The dangers of a single story

Nadia Behizadeh said:

If a child does not perform well on [one timed large-scale assessment essay], there will be a single story told about this student: he/she has below basic skills in writing, or maybe even far below basic skills. Yet this same student may be a brilliant poet or have a hundred pages of a first novel carefully stowed in his/her backpack. However, when a single story of deficiency is repeated again and again to a student, that student develops low writing self-efficacy and a poor self-concept of himself/herself as a writer. . . . [T]he danger of the single story is the negative effect on students when one piece of writing on a decontextualized prompt is used to represent writing ability. (pp. 125-126)


2 Responses to “The dangers of a single story”

  1. This is probably on point:

    Not sure if you knew about this Scott, but thought the explicit reference could only add to the conversation.

    This is the whole “self-fulfilling prophecy” that I first learned about in my undergrad degree again, isn’t it? Students (to some extent anyway) do what we expect them to do. I’ve seen this more than a few times, fortunately from the perspective of one who didn’t place too much stock in previous performance as a predictor of future achievement. Basically, students impressed me, which I could have predicted having gotten to know them, regardless of their previous school performance.

    If education is all about growth and development… why is there a presupposition that students will have a “single story” throughout their educational experiences. They will have many stories, some of triumph and some of challenge. If there were truly no growth or development, this would be sad.

  2. And remember that the Standardized Tests do not test Music, Art, (in my state at least) History, or Physical Fitness, all of which are considered part of the students’ formal education. Then there is the informal education of leadership, determination, ability to learn and integrate new skills and idea, cooperation, teamwork, and all of the other things that good teachers teach.

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