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Dan Willingham on disadvantage:

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Joined: 08 Oct 2007
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Location: UK

PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2014 9:33 am    Post subject: Dan Willingham on disadvantage: Reply with quote

Dan Willingham writes about the effects of advantage, stress and disadvantage on learning in the 'American Educator':

Why Does Family Wealth Affect Learning?

The difficult balance is to recognize the challenges each individual child faces, but not use them as a reason to lower expectations for achievement or appropriate behavior. High expectations need not be an additional source of stress—students thrive when high expectations are coupled with high levels of support.

Many low-SES kids are not getting the cognitive challenge they need from their homes and neighborhoods, but neither are they getting the support they need.

To compensate, teachers should offer in the classroom what these children are missing at home. Much of this is what we’ve called human capital—academic knowledge and skills—which is the teacher’s bread and butter.

It’s also well to remember that some of this knowledge, though important for long-term success, is not academic knowledge. It’s knowledge of how to interact with peers and adults, how to interact with large institutions like a school or a government agency, how to interact with authority figures, how to schedule one’s time, strategies to regulate one’s emotions, and so on.

Some of this information is taught implicitly, by example, but much of it can be taught explicitly.

The research reviewed here also highlights the importance of a calm atmosphere in the class- room and in the school. This is obviously a goal that virtually every teacher shares—no one wants a chaotic classroom—but knowing that a child’s neighborhood and home might be noisy, crowded, and threatening makes the creation of a serene, joyful classroom all the more important. Kids in more chaotic classrooms show higher levels of stress hormones.

Knowing the consequences of stress for cognition, and the potential long-term consequences to the brain, makes the matter more urgent.

Debbie Hepplewhite
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