Posts Tagged ‘metacognition’

A Balancing Act

November 9th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s not fair.  It’s not right.  It’s not valid.   It’s definitely not balanced and, while it is not an act, it influences many of our actions.  Whichever way you look at it, where ‘it’ is the ways you think about yourself and others, the way of looking at it is unequal.  Where does this fundamental problem come from?  Who could be responsible for this inequality? As ‘tis nobler asks these questions, the answer is clear – ‘tis nobler.

Of course, if you are asking the very same questions, the answer is equally clear – you.  Along with wide shut (see previous post), everyone is also unbalanced:

I know myself better than you know yourself.

I know you better than you know me.

My ‘group’ knows your ‘group’ better than your ‘group’ knows my ‘group’.

Your actions ‘speak louder’ (say more about you) than my actions (say about me).

My thoughts ‘speak louder’ (are more consistent with who I am) than your (less consistent) thoughts.

And yet this lack of balance is generally ignored.  Indeed, the suggestion that ‘you know me better than I know myself’ is be a popular theme in literature and music:

But this contention is not supported by the evidence.  The origins of ‘Know Thyself’ are somewhat murky and the application of this saying to daily life is equally problematic.  We think others know us as an open book but our senses and thinking can be ‘wide shut’ and we think we know others much more than they know us because we lack balance.  How can we know ourselves when our perspective is so unbalanced?

Insight can be a marvellous quality but it (and other forms of thinking) can be distorted in many ways.  When you use insight, what is literally and figuratively in sight?  Can you think through these issues in a balanced way?

Find your own way through and around these distortions – it’s a balancing act!

Regretful, Rosy Or Real?

July 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In ‘Take Them Off’, ‘tis nobler noted that people are generally inaccurate in their assessments of their own behaviour and that these assessments are positively skewed:

Self monitoring and self assessment are core elements of experiential learning and behavioural change.  The ongoing question concerns the person being monitored and assessed.  Is it actually you, is it the ‘you’ you think others want to see or is it the ‘you’ that you’d prefer to be?  Wear clear lenses when monitoring and assessing your behaviour.

We do look at ourselves through rose-coloured glasses – as stronger, smarter, faster or more skilful than objective scrutiny would indicate.  And, as well our general behaviour, we recall many past decisions through the same glasses, one reason why we repeat past mistakes.  Other past decisions reverberate as reasons for continuing regret, something which can be offset through closure.

Both regrets and rosy recollections can be derived from an inaccurate perspective on past decisions – they are rarely as negative or positive as we subsequently recall for they are passing moments in a much longer journey.  You can and must learn from past decisions but you are not constrained to repeat them for their apparent rosiness or their ongoing source of regret.  There will be links and overlaps between current challenges and past decisions but there need not be any dependencies (which would be another variation of the Gambler’s Fallacy).

Would it be possible for Robbie Williams to replace ‘regrets’ with ‘rosiness’ in this song?  Could he have sung – ‘No rosiness, it doesn’t work, no rosiness, it only hurts’?

Rosiness and regret may be two sides of the same coin, the one that ties you to past decisions in ways that hamper the here and now.  How do you balance a longing for ‘the good old days’ (which could be as recent as the ‘great’ decision you made a few months ago) with the rueful conclusion that ‘things have never been as good as they are now’ (if only you were young enough to take advantage of them)?

We do think of past behaviour and previous decisions differently when we examine them from the present.  This examination needs one of the three Rs to be applied and you get to choose which one – regretful, rosy or real.

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!

Can’t You See – It’s Right

June 15th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Can’t you see it’s for the best?  How hard is it to see that it’s for the best?  Perhaps the best way to see that it’s for the best, that it’s the right thing to do in the circumstances, is not to see it at all.  Could it be that the evidence indicates that there is a case for the (temporarily) blind finding the right way (as opposed to the blind leading the blind the wrong way)?

When you look, you can be bombarded with the noise and clutter of life, every part of which is clamouring for your attention.  Some parts will receive it without really deserving it while you’ll overlook some important parts because you are looking over there.  One of the many benefits of sustained experiential learning is the increasingly refined process of sorting the important from the irrelevant and this advantage, while never perfect, can really help decision making.

Still, moral decisions can be more nebulous than performance decisions – compare the differences between ‘Should I say that ball was just over the baseline?’ with ‘Should I hit down the line or hit cross court?’  For a start, the former requires conscious deliberation while the latter is (after some experience) done without  conscious thought.  But there are many other differences and doing the right thing is, rightly or wrongly, often a relative and relatively difficult judgment.

Sometimes, despite the (occasionally gratuitous) advice from others, the right thing to do is not staring right at you.  It has to be disentangled from the clutter somehow and you will gradually learn how to do this in principle and through practice (but it remains something that is ‘fine’ in principle but much more awkward in practice!).

Could it be that the evidence indicates that there is a case for the (temporarily) blind finding the right way (as opposed to the blind leading the blind the wrong way)? The answer to this question can now be revealed, and the answer is ‘Yes’.  Research has shown that the simple act of closing your eyes can assist with moral decision making – ‘so close your eyes, you can close your eyes, it’s all right’:

It’s reasonable to think that this might be another reflection of the value of distance (as these excerpts from previous posts show):

Distance, whether it is physical or psychological, is one way to enhance self-control and maintain your own journey.

Step outside yourself before stepping into their shoes and your understanding of how they see you will be a better fit.

You can set your own ‘distances’ between strategies, motivations and excuses.  How will you find your own way, how far will you travel and how involved in your journey will you be?

It’s worth a try – closing your eyes – when you’re tussling with a ‘Should I’ question.  Create some distance, retreat momentarily inside your head and away from the clamour by closing your eyes.  You don’t always need to look when finding your own way.

Easy To Believe

April 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s a common saying – easy to believe.  Appearances can be deceiving, even to an experienced performer, which is why experience builds in multiple redundancies.  Looked at in one way, an appearance can be deceiving; when looked at in different ways or when different things are looked at concurrently, the ‘deception’ can be revealed.  Still, notwithstanding the various fail-safes we use, we are never safe from failing, underscoring the need for robust self-management in addition to skilled performance.

But nothing’s perfect and even robust self-management has its lapses.  This is where deception can make an appearance; this appearance is all about deceiving!  If it was just a bit of harmless deception, the little ‘white lies’ that are often used to lubricate the wheels of interaction, this post would come to an early conclusion.  However, it’s more than that for the ‘lies’ are not as ‘white’ as they might seem.

It’s not just deception; it can also be about self-deception, a combination of deception and delusion.  There is evidence that self-deception is resistant to self-correction, in part because we fail to see the need for correction.  In this sense we are, as Smoosh  tell us, our own lies:

We are so afraid to be ourselves …

We are our own lies…


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Pretending that we know is much, much more frequent than knowing that we pretend.  There are, however, choices.  We don’t know what we don’t know but we can discover what we don’t know through effortful practice.  Similarly, we may not know when we are pretending to know but we are not destined to be our own lies.

These are difficult learning paths to navigate – can you find your own way?

To Do, Not To Do

February 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Aristotle said:

“What lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.”

Willpower and self control are recurring themes in experiential learning and behavioural change, vital building blocks in systemic performance.  But their portrayal in programs does leave a lot to be desired, often reducing to simple encouragement to ‘do better’ or ‘try harder’.  There is a great to-do about ‘to do’ and ‘not to do’.

In ‘Ends can end the means’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

Learning can never be about dogmatic willpower, for what could be an exciting future will progressively narrow to a constantly receding pinpoint of light.   Don’t let your attachment to goals prevent you from reaching them!

Summary: willpower is never enough!

In ‘This too shall pass’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

All of this is based on the traditional view that willpower is a finite resource that eventually runs out.  The only way to get it back is to take a break and return refreshed.  Just as there is a limit to the number of push-ups you can do at any one time, there is a limit to the amount of willpower you can apply.  But some recent research suggests that this may not be the case and that, perhaps, the limits to willpower are believed (or learned) rather than actual.  What changes if you realise that limited willpower is a self-fulfilling prophesy rather than a fact?  Are you able to turn this around by learning that your willpower is not limited, that it is possible to keep going and going?

Summary:  limited willpower may just be in your head and it is possible for unlimited willpower to be there instead!

In ‘The manager manages the manager’ and ‘Don’t do that, d’oh’, the ineffectiveness of suppression, of thoughts and behaviour, was noted.  You always remember that which you are consciously trying to forget while just trying to stop doing something leads to you doing it more often.

Summary:  to suppress is to pretend you’re in control.

And we shouldn’t forget the issue of ‘baggage’, that there is an inverse relationship between self control and procrastination – the more you exert self control, the less of a procrastinator you’ll be.  It can also be possible to ‘import’ self control from other aspects of your life and apply it to your learning journey; if it exists somewhere, you can use it here.

Luckily, we can rely on Aristotle to tie up some of the many loose ends; he said:

“For the things we have to learn before we can do, we learn by doing.”

And the point of this post is that there is evidence to indicate that there is a practice effect for self-control.  Implementing self control behaviours, rather than just coping through willpower or suppressing the ‘objects of your desires’, does lead to more effective self control.

If you have to learn self control before you can control yourself, you learn self control by controlling yourself.  And if, through effortful practice, you equip yourself as well as you can, everything looks sharper, more colourful, crisper and more meaningful:

Think of self control as a skill that responds to practice rather than a practice that requires finite willpower or a strong personality.  It’s never beyond you for you just need to make the effort to learn.

Social Solving

November 12th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

They say that many hands make light work so let’s twist this around a bit.  Will extra hands turn the light on in your head?  Welcome to the world of social solving.

Some recent research examined the effect of brief, positive social encounters on what psychologists call ‘executive functioning’ – things such as working memory and self-monitoring, processes that are central to problem solving.  Spending some time getting to know the other person, chatting about life in general or exploring common interests – the sorts of standard social interactions we tend to take for granted – contributed to better problem solving performance.

Interestingly, when there was a competitive dimension to the encounter (as there often is, for much applied communication has a persuasive aim), there was no apparent change in performance.  When you want to win, you tend to stay the same; when you want to share and understand, you tend, for a short time at least, to get better.

Social solving relies on your objectives.  If you want to impose, coerce or dominate, any benefits from this behaviour may be illusory.  Being involved and engaged and wanting to explore rather than conquer can enhance, broaden and deepen both the interaction and your consequent learning.

And this is a perfect opportunity to play this video:

What a joyful, collaborative experience!  As an experiential learner, engage authentically with those who pass by your journey for the benefits, while unpredictable, are important.  Now, if only corporations, governments and nations could learn this lesson!

Write Your Own, Right Your Own

October 29th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Here is a video that relates to your journey, whether it’s a journey of learning or behavioural change.  It embodies concepts covered in previous posts in an entertaining way.  But it is up to you to extract their value to you; you could dismiss the video as a bit of pop psychology or philosophy or you could burrow down below the surface of the video and explore some of the most important issues confronting you.  It’s your choice:

Write your own story.

Right your own life.


October 8th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

If you’re going on an extended trip, you don’t set off without luggage.  If you’re about to commence an experiential learning journey, it’s near impossible to set off without baggage.  Luggage is invariably helpful whereas baggage can be either a help or a hindrance.

Baggage can be a help because it can contain previous, probably vicarious, experiences of the skills you want to acquire.  You don’t see a car or traffic for the first time when you set out to learn how to drive; you don’t see a game of football for the first time when you front up to try out for the team.  You’ll have some knowledge of what lawyers, salespeople, real estate agents or police do.  These experiences can shape prepotent behaviours and, if these are generally in the ‘right’ direction, some of the necessary foundation can be built ahead of time.  It is always possible to start learning before you think learning starts!

Baggage can also be a hindrance as these prepotent behaviours are not derived from your direct experience and are more likely to introduce bias – things look different if you are a spectator.  One way to offset this is through the use of self control, which allows you to engage in learning rather than implement behaviours that reflect expectation rather than experience.  It can be tempting to assume, on the basis of observation and peripheral involvement, that you can already do what you’ve seen others doing.  It can be tempting to mimic the things you’ve seen others doing.  But these temptations are not learning; they are a house of cards that will collapse under the slightest pressure.

The use of self control has an added benefit.  There is an inverse relationship between self control and procrastination – the more you exert self control, the less of a procrastinator you’ll be.  It can also be possible to ‘import’ self control from other aspects of your life and apply it to your learning journey; if it exists somewhere, you can use it here.

We tend to think of our baggage only when looking backwards, particularly in the last three minutes:

But this need not be the case.  Although grounded in the past, baggage can be used prospectively and positively.  Experiential learning and behavioural change should not involve being controlled by others.  It does, however, require self control.  Find your own way and control your own journey.

Modes Of Travel

October 4th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

How do you get to where you’re going?  Do you know where you are heading?  Is there such a thing as a final learning destination?  Is arrival a stage or an ending?   Is it possible to complete your journey or does it simply continue in a different form?

You will arrive at many ‘stops’ along the way, sometimes for a breather and sometimes through achievement, but these milestones do not constitute a reason for stopping.  Milestones are not conclusions.

But, while there may not be a conclusion, there are many conclusions you will need to reach.  Otherwise, how would you ever make a decision?  Hence, the point of this post; in reaching conclusions, what is your mode of travel?

There are many correct answers to this question and you can establish each of these for yourself.  But there is one mode of travel that, to reach a conclusion, should not be considered.  This mode of travel is jumping:

Many things can combine to generate performance errors; there is a big difference between anticipating and getting ahead of yourself.  Cognitive biases, competing priorities, normative pressures, specific circumstances and perceived utility can all contribute to error.  This is why robustness and resilience, learning and overlearning, are necessary.  Any shortcut is a shortcoming.

Wingsuit or not, before you jump, plan, gather, analyse, decide, do and monitor.  And then keep doing it; while it becomes easier with experience, this remains indispensable.  It can be as much about self-management as it is about skill.

If you jump without doing these things, even if you’ve jumped many times before, you may jump to your own conclusion!

It’s Your TOSS

September 29th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

There is a natural order in experiential learning and behavioural change with which you should comply.  There is a system by which you should abide.  There is a structure to which you should adhere.

But the order, system and structure are not what you might be expecting in a world that values the regular, the methodical and the incremental.  The order, system (and) structure – TOSS – traditional arrangement is something that you need not give a toss about.  Toss it if you like.  Unless you decide to keep it, that is, for it is, after all, your journey to shape and sustain.

Still, TOSS traditions – the usual recipes and formulas – make as much sense to ‘tis nobler as Julie Fader saying goodbye before hello:

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You can toss tradition whilst retaining a TOSS.  Think of your TOSS as before, during and after rather than this before that or any version of walk before you run.  Think of your TOSS as a daily frame rather than a global framework.  Before, during and after and then repeat; before, during and after.  It is possible for ‘after’ to be intermittent rather than contained and, as such, any ‘after’ might bump into the next before.  This is why it’s a journey and not a series of classes!

Your own TOSS puts you in control and dispenses with recipes that may be set out by others.  Your own TOSS aligns your short term interests with your longer term objectives.  Your own TOSS provides the flexibility and variety needed to sustain an extended journey.  Your own TOSS allows you to jump off the deep end if that’s what you want to do, doing so while managing the experience to offset your inexperience.

There are many studies and meta-analyses of studies that present ideas for making learning activities as useful as possible and there’s one idea that’s always at or near the top of the list – goal orientation.  Before, during and after, your learning TOSS should reinforce the ‘why’ of your effort – it’s not to finish quickly, it’s not to get more money, it’s not to show off to friends, it’s not about passing a test and it’s not to move on to something else.

It’s about learning, before, during and after your doing.  Aim for that and do that.  It’s your TOSS.


September 24th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

It is possible that ‘probably’ is an ill-defined word.  Being an ill-defined word may be improbable, perhaps, but not impossible.  I’m just not sure how I could possibly establish how probable this assertion is.  As Jill Barber sings, “What are the chances”,

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What are the chances?  Establishing the probability of an event occurring can be a real challenge, even when the event is hypothetical.  This is demonstrated in many attempts to answer questions about probability during statistics examinations:

“It is desirable to study for this exam; if you do not study, there is an 80% chance that you will fail.  Even if you do study, there is a 20% chance that you’ll still fail.  History indicates that only 60% of students will study for the exam.”

If you didn’t study, what are the chances that you failed the exam?  If you studied, what are the chances that you failed the exam?  What is the chance that Student X will pass the exam (assuming study behaviour is the only variable)?  Research has shown that it is easier to solve questions like these by translating them into simple counting activities (if there are 100 students, 60 will study etc) instead of trying to deal with percentages and proportions.  Nevertheless, when you start introducing conditional probabilities (if this, then that), applying the necessary logic can be both difficult and daunting.  When you increase the number of conditions, the necessary logic, while more difficult and daunting, becomes increasingly irrelevant.  If your life has essentially infinite possibilities, all of which have a non-zero probability and many of which are dependent on most everything else, is there any point in trying to establish the chances?

Experiential learning and behavioural change are underpinned by conditional probabilities but you don’t really need to think consciously about them (unless they relate to obvious, perhaps risky, events, in which case you need to manage them).  Through experience, your learning and behaviour will become attuned to relative probabilities – the patterns that ‘tis nobler has talked about before.  Sometimes, these are called expectancies and they reflect your understanding of the world and how it works.  Much of your time will be based on expecting the expected, except for those occasions when you need to expect the less-expected.  Infrequently, you’ll have to expect the unexpected.

You do not need mathematical talent to assess the chances.  You don’t need to spend your time worrying over conditional probabilities.  But you do need lots of experience in order to incorporate increasingly refined expectancies.  Many people think it’s all about expecting the unexpected but this is less important than monitoring and anticipating the range of expected events.

With experience, you’ll know what the chances are.  There’s no ‘probably’ about it.

Go That Way

September 22nd, 2010 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Here’s a simple guide to heart transplantation:

Open up the chest, take out heart and replace with new heart.  Close the chest.

Here’s a simple guide to driving a car:

Not too fast, not too close, concentrate.

Here’s a simple guide to downhill skiing:

Not one of these guides is wrong; they are all just woefully and totally inadequate.  ‘tis nobler wonders how different these guides are to the support, or perhaps direction, you receive from those around you.

Teachers, trainers, instructors, coaches, supervisors, parents and peers can all make important contributions to your learning journey.  But they cannot take this journey for you; you can never delegate your learning needs to them.  Retaining the integrity of finding your own way at all times while incorporating the wisdom of others, once you have thought through what has been said and made your own decisions on what it means for you, is a critical and ongoing balancing act.

It can be difficult and frustrating but finding your own way is the only true way.  If you think that it is possible to learn by being a passive recipient rather than an active participant, ‘tis nobler can only provide the following sage advice:

“Go that way, really fast.  If something gets in your way,…….. turn.”

And now you can answer the obvious question – “Did this help or not?”


September 15th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

As an experiential learner, understanding the world around you is your greatest challenge as appearances can be deceiving, even more so when some things don’t appear to appear.  But they are there, nevertheless.  Not seeing something doesn’t make it invisible but it can make it very surprising, when it eventually appears to you while having been there all the time.

So, appearances can be deceiving in a couple of ways.  Is it better to be fooled than unaware?  Are there things you can do that can reduce the chances of being misled because of something someone else did or something you failed to do?  Appearances, misleading appearances and unseen appearances, either separately or sometimes all three in the one place at the one time, can conspire to produce error.

This video is called The Other Sky – it presents things that appear as they are and things that appear as reflections.

Small actions – a breeze, a raindrop or a pebble – and appearances can alter, with significant consequences, not just where the action occurred but radiating out from that spot to affect a much larger area.  You may not be aware of the initial action – it could happen before you arrived, in the next office or around the corner – but that does not mean that you won’t be affected by the ripples.

Reflection is both a useful metaphor for cause, effect and spread while also being a powerful thinking strategy – reflect on appearances, actions and ripples.  What can you do to avoid being affected adversely by them?

An Open Book?

September 2nd, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s as plain as the nose on your face.  Exactly how plain is this?  If you’re Pinocchio and you’ve been less than candid, it’s very plain; this is, however, the exception that proves the rule.  This rule also helps explain the interpersonal confusion that may give rise to comments such as “Can’t you see I’m annoyed?” or “I made my position very clear!”

You may think your life is an ‘open book’; after all, it is to you as you are the one living it.  But even an open book can present challenges if you are not familiar with it:

Yesterday, ‘tis nobler talked about the link between self awareness and decision making; previously, the effect of interpersonal connections had been discussed (see, for example Expecting, Reflecting).  Let’s now turn the spotlight onto the issue of transparency, as perceptions of transparency and spotlights can have a significant impact on your learning methods and outcomes.

While you may be an ‘open book’ to yourself, this level of familiarity does not extend to other people, even though you often assume that it does.  This illusion of transparency can shape and distort learning and behaviour – believing that everything you are thinking and feeling (and, to a lesser extent, doing) is immediately and absolutely accessible to others can affect how you feel, what you think and, ultimately, what you do.  Can you imagine how this non-existent transparency can affect you and your learning?

The illusion of transparency can be exacerbated by the spotlight effect – the belief that all eyes are trained on you, following your every move and noting each of your errors.  In fact, in many social, including social learning, situations, people pay most attention to what they themselves are doing and pay scant attention to the actions of others.  At the same time, and in defiance of their own behaviour, each person believes that their actions are being closely watched by others.  Can you imagine how the illusory ‘spotlight’ affects you and your learning?

Perhaps it is better to focus transparency and the spotlight inwards rather than outwards.  Being transparent to yourself and examining your learning and behaviour under your own reflective spotlight can be very beneficial.  Can you imagine how self-transparency and your own spotlight affect you and your learning?

Self-transparency allows your own spotlight to shine everywhere, not just where you’d prefer it to illuminate.  Be an open book to yourself.

Do Minds Ever Meet?

August 25th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Can we ever be on the same page?  Do our minds ever meet?  In a broad, figurative sense, the answer is ‘Yes’; we are generally with (many but not all) others on a range of issues.  We say the same sorts of things, we align ourselves with normative standards and we generally behave in socially acceptable ways.  This is the big picture and, while it’s valid, it provides limited guidance for this picture is fuzzy.  It can be difficult to see the standards for the ‘snow’.

A person is clear about what they are doing and why they are doing it.  After all, their thinking is generating their thoughts and, therefore, they know exactly what they are thinking.  Inside your head, your decisions, motives and actions are clear – all (personal) standards, no ‘snow’.  But this can’t, and doesn’t, extend to others; after all, you can only see their head, you can’t see inside it.  Therefore, it’s unclear just how accurate Fiona Apple’s  lyrics to ‘I Know’ actually are:

‘…I will pretend, that I don’t know of your sins

Until you are ready to confess, but all the time, all the time,

I’ll know, I’ll know

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How, and how well, do you interpret the actions of others?  Evidence indicates that we are biased in this interpretation, seeing ourselves as objective (because we know and justify (to ourselves) our own actions on the basis that we know exactly why we are behaving in a particular way) and others as wrong or misguided (because we fail to realise that we lack the complete picture that may explain their actions).  Assuming that the actions of others are as transparent to us as our own actions are (to us) leads to many attribution errors.

Interestingly, we also treat our future selves in this way.  We cannot know exactly what we’ll be thinking at some point in the future and so we predict our actions as that of ‘others’ rather than ourselves.  We equate others now with ourselves in the future (as both are similarly opaque to us) and become more biased in our assessments of both as a consequence.

Can you see how this relates to learning and behavioural change?  Knowing what you think is very different to thinking that you know.  Knowing what you think is an imperfect guide for learning, behaviour and change, unless you are, in fact, perfect; in fact, you are not perfect so this shouldn’t be used as the justification!  Thinking that you know (without the experience or understanding to support this view) can lead to overconfidence and error.  It’s vital that you find your own way to sort out the connections between knowing, thinking, doing and learning.

You Are In Your Own Words

August 20th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler has previously dealt with the contrast between situation and personality (see Overpowering); essentially, what you do tells me more about the situation than it tells me about who you are.  Actions do speak louder than words and we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that your actions reflect your personality.

However, you are in your own words – what you say about me also says something about you.  There is a link between elements of your personality and what you say about others on these same elements; if I describe you as outgoing, positive or well-adjusted, it is, in part, a reflection of the fact that I am also outgoing, positive or well-adjusted.  While these assessments are reasonably stable over time and therefore reliable, they may vary in validity.  Can you understand why this may the case (hint: it has something to do with ‘overpowering’)?

It’s also worthwhile disentangling the content of these assessments from their process, separating the ‘what’ from the ‘how’.  Both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ could be expected to be consistent in broad terms; if the ‘what’ (positive or negative) reflects aspects of your personality, the message will probably be delivered in a similar (positive or negative) way.  One of these may be more affected by the situation – can you identify which one?

What you do tells me about the situation and what you say tells me more about you.  These broad principles are examined in this great song by Kate Miller-Heidke  – the words that were spoken being overpowered by the situation ….. and I’m sorry:

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‘And I turned my back and just walked away’.  For sometimes, it is the things we don’t say (or don’t do) that define us more strongly.  You are in your own words and you are also in your own silences.

Step Outside

August 17th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Isn’t life and learning so much easier, more understandable and more predictable when you are able to view it as a spectator?  Sitting in the grandstand and watching events unfold down on the field is a luxury that we all have from time to time.  And everything is much clearer – you can judge what others should be doing, you notice things that they fail to realise and you can often spot the way events are unfolding well before those involved do.

But neither your life, nor your learning, is a spectator sport.  You are always on the field, never in the grandstand.  Without the physical and psychological distance available to spectators, people have to make sense of their actions while being in the middle of the action.  Chris Rea was perhaps only half right when he sang, “And I see you, And I see me, I see it all, Just like a diary”:

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I see you because I am a spectator whereas I can only ‘see’ me because I am the actor.  These perspectives can produce very different results, in part because spectators operate on incomplete information while actors have much more information (including information hidden from spectators) at their disposal.  But the main point for today is how do I see me as you see me.  How do I gain insights into my own behaviour by gaining insights into the way you see me?

The short and incorrect answer is to put yourself in the other’s shoes.  The starting point for this leap into different footwear is the way you see yourself; you take your view of yourself and transplant it onto them.  This is where the inaccuracies emerge for research has shown that there is little or no association between my assessment of your view and your view itself.  I don’t fit into your shoes!

The more correct approach is to introduce some psychological distance into the assessment process by becoming a spectator of your own actions.  In this way, your own assessment becomes more divorced, more abstract; you are not basing it on your own direct information but on an abstraction.  The associations between my more abstract views and your view are stronger.

Don’t just put yourself in their shoes for this act simply changes your shoes.  Step outside yourself before stepping into their shoes and your understanding of how they see you will be a better fit.

The Manager Manages The Manager

August 10th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

When I count to five, you can think of anything you like except penguins.  Ready?

1, 2, 3, 4, 5.  Now I’ll wait 30 seconds.

You lose, for the chances are that penguins, in some shape or form, popped into your head.  After all, you are a sentient being, a being that thinks and feels about what it thinks and feels – you have an awareness of your awareness, you can be consciously conscious.  With the explicit goal of not thinking about penguins, you will have monitored your progress towards achieving that goal by thinking about penguins.  You lose the game but, through thinking through how you think, you win at experiential learning and behavioural change.  Assuming you engage and connect rather than drift, that is.  If you have seen ‘The Matrix’, it’s like the choice between the red pill and the blue pill.  Always take the metaphorical red pill.

For this enables metacognitive thinking- the thinking about how we are thinking, the thinking about how we are feeling – something we are all capable of doing and yet something that is done less frequently than it should be.  Could this be explained by the attractiveness of drifting and/or an aversion towards effort?  If you think things look OK as they are or if you are satisfied when things are satisfactory, extra effort and a deeper connection may be difficult to justify.  The opportunity costs of this perspective are enormous.

It is possible, perhaps common, and undesirable to just coincide with learning opportunities, rather than fully engage with them.  If you proceed in parallel with learning opportunities, physically attending without being attentive, your effort may never overlap with these learning opportunities.  It is possible to be isolated from yourself as well as other people; as R.E.M.  sing in ‘Hollow Man’, I’ve been lost inside my head ….For saying things I didn’t mean and don’t believe …… I’ve become the hollow man I see ….:

Don’t be hollow – thinking about your thinking is vital.  Self-management is crucial but not sufficient for efficient learning and sustainable behavioural change.  Through metacognitive thinking – self-monitoring, self-assessing, reflecting and predicting, thinking about how you are thinking and feeling – you can actively manage your self-management.  You are the manager and you are also the one who manages the manager.  Can you manage that?

Being Watched

August 4th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Capacity constraints are an oft-discussed macroeconomic issue – without the infrastructure in place to pump out more stuff, transport more stuff or export more stuff, the economy underperforms.  Stuff stays in the ground or is never made in the factory, stuff is held up getting to market due to bottlenecks along the supply chain.

Experiential learners also have capacity constraints; as with economic constraints, these can be managed.  Over time and through effort, these constraints are gradually eased.  How do you assess these constraints?  How do you monitor progress and manage demands?  How do you know that you have reduced these constraints on performance?  The broad answer is through metacognitive involvement – being connected to your performance and your behaviour.  One specific answer is to perform while being watched.

The relationship between individual and group or audience is, unsurprisingly, a complicated one.  One aspect that should never feature in this relationship is, in the words of Grizzly Bear, to wait for the others to make it all worthwhile:

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There can be big differences between ‘private’ practice and ‘public’ performance and these differences can provide useful, direct feedback on your learning.  If your performance on any given task is robust due to effortful and sustained practice, the presence of others can be positive; distraction can be controlled, focus can be enhanced and arousal can be increased.  But there is another side to this coin!

If your performance on any given task is not robust and likely to break down when additional demands appear, the presence of others can be very negative; distractions take over, focus is lost and nervousness replaces enthusiasm.  A downward spiral ensues as errors compound errors and mistakes that you rarely make during ‘private’ practice become commonplace.  We’ve all been there and we’ve all done that!

Can you shift from ‘private’ to ‘public’ performance and maintain your performance?  You may be able to complete a parallel parking manoeuvre between markers in a quiet car park well away from anybody else; repeating this same manoeuvre on a busy street with cars lining up behind you as you struggle to find reverse gear with shaking hands is very different.  The core task is the same but executing it with an audience requires robustness.

Think of your experiential learning journeys; at any point along the way, how do you go while being watched?  Use this information to inform rather than discourage as robustness requires a true public-private partnership.