Labelling

What are the benefits and perils of labelling? Experience and research described in these links show how labels can actively prevent students from learning.

Getting past the labels

 

Labelling

Dyslexia or Dysteachia? (Engelmann, S - Children of the Code)

Zig Engelmann points out how often children are regarded as the source of their own failure while the quality of teaching is never questioned.

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The Perils of Giving Kids IQ Tests (Lahey J 2013): The Atlantic

An article outlining the lasting and pervasive power of labels told from the point of view of those carrying the labels. “Whether you call a child ‘gifted’ or ‘disabled’, labels can influence future behavior in subtle and insidious ways."

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Nearly one in four boys at state school has special needs, statistics show (Dixon H 2013) The Telegraph

The large and volatile numbers of students identified as having special educational needs led to claims that schools were resorting to labelling in order to disguise poor teaching. Others said that teachers were trying to get more resources for students. But how can a quarter of the school population have 'special' needs? 

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Effects of Labeling Students “Learning Disabled”: Emergent Themes in the Research Literature 1970 through 2000 (Osterholm K, Nash W R, Kritsonis W A 2007 Focus on Colleges, Universities, and Schools Volume 1 Number 1)

This literature review of studies over the course of 30 years examines the effects of labelling students as learning disabled. The report concludes that, whether or not labels are useful, “applying a diagnostic label to an individual is a profound decision that affects the rest of his or her educational career and life.”

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How Do Teachers’ Expectations Affect Student Learning: Extract from Motivation to Learn: Integrating Theory and Practice (Stipek, D 2001) Pearson

This extract explores the literature on how teachers react to students who have been labelled. It is a very readable yet challenging analysis of the conscious and unconscious ways in which teachers tend to respond to labels rather than learners. The consequences for learners are profound. 

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Helping or Hovering? Effects of Instructional Assistant Proximity on Students with Disabilities (Giangreco M  F, Edelman S W, Luiselli T E, MacFarland S Z C 1997): Exceptional Children Vol 64 No 1

This investigation found that there were multiple negative effects for disabled children when teaching assistants stayed too close. What seemed like helping behaviours to adults were often disempowering for the children, leading to lower quality instruction, limited interaction with teachers, isolation from peers, and lower self-expectations. These findings have wider implications.

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Can People with an Intellectual Disability Learn to Read? (Hempenstall, K 2013)

Kerry Hempenstall examines the evidence and shows the extent to which we can expect systematic reading instruction to assist people who have an intellectual disability. 

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Stories

Charles

Charles’ story is perhaps typical of many underachieving boys. His low reading was both a cause and a consequence of his avoidant behavior. Because the labels were ignored and Charles was taught what he needed to know, he succeeded beyond expectations. 

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Emmanuel

Emmanuel was regarded as unable to read. His frustration and anger at this situation led to disruptive and avoidant behavior. The rate of improvement in his reading demonstrates that he was always intelligent enough to learn. Labels, not a lack of ability, were what prevented him from being given appropriate help. 

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Sophie

Sophie lacked confidence, had low expectations of herself, and had effectively been taught that she could not expect to read well. With a mixture of challenge and encouragement, Sophie found out that she could read far better than she had been led to believe.

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Getting past the labels