Not Talent, Marks a Boston Globe Writer is from EduShyster.

July 31, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Exit,” “Voice” & Schools

Malcolm Gladwell has written a profile of the famous distance runner Alberto Salazar in this week’s New Yorker magazine (unfortunately, most of it is behind a paywall).

Here’s a passage that struck me (I hope you can see it in an RSS Reader):

Though I suppose one can connect this some way to school reform issues, I’m more concerned in this post to relating it to the classroom.

It seems to me that, though our students can’t really physically exit our classrooms, if we don’t provide genuine opportunities for voice, then they can certainly “check-out” mentally.

It’s an interesting framework.

What are your thoughts?

July 23, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Ideas To Help Students Become Better Listeners — Contribute More

'090/365: String telephone' photo (c) 2008, Ben Smith - license:

This is a very short “The Best…” list. It’s different from The Best Listening Sites For English Language Learners, and is focused on ideas we can use to help all our students develop better listening skills.

I shared my best ideas, and many readers shared theirs, in my Education Week Teacher piece titled Several Ways To Help Students Become Better Listeners.

The Power of Smart Listening by Annie Murphy Paul is another good resource.

Here’s a quote from The Harvard Business Review:

For leaders, listening is a central competence for success. At its core, listening is connecting. Your ability to understand the true spirit of a message as it is intended to be communicated, and demonstrate your understanding, is paramount in forming connections and leading effectively. This is why, in 2010, General Electric—long considered the preeminent company for producing leaders—redefined what it seeks in its leaders. Now it places “listening” among the most desirable traits in potential leaders. Indeed, GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt has said that “humble listening” is among the top four characteristics in leaders.

Excellent Post On The Different “Levels” Of Listening

Here’s a playlist from TED Talks on the topic of listening.

Malcolm Gladwell’s New Story On The Importance Of Being A Good Listener

Say What? 5 Ways to Get Students to Listen is from Edutopia.

Here’s The Form I Have Students Complete When They’re Listening To Their Classmate’s Presentations

I hope readers can contribute other good ideas….

July 21, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources For Learning About The 10,000 Hour Rule & Deliberate Practice

'Mort & Dwane, 10,000 hrs' photo (c) 2013, SDASM Archives - license:

Be sure to check out my interview with Daniel Coyle, author of “The Talent Code,” at Education Week Teacher.

Jonah Lehrer provides a good description of the “10,000 hour rule”:

The 10,000 hour rule has become a cliche. This is the idea, first espoused by K. Anders Ericsson, a pyschologist at Florida State University, that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice before any individual can become an expert. The corollary of this rule is that that differences in talent reflect differences in the amount and style of practice, and not differences in innate ability. As Ericsson wrote in his influential review article “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance”: “The differences between expert performers and normal adults are not immutable, that is, due to genetically prescribed talent. Instead, these differences reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance.”

Here are my choices for The Best Resources For Learning About The 10,000 Hour Rule & Deliberative Practice:

I’ve written a post titled Sorry, Professors: Deliberate Practice Matters.

Deliberate Practice – Pt. 1: Knowing exactly what you want is from Psychology Today.

Is it true that 10,000 hours of practice will make you an expert at something? is from Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

Are you experienced? Does it matter? is from Mind Hacks.

The Science of Experience is from TIME Magazine.

How much does natural talent control what you can achieve in life? is from Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

The Power of Practice is by Mark Sanborn.

Freakonomics has three good posts:

How Did A-Rod Get So Good?

Deliberate Practice: How Education Fails to Produce Expertise

The Science of Genius: A Q&A With Author David Shenk

Six Keys to Being Excellent at Anything is from The Harvard Business Review.

The Secret of Great Men: Deliberate Practice is an unfortunate title, but it has good information.

Deliberate Practice: How to Develop Expertise is from The Science Of Learning.

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall? 8 Keys to Deliberate Practice. is from Mission to Learn.

Benjamin Franklin and deliberate practice is from Anecdote.

Guitar Zero: can science turn a psychologist into Jimi Hendrix? is from The Guardian.

The Grandmaster in the Corner Office: What the Study of Chess Experts Teaches Us about Building a Remarkable Life is from Study Hacks.

Talent or Practice – What Matters More? is by David Shenk

Talent or Practice – What Matters More? is by Gary Marcus.

Ray Allen Scores in the Nature-Nurture Debate

Is it true that 10,000 hours of practice will make you an expert at something? is from Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

What is Deliberate Practice is from Farnam Street.

Deliberate Practice Infographic

Why talent is overrated is from CNN.

The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance is the original paper on the idea.

Very Interesting (& Different) Post On “Fixed” Versus “Growth” Mindsets

Applying science to the teaching of science is from The Economist.

Six Keys to Being Excellent at Anything is from The Harvard Business Review.

Why Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule is wrong is from The BBC.

10,000 Hours May Not Make a Master After All is from TIME.

The Complexity of Greatness: Beyond Talent or Practice is from Scientific American.

The Complexity of Greatness: Beyond Talent or Practice is from Creativity Post.

Becoming a Better Teacher by ‘Deliberate Practice’ is from huntingenglish.

How to Stop Being Allergic to Practice is by Daniel Coyle.

What’s Your LQ (Learning Quotient)? is also from Daniel Coyle.

Deliberate Practice, Myelin & The Brain

Quote Of The Day: “Complexity and the Ten-Thousand-Hour Rule”

New Studies Highlight Blurry Line Between Nature & Nurture

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect by Daniel Goleman might be the best short and accessible article on the concept that I’ve found. I’m definitely using it with my students.


Can 10,000 hours of practice make you an expert? is from The BBC.

Two Things Experts Do Differently Than Non-Experts When Practicing is from The Creativity Post.

Are Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hours of Practice Really All You Need? is from National Geographic.

Big New Study On Deliberate Practice

We’ve Been Thinking About Talent The Wrong Way All Along is by Daniel Coyle.

Actually, practice doesn’t always make perfect — new study is by Alfie Kohn.

All feedback is welcome.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists and also consider subscribing to this blog for free.

December 6, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo

Sorry, Professors: Deliberate Practice Matters

The New York Times published an opinion piece a couple of weeks ago titled Sorry, Strivers: Talent Matters by two professors. In it, they attempt to dismiss the claim popularized by Malcolm Gladwell that you can reach an extremely high level of skill in just about anything after practicing at it for 10,000 hours. The professors claim that innate intellectual ability and working memory capacity is a key determiner of success.

A number of other researchers have since pointed out that the column’s authors dramatically overstate what their evidence shows. In fact, 45% of improvement was attributed to deliberate practice and only 7% to working memory capacity.

I’ve used the 10,000 hour finding effectively as one way to help students see that it can be possible for them to achieve their hopes and dreams.

A lot of my students have plenty of reasons already why they might not accomplish their goals. Perhaps professors should double-check their figures before coming-up with even more….

October 19, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Articles On The New Study Showing That Intelligence Is Not “Fixed”

You may have heard about the big study released yesterday finding that — different from previous belief — that teen intelligence is not “fixed” and that they can increase their IQ.

Coincidentally, on the same day The San Francisco Chronicle published a lengthy article about Carol Dweck, who has done research for years on the differences between a “fixed” and “growth” mindset, and who has developed resources for young people to learn more about the topic. I’ve used much of her research in lessons I’ve done with my classes. You can can read about those lessons at “Now I Know My Brain Is Growing When I Read Every Night” , My Best Posts On “Motivating” Students, and in my latest book. I’ll certainly be adding info on this new study to that lesson plan.

Here are my choices for The Best Articles On The New Study Showing That Intelligence Is Not “Fixed”:

Clearly, the best article on the study appeared in the Wall Street Journal, As Brain Changes, So Can IQ: Study Finds Teens’ Intellects May Be More Malleable Than Previously Thought. Even though the authors of the study were careful about drawing certainly conclusions, others drew some that seemed fairly obvious to me. This was the last paragraph in the Wall St. Jrnl article:

“An important aspect of the results is that cognitive abilities can increase or decrease,” said Oklahoma State University psychometrician Robert Sternberg, a past president of the American Psychological Association who wasn’t part of the study. “Those who are mentally active will likely benefit. The couch potatoes among us who do not exercise themselves intellectually will pay a price.”

Teenagers’ IQ scores can rise or fall sharply during adolescence was published in The Guardian.

Study: Adolescents Can See Dramatic IQ Changes appeared in Ed Week.

IQ Is Not Fixed in the Teenage Brain was in Science NOW.

Of course, there is also some question of how valid the IQ Test is at measuring intelligence, and I would be remiss if I didn’t share some of those resources:

What Does IQ Really Measure? also appeared in Science NOW.

Stephen Murdoch has written critically about the IQ Test, including a book. You can read and see interviews with him here, and I’ve embedded a talk he gave:

And here’s an interesting article on IQ’s by Malcolm Gladwell.

IQ Isn’t Set In Stone, Suggests Study That Finds Big Jumps, Dips In Teens is from NPR.

Teens’ IQ May Rise or Fall Over Time is from TIME

Here’s a new short video of Professor Dweck giving an excellent overview of her perspectives on having a “fixed” vs. a “growth” mindset:

Additional contributions are welcome!

If you found this post useful, you might want to consider subscribing to this blog for free.

You might also want to explore the nearly 760 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

July 26, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Study Says Ten Percent Of Committed Believers Is The “Tipping Point” — I’m Not Convinced

Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas is today’s headline at Science Daily. It’s about a new study where researchers claim they’ve discovered that once ten percent of a population develop a strong belief in something, a majority agreement will follow.

I’m not convinced that these computational models work so well in the real world.

What they’re missing, I think, is that it’s not the initial number that’s most important. What’s key is the “who” and if they are willing to do anything about it.

Saul Alinksy, the father of modern-day community organizing and the person who founded the organization I worked with for nineteen years, believed that two percent would do the trick. Here’s what Nicholas von Hoffman, a longtime colleague, wrote:

“Alinsky sometimes explained to new organizers that if you organized two percent of the population – that energetic minority – you would have enough power to overthrow the government. Not that he had that in mind. But with that two percent a successful and powerful community organization could be established.”

And Alinsky strongly believed that that two percent needed to include many leaders — people with a following, people whose judgment others respected.

In some ways, this focus on the “who” along with their actions might be similar to what Malcolm Gladwell writes about in The Tipping Point.

In the classroom, for example, if I think I need some help in changing a classroom culture or attitude, I focus on winning over a handful of leaders, not just any two or three people. And I talk with them about being active in their help.

Having an arbitrary percentage of people believing something but not willing to do anything about it, or being able to have influence with anyone else, is unlikely to result in any change.

Coincidentally, I was reading a piece by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach today (which I learned about via John Norton) who touches on some related points.  It’s  titled Thinking Hard While Running On Empty. She discusses Personal Learning Networks, and wonders if they sometimes can result in people just feeling good without leading to action.

Some of the “school reformers,” like Teach For America, seem to have a pretty good grasp on the importance of developing what Alinsky would consider a committed two percent. The Save Our Schools March this weekend and follow-up actions might have the potential of doing the same for effectively promoting a far different, a more fair and more inclusive vision for our schools.