Posts Tagged ‘consolidation’

You Are Free To Stop

October 31st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s an open secret that an open secret is an oxymoron.  ‘tis nobler is unsure whether this old news came from military intelligence or the Italian government for there has been a deafening silence.  There are contradictory views on the involvement of paradoxes and contradictions in oxymorons; actually paradoxes lead to contradictions so it might be a case that everything ‘tis nobler writes is false.  ‘tis nobler wonders whether you are able to exclude that last assertion from your conclusion; if you cannot do this, it’s rather paradoxical.

Perhaps it’s like concluding that you are not free to do but (and say this in your best Yoda voice) you are free to do not.  It would be more realistic if you said ‘free you are to do not’.

Are you free to do not?  So it would seem from the evidence (although it is restricted to very simple experimental tasks).  This is a very big topic – one that will generate much discussion between neuroscientists, psychologists and philosophers for it is fraught with methodological  and conceptual issues – but let’s pick out the very essence of it as it reinforces the fundamental importance of self management.

One fundamental advantage of experiential learning is the shift from conscious or intentional processing of information to subconscious and unintentional (but NOT unintended) operation.  There are many, many examples that you could draw on from personal experience in which you are doing things in a sensible, co-ordinated, effective and efficient manner without being fully aware of them – the most ubiquitous example could be driving a car, much of which takes place ‘in the background’ and occasionally from the backseat!  Are you exercising free will in these instances?

This may or may not be different from the chain of events that underpin specific and isolated choices, for what affects these discrete choices may still be as complex as any skilled behaviour.  Being unaware of ‘what and why’ prior to the conscious act may have little to do with free will and more to do with learned, validated and elegant patterns.  Who knows?

But, regardless of the precise mechanism(s), it appears possible to stop this automatic process before the (non-conscious) action is implemented.  While the status of a ‘go motion’ remains debatable, a ‘stop motion’ exists.  Stop motion is a paradox and yet it is exceedingly clever.  It relies on compressing a large number of very subtle changes to produce a fluid pattern, which is not that far away from the goals of experiential learning:

Even on autopilot and not consciously aware of what you are doing, you retain the capacity to stop and change.  You should be aware that you have choices, even when you are unaware of their existence.

You have the power to choose to stop.  You have the power to choose to change.  What will you choose to do?

Positively Vague

September 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Vapid – offering no stimulation or challenge, insipid, flat, dull or tedious.

Vacuous – lacking in ideas or intelligence, mindless, stupid, inane or empty.

Vague – having uncertain, indefinite or unclear meaning, imprecise, inexact or unfocused.

Be Yourself – a catchcry of the self-help and life coaching industries.

Which ‘v’ word would you apply to the catchcry ‘Be Yourself’?  You might consider ‘Be Yourself’ in more directly positive terms – valid, valuable, venturesome or virtuous.  Actually, ‘tis nobler thinks one of the first three – vapid, vacuous and vague – is positive, fundamentally and inescapably positive.

And that word is vague.  Vague isn’t vaguely positive, it’s very positive.

It can be good sometimes to know exactly how you’re going – whether learning or changing – but do you really need to know exactly?  There is a body of evidence that indicates that precision of feedback can have negative consequences; knowing exactly leaves you little room to ‘be yourself’ as a learner or changer, leading to motivational and/or attitudinal problems.  It’s also another argument against ‘spoon-feeding’ for your (perhaps) messy contribution to your own learning is supplanted by a more defined yet less effective contribution from an outsider.  The traditional teaching and training model sees vagueness as an enemy, replacing it with concise definitions and clear prescriptions.  This model replaces your vagueness with its clarity to the detriment of your learning.

Can you see how vagueness relates to effort?  From the fuzzy logic of the real world, you create and validate patterns through your own efforts and these patterns guide your behaviour.  The fuzziness, though, is never eliminated.  This is where the real value of ‘being yourself’ can be demonstrated, just as Audioslave do in these lyrics;

And even when you’ve paid enough, been pulled apart or been held up, With every single memory of the good or bad faces of luck, Don’t lose any sleep tonight, I’m sure everything will end up alright, You may win or lose, But to be yourself is all that you can do ……

If you think it through, ‘be yourself’ is positively vague and therefore very positive.  If you don’t think it through, then ‘be yourself’ is vaguely positive and therefore very irrelevant (just like most other things are when you’re a passive recipient).

The only way to deal with vagueness is to find your own way, not once, twice or occasionally but each and every time.  There is nothing vague about that.

Is, Like And As

September 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

What is the meaning of life?  Now, that’s a big question, perhaps the biggest question of them all.  ‘tis nobler wants to address another question, one that is equally perplexing:

Is there an analogy for analogous reasoning?

In one sense, analogous reasoning – thinking about the things you know less well in terms of the things that you know more fully – is a cornerstone of thinking and an excellent exemplar for experiential learning.  After all, experiential learning can be thought of as building a bridge from the things you’ve done in order to ‘reach’ the new things you’re about to do.

Can you see more similarities in the learning and change process beginning to emerge?  Perhaps we can use some of these as analogies to increase our understanding. Perhaps there are analogies for analogous reasoning!

First, let’s think about patterns, a recurring and fundamental theme in experiential learning.  Patterns are built through experience; they are created as you make the move from all the little bits to just the bigger picture.  These patterns or mental models support more effective and much more efficient performance.  Both within and between models, progress involves the extension of the known or experienced to include the less known and/or just experienced.  Incorporation requires the relationships to be understood so that the models grow validly rather than just grow.  Bigger is not always better but, in learning terms, better is always bigger!

You start with ‘this’, incorporate ‘that’ and then deal with the ‘other’.  As all learners realise, without effortful experience, ‘this, that and the other’ can be quite confusing:

Secondly, there is the issue of depth.  ‘tis nobler has previously talked about the effect, both positive and negative, of metaphors but metaphors and similes are generally shallow.  Thinking something IS something else uses metaphors (he is as fast as a cheetah); thinking something is LIKE something else uses similes (he has the courage of a lion).  Both can be useful descriptive aids but analogies must go deeper.

When you use analogies, you think of something AS something else; for it to be really helpful, though, you need to go beyond the obvious surface features and discover the deeper connections.  It’s easy to use ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’; it’s far harder to unpack all of the ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’ descriptions to construct a valid ‘AS’ understanding.  ‘AS’ helps reduce errors, ‘AS’ inspires creativity and ‘AS’ strengthens understanding.

Analogous reasoning focuses on ‘AS’ relationships, the deep patterns rather than the shallow descriptions.  Isn’t that a sufficient reason to embrace ‘AS’ over ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’?

Stranded

September 16th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

No, ‘tis nobler is not using ‘stranded’ in the sense of being marooned or left behind.  As you realise, things aren’t always as they seem – you can trust your eyes but not your brain, your memories are revised rather than just retrieved and your beliefs can overpower your knowledge (and new information is often powerless to overcome this).  Things seem to be different; things are different from what they seem.

‘tis nobler is using ‘stranded’ in the sense of being composed of strands – threads that are woven to form something bigger and stronger.  In the context of experiential learning and behavioural change journeys, the relevance is apparent.  Stranded – things are as they are.

In recent posts, ‘tis nobler has unpacked (slightly) the concept of resilience, revealing that there is more to it than people might imagine from simply tossing the word around.  And not all of the resilience ‘below the surface’ is necessarily valuable or desirable.  What seems to be a single strand is itself composed of smaller strands.  How do you make sense of anything if you remain oblivious to the elements that make it what it is?

What might seem to be trite slogans are progressively revealed as fundamental principles.  ‘Effort is essential’ was revealed as much more than a catchcry when you burrow down beneath the semantic surface:

This is another example of why effort is essential. Experiential learning and behavioural change can and do present ongoing challenges; both are made more difficult by the subordination of knowledge to belief. The ongoing resistance to new knowledge that is inconsistent with our beliefs may be the single greatest reason why we stand still or go backwards.

And yet all the time we still believe we’re moving forward. Can you believe that?

As you browse the archives, the depth and the detail will coalesce into shapes that suit you (for you know that it is inappropriate and ineffective for any shape to be imposed, however well-intentioned that imposition may be).  These guiding shapes and patterns are produced by your effort:

As your journey unfolds, you will learn that you are stranded but you are never stranded.  Appreciating the distinction and acting on its implications is a sure sign of progress.

 

All Within, Partly Beyond

August 29th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler has written several posts on the pattern of pattern formation, the gradual progression from coping with lots of little bits to efficiently managing the bigger picture:

Moving from novice to experienced status involves moving from bits to chunks, from pieces to patterns.  It’s incorrect to think that you just get faster at handling the bits and pieces for it is the ways in which you compile larger, more sophisticated patterns from all of the bits that is a true sign of experiential learning.  Whether you think of ‘bigger picture’, ‘mental model’, ‘forest not trees’, ‘holistic assessments’ or ‘internalised representations’, the process is the same.  As a direct consequence of experience, your way of seeing the world around you changes.

Of course, other things change as well for you become more effective and efficient – for example, the ‘bigger picture’ supports multitasking.  If you are no longer ‘drowning in the bits’, you have the resources to handle other demands in parallel.  Patterns that are validated and refined through experience allow you to manage that experience with a minimum of fuss, leaving plenty of time and resources to deal with the exceptions.

Think of some of the things you have learnt through experience, things such as driving a car, doing your job or playing a particular sport.  In a sense, patterns do protect you within your performance of these tasks but they don’t necessarily protect you beyond that performance.  Within that statement hides the logic for the title of this post – ‘All within, partly beyond’.

There are specific performance elements such as (simple) reaction time that can transfer from one activity to another.  It would not be surprising to find (and there is supporting evidence) that those with very extensive experience and considerable expertise on one activity would do well on other activities that do have some common elements.  Whether it is judging whether a pitch is in the strike zone, a cricket ball is going to hit the wicket, a tennis ball is going to (just) go out or an approaching car poses a danger, there are some common elements that allow a top tennis player or cricketer to, for example, make better, yet still simple decisions on baseball pitches or road crossing opportunities.

In part-task demands within ‘unrelated’ activities that have some common elements, some of these overlapping elements that have been highly developed elsewhere can assist.  But there are limits, which is why Michael Jordan didn’t succeed as a baseball player or top cricketers don’t play Major League Baseball.  Elements may help the simple stuff but patterns prevail, for performance on a task never depends on a single element or set of elements.  If it did, young people at the peak of their psychophysical powers would always out-perform older, slower participants.  Anticipation is always better than reaction (regardless of how quick of the mark you are) and anticipation is enabled by patterns.

Regardless of how good you are at something, all good things come to an end when you leave that particular something behind:

A reliance on elements at the expense of patterns is dangerous – it reinforces the (incorrect) view that shortcuts are available and, as a consequence, effort is devalued.  It is important to remember that whatever is developed within can only ever go partly beyond.

Before Connecting

August 15th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In experiential learning and behavioural change, connections are crucial.  It is important to recognise that connection is not the same as co-incidence; it is even less similar to coincidence.  Being contiguous and contemporaneous is neither necessary nor sufficient for connecting.  The ‘appearance’ of connection does not indicate that connections have actually appeared.

Being in the same place at the same time does not mean that a connection is made.  Doing the same things that you’ve done successfully before does not mean that a connection has been established.  Connection has to occur in your head before it can emerge and influence your activity.

Connection can occur during activity – let’s call this engagement.

Connection can occur after activity – let’s call this reflection.

And connection can occur before activity – let’s call this anticipation.  Anticipation is not doing things before connecting; rather think of it as one form of connecting.  It’s ‘before’ connecting in the same way that you have ‘during’ connecting and ‘after’ connecting.

Some recent research has indicated the value of ‘before’ connecting as a technique for reducing (test-taking) anxiety.  ‘Before’ connecting took the form of writing down anxieties just before the examination commenced; those that did so outperformed their equally anxious peers who didn’t participate in the ‘before’ connecting exercise.  It is important to note that ‘before’ connecting is the important message, realised through the act of writing, rather than the act of writing itself.  If just writing something down was the solution, Eccles wouldn’t find himself in such a pickle:

Appearances can be deceiving; connection can appear to be present without putting in an appearance.  As experience is gained, ‘during’ connection becomes more and more automated but you must actively pursue ‘before’ and ‘after’ connections.  Active ‘before’ and ‘after’ connections work together to make ‘during’ connections more enduring, more effective and highly efficient.

There shoudn’t be anything before connecting, there is just ‘before’ connecting!  And ‘before’ connecting comes before ‘during’ and ‘after’ connections.  Connect in every way in order to find your own way.

Message More Than Medium

August 3rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Almost 50 years ago, Marshall McLuhan introduced the saying ‘The medium is the message’, which noted that the method of message transmission influences how the message is perceived.  This contention has many implications for experiential learning and behavioural change but these are not the focus of this post.  Can you imagine what some of these implications are?

So, when ‘tis nobler writes ‘message more than medium, what exactly does this mean?  What changes if ‘message’ in the title is a verb rather than a noun?  What changes if ‘medium’ in the title is an adjective rather than a noun?  Making sense of the world around you is never as direct or straightforward as your initial interpretations suggest.

The starting point for this cryptic title is in some recent (business-related) research that investigated the effect of information flow on project completion.  In summary, the research indicated that managers who were deliberately redundant in their instructions – building (necessary) repetition into the communication process – were more successful in getting projects completed.  Deliberate redundancy was considered more important than clarity of message.

Imagine how the expertise bias affects the frequency and clarity of communication.  Think of the problems that the basic proposition of this bias creates for learning and behavioural change:

I’ll explain your behaviour on the basis of who you are simply because what you do is, for me, so easy that your performance can’t hold the explanation.

Creating redundancy requires repetition, even if you think repetition is no longer necessary (which most people believe well before that moment arrives).  Repetition is never exact and all of the little variations add more value and understanding.  This is the point made by Nelly and Tim McGraw:

Cause it’s all in my head

I think about it over and over again

Whether the communication source is external or internal, the challenge is to get the message into your head and then keep it there so that you can think about it over and over again.  Of course, redundancy transcends communication; it applies more generally to learning and behavioural change.  Redundancy as, for example, practice of perfect, is one way to make both yourself and your behaviour more robust.

One person’s repetition is (eventually) another person’s redundancy, even when they are the same person!  If you are sending messages to others or to yourself, message (verb) more than medium (adjective).  Messaging and practising more isn’t a redundant strategy – it’s an effective strategy to achieve redundancy.

Certainly Not Certain

July 29th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler wants you to think of someone who has acknowledged expertise. Don’t select an ‘expert’ for there are ‘experts’ everywhere; expertise is somewhat thinner on the ground. For every person with expertise, there are many others who profess to be experts. Expertise doesn’t involve doing the extraordinary – it’s about doing the ordinary competently, confidently, convincingly and consistently. Those with expertise, that is, those who have made a sustained learning effort, can recognise expertise in others for it presents as another recognisable pattern. You may not be able to explain the pattern adequately – they are just good at what they do – but you do know it when you see it.

‘Competently, confidently, convincingly and consistently’ leaves out the concept of certainty. Those with expertise must be certain in what they’re doing; after all, they have done it many times before. Surely, then, a ‘certain’ expert (c.f. an uncertain novice) would be more persuasive in communicating the ways to behave. They know because they do so well; they do so well because they know.

However, the relationship between expertise, certainty and persuasion seems more surprising. When those perceived as lacking expertise appear more certain, they are seen as more persuasive. Conversely, when those perceived as having expertise appear less certain, they are seen as more persuasive. Apparently, and sadly, if you don’t really know what you’re talking about, speak with great conviction in order to persuade others; why do politicians spring to mind as an appropriate example? Alexander Pope suggested that ‘some people will never learn anything because they understand everything too soon’. An unshakeable belief in their own message can override the shaky foundation on which it is built.

The ‘uncertain expert’ received support from George Santayana who said that ‘the wisest mind has something yet to learn’. Can you imagine how these issues relate to your learning journey and its many features? Can you unravel and re-connect elements such as certainty, effort, (over)confidence, motivation, curiosity and perseverance?

Certainty should never be an outcome of experiential learning.  Certainty can never be a pre-condition for continued (lifelong) learning.  Nobody knows everything in a given area or specific skill, even though this is exactly what some may profess.  Everybody does know something of potential value to your own learning journey – keep your ears, eyes and minds open along the way.  Remember, however, others are describing what they do (or what they think they are doing) and description is not explanation.  Explanations are constructed from your own efforts yet, as a product of your cumulative experience, your own explanations often remain hidden from you (and are thus even further away from others).

As you know, though, there is an exception to every rule. To end this post, watch this short video; it encapsulates great expertise, total certainty and compelling persuasiveness:

Is this post persuasive? ‘tis nobler is certainly not certain – if it is, that must mean ‘tis nobler is an [complete this sentence using a noun that begins with the letter ‘E’]. 🙂

Places And The Moon

July 27th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

For a start, there’s the Sea of Tranquillity, the site for the first Moon landing.  What’s that?  Read the title of this post carefully.  It’s ‘and’, not ‘on’. Is there a link between places AND the Moon?

The first, um, place to start is with some recent research that reinforces the value of pattern recognition derived from experience.  When people were asked to make quick judgments on the safety of (photographs of) unfamiliar neighbourhoods, their ‘gut feelings’ were accurate.  Of course, this has little to do with ‘the gut’, for the explanation can be found between the ears.  Neither should you dismiss this capability as just ‘a feeling’ or intuition, for the effort invested to produce these snap judgments is substantial.

This research complements many other studies that have shown the emergence of pattern recognition as a function of increasing experience.  Learners move from trying to cope with all the little bits through to holistic assessments of more global patterns.  Experienced learners just ‘know’ things, not because they get better at guessing but because they can identify, understand and act on the patterns they perceive.

That’s the relevance of places, now for the Moon; enjoy this fabulous song by The Waterboys and pay particular attention to the lyrics:

I had flashes.”  Novice learners deal with the bits they encounter.  “But you saw the plan.”  Experienced learners combine (or chunk) these bits and operate on the basis of patterns, not bits.

I saw the crescent.”  Novice learners deal with some, but not all, of the bits they encounter.  “You saw the whole of the Moon.”  Experienced learners incorporate all of the bits into the one pattern.

I saw the rain dirty valley.”  Novice learners deal with the bits literally and independently.  “You saw Brigadoon.”  Experienced learners are able to extract meaning from patterns (in part because they’re not overwhelmed by juggling the many bits) and ‘see’ not just the big picture but beyond it as well.

Can you imagine the benefits to precision, fluency, workload and decision making when you see the whole of the Moon and not just the crescent?  Commitment to a sustained learning journey will take you many places and, eventually, take you to the (whole of the) Moon.

Ending And Enduring

July 22nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Once upon a time that was known, a period called the duration, there was joy when things were was joyous and there was pain when other things were painful.  And they all lived happily ever after, for they finally understood the effect that their knowledge of duration had on their learning and their lives.  Knowing enhances and waiting lessens.

What’s the relationship between ending and enduring?  One literal difference is that ‘U R’ is the difference.  And perhaps you are!  What’s the relationship between knowing about duration and waiting for this time to pass?  These relationships can have a direct and substantial impact on your learning and your life for ending, enduring, knowing and waiting influence the response to experiences, be they happy or sad, positive or negative.  Which endings must be endured and which can be enjoyed?  What effect does looking forward to an ending have?

The Canadian indie electronic band Junior Boys have a song called ‘A Truly Happy Ending’ in which they sing these words:

Never seen, never been in a truly happy ending,

Get so close but it always just falls apart …’

 

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Knowing there’s an ending is important; waiting for that ending is to be avoided.  In a series of studies, knowledge of ‘duration’ has been shown to increase affect in both directions.  This knowledge increases the pleasure of positive experiences (enjoy it while you can) and can also increase the ‘pain’ of negative experiences (knowing how long pain will last makes it worse).  However, actively waiting for this time to pass moderates both of these reactions – both pleasure and pain are lessened when you monitor the time slipping away.  Counting down makes pleasure and pain count for less!

Experiential learning and behavioural change are not finite activities; even when goals are achieved (or, more accurately, appear to have been achieved), there remains the need to sustain and deepen these goal-related behaviours.  If you stop moving forward, you rarely stand still; while practice might seem to ‘make perfect’, you must also engage in the practice of ‘perfect’.  If you don’t, what seemed perfect will inevitably deteriorate.

Experiential learning and efforts to change and then manage behaviour are empowering and immensely satisfying.  They don’t have a fixed or short time limit, an ending in the usual sense, for they can and must be lifelong activities.  The effect of knowing this produces great and positive affect, affect that can’t be lessened by looking for the end to arrive.  The end to learning and change never arrives; enjoy the learning and change journey for it is not something that need be endured.

Mindful

July 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

What should you be mindful of?  The usual answer is to be mindful of the moment.

Mindfulness is a concept that requires a unilateral focus on the immediate, the here and know, the moment.  It is a way to focus, to relax and to renew.  It underpins aspects of religion, meditation, therapy and ‘life coaching’.  The focus can be very narrow – breathing – or it can be very wide – the situation you’re confronting – but the emphasis is on devoting attention, your full attention, to everything.

As a learner, what should you be mindful of?  ‘tis nobler’s answer would be to be mindful of not being too mindful, except when being mindful recharges your learning journey.  What do you think the relationship between mindfulness and experiential learning is?

A single-minded focus on the immediate enables you to push away all of the other elements that comprise learning.  If you do so as a needed break from your learning, then that’s fantastic; if you do so because you believe this focus is necessary for learning, then that’s probably misplaced.

Narrowing your learning in time while expanding the amount of information you’re taking in can be counterproductive.  If you take everything in, moment by moment, how can you be mindful of the moments that are yet to arrive, the ‘future’ moments that you should be anticipating and preparing for?  If you take everything in, moment by moment, how can you be mindful of the reverberations of the moments that seem to have passed?

You can undoubtedly find things ‘in the moment’ but you can also be lost in the moment:

‘tis nobler thinks it’s wrong to conceive of the here and now as comprising all of the information you need to perform.  This conception suggests that the more mindful you are, the more successful you’ll be as a skilled performer.  Experiential learning adopts the opposite approach – the more your ‘here and now’ performance reflects the sum total of your entire learning journey, past, present and future, the more successful you’ll be.

What many consider to be thinking ‘on your feet’, another way to describe applied mindfulness, misrepresents this type of thinking for the better performers are thinking through their journey and applying the lessons learned; they are not just thinking about where they happen to be standing at any point in time.

Being mindful is about conscious control, conscious processing and conscious awareness; being experienced is about shifting from the conscious to the automatic.  The specific challenge may be in the here and now but its solution is created over a much longer timeframe.

‘tis nobler encourages you to practise mindfulness when you want to relax and recharge.  When you want to learn, ‘tis nobler encourages you to practise being mindful-less.

No Mountain High Enough, Except ……

July 15th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Nothing will stop me from getting there!  You know there ain’t no mountain high enough:

There ain’t no valley low enough.  There ain’t no river wide enough.  To keep me from getting to you …..

So, why is ‘except’ in the title of this post?  Won’t determination and application prevail over the highest of mountains, the lowest of valleys and the widest of rivers?  Nothing is going to stop you from achieving your goals.  Nothing, absolutely nothing at all.

Except, perhaps,  if someone else gets there first.  Most people might consider the achievements of others to represent an incentive for them to continue their pursuit of the same goal – if they can do it, so can I.  It reinforces the reality of achievement for it’s no longer an abstract possibility.  ‘Can anyone do this?’ is no longer a question for you have direct evidence that ‘they’ can do it.  And, if they can do it, surely it makes you more motivated to reach the goal they have already attained.

This sounds reasonable, it makes sense – except for the evidence that being a witness to the achievements of others can be deflating rather than uplifting.  Instead of ‘if they can do it then so can I’, research has shown the consequence to be more like ‘they have done it so I can stop trying now’.

Sharing the limelight that shines on others as a result of their efforts is not just pointless, it can be counterproductive.  Their achievements are not yours, their ‘limelight’ doesn’t shine on you and their efforts do not mean that your efforts can cease.

What does achievement mean to you?

Vague? Precisely!

July 8th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

How do you translate this sentence?  To be more precise, take the sentence “How do you translate this sentence?” and translate it into English.

How did you go?  Did it take you long?  Did you make any mistakes?  Really, it couldn’t have been any easier given the absolute precision of instructions and the simplicity of the task.

Now, look at these four sentences and try to work out what they mean:

Comment traduisez-vous cette phrase?  Miten kääntää tämän lauseen?  Πώς μεταφράζεται αυτή η πρόταση?  इस वाक्य दूसरों के लिए अलग है?

Did you make any headway?  Did you recognise that the first sentence was written in French?  Doesn’t ‘comment’ mean ‘how’ in English as in ‘Comment allez-vous?’ – ‘How are you?’  And perhaps the French word ‘phrase’ has some overlap with the English word ‘phrase’.  Could the French ‘phrase’ be translated into English as ‘sentence’.  How, something, something, sentence, and then a question mark.  If you can see an emerging pattern, then the French sentence does indeed translate as ‘How do you translate this sentence?’

The second, third and fourth languages are Finnish, Greek and Hindi.  As they are all questions and if the pattern continues, they probably all translate as ‘How do you translate this sentence?’  And you’d be right – almost – as the Hindi sentence is a translation of ‘Is this sentence different to the others?’ 🙂

Even if you are monolingual, you are still an interpreter for precision and clarity are uncommon features of experiential learning and behavioural change.  You must make sense of the situation as it unfolds and perform effectively and efficiently in the circumstances – the demands being imposed on you are never fully defined, never just handed to you on a plate.  Translate, interpret, act.

And this is where there must a real change.  Teachers, trainers and instructors have traditionally thought that their job is to make things as easy as possible by providing their learners with the ‘safety’ of precise instructions and unambiguous advice.  In certain tasks, viz closed-loop skills, this remains the case.

But when you must learn by doing and not by doing what you’ve been told to do, the value of ‘the vague’ has received research support.  ‘Vague’ supports personal value-adding while ‘precise’ removes the personal contribution from the process.  ‘Vague’ may be more challenging and more daunting but the essence of your learning – your own experience – can’t be artificially ‘injected’ by an outsider.  Their role is to facilitate, not force.

‘tis nobler could tell you what (‘tis nobler thinks) this video – ‘Hat’ – is all about:

And you might simply adopt ‘tis nobler’s interpretation as your own, becoming a parrot that recites without understanding rather than a performer who demonstrates the value of experiences and reflection.  Vagueness encourages autonomous learning; you should learn with autonomy rather than learn as an automaton (for there is no real learning involved in mindlessly obeying instructions)!

In experiential learning, vague suggestions are the new precise instructions.  Vague?  Precisely!

Constant Mess

June 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Today’s post is more than a game of connecting the dots, it’s a search for understanding what these dots mean for your learning and change efforts.  There’s an initial hint – it’s more about the constant than it is about the mess.  Firstly, let’s hear from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Secondly, let’s hear from The Pet Shop Boys:

And then turn the title around – “What do I deserve for what I’ve done?”

Thirdly, think through the saying ‘Winning Isn’t Everything’, particularly as it relates to the way you ‘play the game’.  When you do, including all sorts of concepts such as self efficacy, motivation, engagement and success into your musings, it might be useful to know that the evidence for the relationship between ‘getting’ and ‘deserving’ supports many interpretations.  For example, self efficacy has been shown to be an important predictor of enjoyment; at the same time, enjoyment has been shown to be an important predictor of self efficacy.  Engagement can be both a cause and an effect.  You will sometimes be motivated by reasoned action and you will sometimes act on the basis of motivated reasoning.  It’s getting very messy.

Perhaps this is a Gordian Knot problem, requiring a ‘Great’ solution.  Rather than trying to disentangle the messiness, it might be better to realise that explaining this messiness, like so many other aspects of experiential learning, is subordinate to the one constant that always applies and that is your effort.

Unfortunately, effort itself can get messy and highly variable, but only if you allow it to become so.  Effort can be independent of time, place and situation.  Effort can determine if you get what you deserve and you deserve what you get.

It’s not a constant mess, for systematic effort will refine your operating systems.  Without the constant, though, things will remain a mess.  And it’s a constant struggle to overcome the mess for ‘Everyone wants better.  No one wants change’.

Where’s The Zone?

June 20th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler is wondering whether you’ve ever experienced being ‘in the zone’.  If you have, directions would be appreciated.  Where exactly is this ‘zone’ that people keep talking about?  It appears to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time for you can be in it and then out of it in the blink of an eye.  It’s one of those strange places that you are unaware of entering, aware of while you hang around and always sorry when you apparently depart.

It must be a special place, an exclusive place, a highly sought after location.  You have to be invited but you have no idea what form this invitation takes.  Still, you are always excited to be there, for you can do no wrong while there.  Things just ‘click’ – being in this zone is error-free and empowering.  You never want to leave but you always have to go.

This ‘zone’ is a very special place indeed.  Everybody knows it, everybody aspires to it and everybody hopes that at this time, during this game or in this performance, they’ll enter the zone.  The zone is a special place.

But it doesn’t exist.

To be clear, there’s no supporting (empirical) evidence from a number of well-designed studies, although many will still attest to the zone’s existence.

If you flip a (fair) coin four times and it comes down ‘Heads’ on each occasion, is this ‘being in the zone’?  Are you an expert coin flipper or just an average coin tosser who’s on a ‘streak’?  The answer to all of these questions is, of course, no (although there is some evidence that it seems possible to ‘game’ coin tossing through extensive practice) for what is observed is improbable (relative to other outcomes) but not unknown.  It’s not a ‘streak’; rather it’s just one short-term version of a larger, 50/50 pattern.

Being ‘in the zone’ is the opposite of the gambler’s fallacy, in which a perceived dependence is established between independent events.  Rather than relying on non-existent dependencies between events, this video emphasises the value of effort to improve each event – if you watch to the end, you’ll realise that Sherwin Williams is not the name of the boxer 🙂

One way to avoid becoming unstoppable is to hope for the appearance of dependencies, for they will convince you that you can enter ‘the zone’ rather than invest and sustain the required effort. If you establish dependencies between independent events and then use them as an explanation for your performance, you might also be delegating responsibility for your performance to these dependencies, to being in the ‘zone’.  Are you using dependencies as both invalid explanations and poor excuses in your experiential learning and behavioural change efforts?

Deliberately Incidental

May 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The previous post dismissed the concept of natural ability as a predictor of experiential learning success and emphasised the central role of effortful practice, sometimes called deliberate practice.  The connection(s) between skill, practice and learning must be of sufficient and sustained strength; if not, your role reduces to that of passenger, someone along for the ride while others take responsibility and make the effort.

But there are passengers and then there are ‘passengers’.  There aren’t, however, learning opportunities and ‘learning opportunities’, for everything presents as a real learning opportunity (and so you should never think that all learning has to be deliberate for it can also be incidental.  As a deliberate learning strategy, it can also be deliberately incidental).  Evidence indicates that a combination of passive ‘passenger’ and learning opportunity can still be beneficial.

The value of expanding direct learning with vicarious experiences has been discussed previously by ‘tis nobler (here and here), although the antagonism between vicarious experience and self control has also been noted (here).  Both effectiveness and efficiency will benefit when greater effort is invested in direct learning; similarly, there will be further (perhaps smaller) benefits when direct learning is complemented by participation in vicarious experiences (again, perhaps, proportional to the level of engagement).  Experiential learning is ‘moreish’ – more effort, more engagement, more direct and indirect experiences all combine to generate more effective and efficient learning.  Can ‘lessish’ also be ‘moreish’ for learning?

It may be that direct and vicarious can be reinforced even more by passive, incidental experience (although the evidence is limited to the type of task studied at this stage).  It makes sense, though, that you can still learn when you’re in less obvious learning situations, you can still learn when you are a passive ‘passenger’.  In these circumstances, you may be unaware of your learning but you are still soaking up the ‘lessons’ the real world is presenting:

Experiential learning can happen in every place and at any time.  Effectiveness and efficiency vary as a function of direct, vicarious and passive experience but all three types can add value.  You can learn while you do, you can learn from what others have done and you can still learn when you don’t think you’re doing anything.

There is no one way and there is no right way.  There is just your way.  Find it.  Directly and incidentally, this is a good thing on which to deliberate!

 

Outside The Chunks

May 6th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Moving from novice to experienced status involves moving from bits to chunks, from pieces to patterns.  It’s incorrect to think that you just get faster at handling the bits and pieces for it is the ways in which you compile larger, more sophisticated patterns from all of the bits that is a true sign of experiential learning.  Whether you think of ‘bigger picture’, ‘mental model’, ‘forest not trees’, ‘holistic assessments’ or ‘internalised representations’, the process is the same.  As a direct consequence of experience, your way of seeing the world around you changes.

And other things change as well.  You move from serial (from bit to bit to bit) to parallel (multitasking) processing of information, you move from dealing with objects to dealing with meaning and you move from a rudimentary understanding (perhaps comprising just a few of the available bits) to deeper, more valid and validated understanding of how your immediate ‘learning’ world works.  There are implications for memory, workload and processing; ‘tis nobler hopes you get the (bigger) picture.

You move from trying to make sense of the jumble of jigsaw pieces to seeing the completed puzzle.  As importantly, you sense what the current puzzle means for you and how you should respond.  And then the current puzzle changes (something that you may already have anticipated for the availability of patterns gives you the ability to anticipate rather than just react) and you respond in a timely and fluent way.

But all patterns have outliers – novel elements – and limits; they can be both specifically different and generally the same and they are specifically general.  The former represents the balance between novelty and similarity; with increasing experience, the balance tends more and more towards similarity.  The latter indicates that patterns are not necessarily transferable to other activities (compare Michael Jordan’s basketball and baseball careers) and may actually be counterproductive.

Imagine being transported to a place where your patterns are at odds with the world around you and little makes sense.  While things look sort of the same, they are very different in fundamental ways.  And then you find a situation in which your patterns apply and things just ‘click’:

Practice promotes patterns and patterns promote efficiency.  But patterns aren’t a panacea for they might contain the seeds of their own irrelevance – the little bits that don’t fit and that might be overlooked – or they might not be as applicable to other areas as you might think.  And the more you (effectively) apply your patterns in one area, the less applicable they will become to other, unrelated applications.

In experiential learning, you develop the chunks through practice but you can never rely on just applying the chunks.  Chunks will contain novel chinks in your ‘chunk armour’ and, when you take on new challenges, other forms of experiential learning, you’ll have to think outside the chunks you already possess. Think through what the relationships between patterns and performance might be.

Ill-defined

April 29th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

This is what the dictionary says about ‘faultless’:

“Without fault, flaw or defect; perfect”

In experiential learning and behavioural change, it is better to adopt a literal definition – fault less – rather than confuse faultless with fault-free.

Performance is not about absolutes but, rather, all of the shades that exist between unlikely, polar extremes (utterly hopeless, utterly perfect).  The same extremes, and their irrelevance to performance, apply to consciousness,  The dictionary defines ‘conscious’ as:

“Aware of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc”

And yet one fundamental aim of experiential learning is to remove ‘conscious’ from the performance equation, to operate below the conscious level.  But this should never be taken to mean that you can also remove awareness and attention from the equation.

There is no such thing as a human autopilot, performance that is free from human (self) intervention.  When operating below conscious level, you may not be aware that you’re aware, but you are aware.  When operating below conscious level, you may attend to your attention but you are attending.  One implication of operating like this after much practice is the inability to describe what you’re actually doing when you’re doing the ‘acting’ for the ‘why’ is being handled subconsciously.  It is possible to describe the ‘how’ but, in the scheme of things, the ‘how’ is relatively unimportant.

But even highly automated behaviours carry the risk of error, for this risk is never set to zero.  It is possible for even the most experienced performers to slip from subconscious to ‘unconscious’ performance.  Not literally, of course, unless they faint but the chance of slipping below minimum levels of (subconscious) awareness is ever-present.  We’ve all heard people say – “What was I thinking?  I’ve done this a million times before.” – as though practice, competence or expertise should provide  immunity from mistakes.  But “it can happen to anyone of us …. cos I made a stupid mistake’:

Faultless isn’t.  Tomorrow, when you’re leaving for school or work, please double-check that you’re wearing trousers!

How Close? How Far?

April 27th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

As an experiential learner, you cannot be a passive consumer of experiences for your learning will be less effective and much less efficient.  While learning opportunities are a feature of the immediate world around you, they are incidental rather than ingrained.  You must actively pursue them rather than just wait for them to roll past.

But there are limits and so direct experience can and should be complemented by vicarious experiences.  Learn directly by doing and learn indirectly by engaging with the doing done by others for it will comprise both shared and independent experiences.  It’s good to ‘walk a mile in their shoes’:

But the answer to ‘when to learn vicariously’ is not whenever, for there is one application that appears to have costs greater than benefits.  Self-control seems to be hindered by ‘wearing other shoes’; in this circumstance, watching may be better than wearing!

In Other Shoes, ‘tis nobler stressed the value of distance to enhance self-control – Putting yourself in other shoes can help you succeed in your own.  Distance, whether it is physical or psychological, is one way to enhance self-control and maintain your own journey – but there is distance and then there is greater distance.  And greater distance seems better than distance in this instance – can you see now why wearing might be better than watching?

The vicarious experience of ‘wearing the shoes of another’ may provide useful insights into self-control but recent research indicates that this distancing may not be sufficient to overcome its costs.  Those that ‘wore the shoes of another exercising self-control’ were subsequently unable to match this level of vicarious self-control whereas those that ‘watched’ (actually read about someone practising self-control) demonstrated subsequently enhanced levels of self-control.  Insufficient distancing exacted a price.

Both direct and indirect experience can be valuable but this is not guaranteed.  In many ways, indirect may mean insufficient.  And insufficient is neither effective nor efficient.  Can you untangle proficient, sufficient and efficient in order to guide your learning journey?

What Is The Answer!

April 20th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Experiential learning and behavioural change are grounded in questions.  How do I do this?  Can I sustain this?  Why does that happen?  What is the answer?

However, what is the answer need not be a question; it might also be a statement that answers a question.  And the question has to do with attention.  It’s very important to pay attention to attention, especially as you only have a finite amount of ‘mental money’ with which to pay.  As well as you paying, attention also has an inbuilt cost.  As the world around you often presents more information than you can handle, attention excludes the unimportant and less-important stuff.

You can only identify the important, less-important and unimportant stuff through experience.  This is never a case of sorting stuff into static categories, as stuff moves from category to category (and back again) as a function of time and situation.  The standard question – are you paying attention? – is a very difficult one to answer validly.  You know when you do it (and you can find out when you’re not doing it), but you are doing it without (conscious) knowing.

The ‘where’ or spatial attention is driven by the relative locations of information and many people think ‘where’ is attention’s most important factor.  An interesting set of studies demonstrated the effect of hand orientation on attention; when objects appeared on the grasping side, they were responded to more quickly than when they appeared on the back side of the hand.  But this isn’t just a ‘where’ outcome; it seems to ‘tis nobler that it’s an indication of the overriding effect of ‘what’.

‘What’ is the answer.  Where follows what, where is directed by what.  ‘What’ is understanding; ‘what’ sorts the wheat from the chaff, ‘what’ knows where the wheat and the chaff are more likely to be found.  ‘Where’ is here, there and there; ‘what’ may be anywhere or everywhere.  Novices try to find ‘what’ by pursuing ‘where’; the benefits of experience allow you to use the sophisticated ‘what’ you’ve developed to identify, very efficiently, the ‘where’ at any point in time.

Anybody can direct their attention to a ‘where’ – it may not be the most appropriate ‘where’ but it is still some ‘where’.  Only those making the effort, sustaining their learning and effectively self-managing their behaviour will gradually but inevitably unearth the ‘what’ they seek and need.  A ‘where’ orientation accept what it is for what it appears:

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The message embedded in this post is not to accept what it is but to shift things around.  There is a world of difference between ‘what it is’ and ‘what is it’.  ‘What’ is the answer and ‘where’ is then found by ‘what’.  Is this the best way to pay attention?