Monthly Archives: April 2014


Leonard Mlodinow’s Subliminal details research that demonstrates how susceptible we are to unconscious messages. Perhaps the most astonishing example he gives is of the power teachers’ expectation: when a teacher is told a certain group of average pupils are brilliant, after eight months 80% of these pupils show an increase of 10 IQ points, with 20% of this group gaining an incredible 30 or more IQ points.  Therefore labelling pupils as gifted is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  When we consider how, in Wales, for example, the education minister has decided that all pupils from Y2 onwards will sit literacy and numeracy tests, the results of which will be reported to parents, it is likely that many low achieving pupils will stagnate, as their disappointed mums or dads confirm to their children that they are not that clever after all.  Furthermore, after reading G for Genes (see review) I am convinced that reporting test scores to parents on such a narrow range of accomplishments (ie literacy and numeracy) rather than emphasizing a child’s potential, is extremely destructive.

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G is for Genes

G is for Genes, by Kathryn Asbury and Robert Plomin, makes a very strong case for something most teachers, and probably many parents, know already. Children are not blank slates.  Young people inherit as much as 60 – 70% of their aptitude for maths, for example.  Asbury and Plomin’s book makes a nonsense of successive education ministers’ attempts to expect state schools to compete with public schools when the latter are able to select pupils by ability.  Furthermore some pupils achieve despite attending a poor school, and some will never achieve even if with the very best teaching.  So what is the answer? A more diverse curriculum, one that does not expect the same from every pupil.

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