Most Likely to Succeed

Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker, Dec 18, 2008
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Malcolm Gladwell knows how to promote a book, and he knows the pulse of American society - the New Yorker and football, respectively. Not that either - nor the economists he cites in the article - know anything in particular about education. So let me point out the big difference between NFL quarterbacks and quality teachers: we need only a hundred or so of the former (fewer, if we don't include backups), while we need tens of thousands of the latter. Why is this significant? Well, because while it's really hard to predict whether a person will be one of the top 100 in a field, it's rather easier to predict whether they'll be somewhere in the top 100,000 (even allowing for a fair degree of uncertainty in the cusp cases). Now this, in turn, should not be confused with the very specific pedagogical points Gladwell makes - things like the encouragement of engagement and direct and pointed responses to contributions. Because there seems to be nothing that prevents us from either teaching these strategies to new teachers, or evaluating them in teachers put up for tenure. More from Chad Orzel.
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