Thursday, November 13, 2008

Science That Matters

he experiment was stunning in its simplicity. A group of teachers at a low-income South San Francisco elementary school were asked to begin the year by administering the “Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition” to their students. The results were processed and the teachers were given back a list of students whose intellectual abilities were expected to “bloom” that year. At the end of the school year the test was administered again and, sure enough, the bloomers were found to have bloomed, surpassing the other students. But there was just one catch: the test was actually a simple IQ test and the “bloomers” were actually chosen randomly.

The result was called the “Pygmalion effect”: teachers who expected their students to do better actually caused their students to do better. It was a classic self-fulfilling prophecy. The study (published as Pygmalion in the Classroom) was widely hailed. It made the front page of the Times, The Today Show, the New Yorker, and Time, among others. Teacher workshops in avoiding the effect spread from Puerto Rico to Saudi Arabia. LA banned IQ tests in its elementary schools. Presidents, textbooks, and Wikipedia articles repeat the notions to this day, over 30 years later.

Except none of it was true. (emphasis mine)
Science That Matters (continue reading &aquo;)

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