Times caption: Pupils at North London Collegiate received postcards to celebrate small achievements
A piece by Nicola Woolcock, Education Correspondent, in today’s Times:
Teachers are writing positive comments in the maths books of all pupils at a top girls’ school [J4MB emphasis] to improve their confidence in the subject.
Outstanding results are already achieved by pupils at North London Collegiate but positive comments must now be included on all pieces of work to increase self-confidence and promote a “can-do” attitude. [J4MB emphasis]
The decision was inspired by research from Harvard, which showed that confidence was critical to success. The school also sends postcards to pupils to celebrate small achievements and teachers are asked to email students, and copy in form tutors, when small milestones are reached.
One pupil said: “During class, teachers constantly provide positive reinforcement which really helps to keep us motivated and push through the tough and seemingly impossible parts.
“Whenever we get tests and homework back, our sheets are always showered with stickers and this adds another incentive to keep on top of homework and makes the experience of receiving marks a much less uneasy experience.”
The school has introduced “low-stakes” testing to build pupils’ resilience to exam conditions. Regular ten-minute assessments have been introduced, to help to reward pupils with small victories and to track their progress.
According to an international study of gender equality in schools by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, girls lack confidence in their ability to solve maths and science problems and achieve worse results than they otherwise would, despite outperforming boys overall.
At A level more than 60 per cent of maths candidates are boys and only 14 per cent of people working in science, technology, engineering and maths are women, short of the goal of 30 per cent.
The school is adopting a number of maths initiatives to inject the subject with fun. [J4MB emphasis] These have included “maths-off” contests and musical talent shows.
Girls also mentor pupils two years below them in advanced mathematics and sixth-formers have been trying to make maths clubs more appealing. Teachers have given lectures on the philosophy of science, the links between maths and art, and the maths of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Last year 98 per cent of pupils at the school achieved an A or A* at International GCSE maths. [J4MB: Hmm, only 98 per cent. The patriarchy is still holding girls back. Clearly still a problem to be “solved” with exaggerated praise.]
This tactic of increasing girls’ confidence through exaggerated praise must have consequences later in life. If the exaggerated praise isn’t maintained through further education and into the workplace, then the women will inevitably become stressed at the lack of positive reinforcement. American Dick Masterson, in his hilarious book Men Are Better Than Women, asked why women always need a “pat on the ass” to even attempt things that men routinely accomplish without any emotional neediness.
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