In this “Rethinking Giftedness” video the filmmakers make a claim that gifted programs cause fixed mindsets.
The three questions I immediately wondered were:
- Where is the research?
- How were the students in this video selected?
- Did they visit any great gifted programs?
Let’s dig into it.
Where Is The Research?
The video and its accompanying article don’t reference a single source. Jo Boaler is a Stanford professor. Why wouldn’t she direct us to the research that backs up her claim that gifted programs cause fixed mindsets?
Because there is no research that supports her claim. Feel free to search!
On the contrary, recent research suggests “that gifted students are not more vulnerable to develop fixed mindsets.” (emphasis mine). Here’s a parent-focused version of that research as well (see page 4). Thanks a bunch to Emily Mofield for sending me her work on this topic.
So, there’s no research that supports the video’s claim and there is research that contradicts it. Gifted programs do not appear to cause fixed mindsets. Yes, some students in gifted programs have fixed mindsets and some have growth mindsets — just like any other group of people.
Cherry Picked, Anecdotal Evidence
So, if we know (from research) that gifted programs have students with both fixed and growth mindsets, you must wonder: why does every student in this video tell the exact same story?
Do you think the filmmakers couldn’t find one student who had a great experience in their gifted program? Were they unable to locate a single kid who had a growth mindset? Somehow, I don’t think they were interested in sharing those students experiences.
The only students who have a voice in this video were those whose stories supported a pre-determined opinion. That’s gross.
It’s also an example of several logical fallacies and propaganda techniques.
- The interviews are cherry-picked.
- Their evidence is anecdotal.
- The film-makers appeal to our emotions rather than argue from research.
- They rely on a hasty generalization built on a tiny sample of data.
- They conflate correlation and causation. Just because A and B are both true, doesn’t mean that A caused B.
Yes, a video built around student voices is powerful (that’s why they did it!), but a video that only shares certain students’ voices to make a point is dishonest and purposefully misleading. You can make a video that proves anything if you cherry-pick your data.
Now, I don’t doubt that these students’ experiences were real. Gifted kids can certainly have fixed mindsets. I sure did. But it’s ridiculous to claim that my gifted program caused my fixed mindset. It’s even more ridiculous to claim, as the filmmakers do, that all gifted programs cause all students to have fixed mindsets because gifted programs are so varied across the country.
There are great gifted programs and there are terrible gifted programs. Some have cluster groups, some use magnet schools, and some are built around pull-out or push-in programs. Some kids see a gifted specialist once or twice a week while others have the same teacher all year. Some schools have teachers who travel from school to school serving kids, others bus kids to a special school once a week.
Did the filmmakers even know this?
Did they make a good-faith effort to understand the field of gifted education before setting out to make this video? Did they seek out top-notch gifted programs to observe? Did they talk to great teachers about what they’re doing with regards to mindsets? Did they attend a gifted education conference and go to sessions about giftedness and mindsets (there are lots of them!)? Did they interview parents whose kids were in great gifted programs? Did they reach out to state and national associations to make sure they weren’t making uneducated errors in their argument?
Was there any effort to understand the field of gifted education before putting together this video?
Lost in their entire argument are the tens of thousands of students who need something more than a general classroom can reasonably offer them. Recent research found that 8 to 10% of fourth graders were reading at an eighth-grade level! How can a single teacher possibly reach their struggling, on-level, and advanced students plus meet the needs of a kid ready for work four years ahead!?
This is why we have gifted programs. There will always be students at every school who need something more than a general classroom can provide. We have special education programs for the same reason.
Fixed mindsets can certainly be a problem for gifted students, just like any group of people. The solution is to improve gifted education not remove it.