Epistemic Trespassing: From Ruby Payne to the “Science of Reading”

dr. p.l. (paul) thomas

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, President Donald Trump has continued his disturbing trademark of self-assurance and bravado in the absence of expertise:

The president – who repeatedly downplayed the threat early in the global outbreak – has this week been hyping an anti-malarial drug, chloroquine, as a possible therapeutic treatment.

“It may work, it may not work,” he said on Friday. “I feel good about it. It’s just a feeling. I’m a smart guy … We have nothing to lose. You know the expression, ‘What the hell do you have to lose?’”

As has become a common pattern now, these rash and dangerous claims were tempered by an actual expert in medicine:

Yet Trump’s “feeling”, on which he so often relies, was confronted by science when Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned that evidence of chloroquine’s benefits against coronavirus…

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Does a growth mindset matter for success?

Does a growth mindset matter for success?

How Firm Are the Foundations of Mind-Set Theory? The Claims Appear Stronger Than the Evidence



Mind-set refers to people’s beliefs about whether attributes are malleable (growth mind-set) or unchangeable ( fixed mind-set). Proponents of mind-set theory have made bold claims about mind-set’s importance. For example, one’s mind-set is described as having profound effects on one’s motivation and achievements, creating different psychological worlds for people, and forming the core of people’s meaning systems. We examined the evidentiary strength of six key premises of mind-set theory in 438 participants; we reasoned that strongly worded claims should be supported by equally strong evidence. However, no support was found for most premises. All associations (rs) were significantly weaker than .20. Other achievement-motivation constructs, such as self-efficacy and need for achievement, have been found to correlate much more strongly with presumed associates of mind-set. The strongest association with mind-set (r = −.12) was opposite from the predicted direction. The results suggest that the foundations of mind-set theory are not firm and that bold claims about mind-set appear to be overstated.

Perseverant grit and self-efficacy: Are both essential for children’s academic success?

Perseverant grit and self-efficacy: Are both essential for children’s academic success?

Usher, E. L., Li, C. R., Butz, A. R., & Rojas, J. P. (2019). Perseverant grit and self-efficacy: Are both essential for children’s academic success? Journal of Educational Psychology, 111(5), 877-902.



Psychological factors such as grit and self-efficacy have been heralded as powerful predictors of performance. Their joint contribution to the prediction of early adolescents’ school success has not been fully investigated, however. The purpose of this study was to examine U.S. elementary and middle school students’ (N = 2,430) grit (assessed as perseverance of effort) and self-efficacy, and their predictive relationship with achievement and teacher-rated motivation and competence in reading and math across one school year. Scalar invariance was found for grit and self-efficacy measures across school level, gender, and SES. Older students and students from lower SES reported significantly lower grit and self-efficacy. Girls reported higher grit and reading self-efficacy. Grit was correlated positively with self-efficacy (.37 ≤ r ≤ .66), modestly with teacher ratings in reading and math (.14 ≤ r ≤ .25), and weakly or uncorrelated with achievement (.03 ≤ r ≤ .13). Self-efficacy was positively related to all outcomes (.21 ≤ r ≤ .36). SEM indicated that subject-specific self-efficacy was positively related, and grit weakly or unrelated, to reading and math achievement, controlling for grade level, gender, SES, and prior achievement. An examination of competing mediation models revealed that self-efficacy partially or fully mediated the relationship between grit and school outcomes. Conversely, little evidence supported grit as a mediator of self-efficacy’s relationship to outcomes. Time-lagged models across one school year confirmed these conclusions. Findings imply that, to improve student performance, teachers should target students’ self-efficacy rather than grit. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

Troubling the master narrative of “grit”: Counterstories of Black and Latinx Students with dis/abilities during an era of “high-stakes” testing

Troubling the master narrative of “grit”: Counterstories of Black and Latinx Students with dis/abilities during an era of “high-stakes” testing


In this study we trouble the notion of “grit” and “high-stakes” testing by focusing on the experiences and perspectives of Black and Latinx students labeled with dis/abilities with the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). Through interviews, focus groups, and classroom observations with 15 Black and Latinx students labeled with dis/abilities, we utilize the power of student voice and counterstories to problematize the master narrative of a “grit”/no “grit” binary in education policy discourse. This binary has contributed to an educational culture that reinforces victim blaming, reifies inequities for Black and Latinx students with dis/abilities, and undermines students’ emotional wellbeing. Harnessing the power of the students’ experiences and perspectives, we conclude with recommendations for policy and practice.