Monday, March 16, 2009

Good words

Insight requires a clean slate - Mark Jung-Beeman, quoted in Jonah Lehrer's book How We Decide

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bouncing back

Dr. Tamar Chansky, who commented on yesterday's post, has an excellent article on how to cultivate resilience in a time of anxiety. She offers clarity on the difference between crisis mode and coping mode, and how to move from the first to the second. So quit wringing your hands and check it out!

Good words

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. – Joseph Chilton Pearce

Monday, March 9, 2009

Failure to thrive

I've been reading Jonah Lehrer's excellent new book How We Decide, and this morning I turned up something that startled me but makes utter sense.

People who are praised for innate intelligence end up learning less and performing more poorly than those who are praised for their effort.

Lehrer describes the experiments of Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist who gave hundreds of school children an easy test, told them their scores, and then gave each one sentence of praise. Half were told, "You must be really smart," and the other half were told, "You must have worked really hard."

Then all the children were given a choice to take a hard test or an easy one. Overwhelmingly, the children praised for their effort chose the harder test, while those who had been commended for their intelligence chose the easier one. And on a final test of the same difficulty as the intial one, the "hard workers" improved their scores by an average of 30 percent, while the "smart" kids' results actually dropped by nearly 20 percent.

Dweck wrote that praising children for their intelligence teaches them not to risk making mistakes; Lehrer points out that "it encourages kids to avoid the most useful kind of learning activities, which is learning from mistakes." The most effective masters of any skill actively look for their mistakes, to train their brains to avoid them next time.

I encourage you to read the book; Lehrer explains the neurological reasons why lots of failure is essential to learning.

How many of our learners (and how many of us) don't reach the levels we could because we have been taught to avoid making errors? How can we set up learning situations to help failure-averse people, whose sense of self-worth may be tied up in making no mistakes, and therefore learning nothing?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Drawing a lesson

A new study shows that people who doodle during boring meetings or classes actually retain more information than those who don't. The theory is that doodling at least keeps your mind in the room, instead of tuning out altogether and daydreaming.

Note: it works in dull settings. So, fellow learning leaders, next time we encounter doodlers, rather than getting snarky about their lack of attention, maybe we need to find ways to engage them more fully. (That's our mission at Workplace.)

Probably not the best thing to point out to the boss, though, during that endless monthly meeting...

Illustration via FlickrCC on a Creative Commons license.
Can't you just imagine the meeting this came out of?