June 27, 2016

The New and Improved Blog

I have decided to get back into the world of electronic reflection.

I have purposely left some of my favorite posts from my old writings but will be regularly adding new thoughts, tips, podcasts, videos and more. So be sure to stay tuned. There will also be a weekly email with cool things I found and want to share. Click below if you want that.

I was always good at sharing...it was talking out of turn that got me. Click below.

You will see that there is a  page dedicated to the LTL Podcast which can be found on I Tunes. All recordings are less than 20 mins and delve into many of the current topics of the day. In addition, we have AWESOME guests.  Click on the Logo, check it out and spread the word.

June 20, 2016

Talent vs. Effort

Imagine a world where we focus more on effort and not as much on intelligence...what would happen?

Carol Dweck, in the late 1970s, did an experiment with 6th graders. In that experiment, she had two groups. One group strongly believed intelligence controlled success while the other felt intelligence did not control everything. This was based on an initial questionnaire that Dweck administered as part of the experiment. Those that believed that intelligence is "set in stone" were referred to as the fixed mind-set, the others were associated with the growth mind-set. Once the groups were decided, each group was given a series of questions. The first set easy, the next set much more difficult.  The fixed mind-set folks started doubting themselves quickly when it came to the more difficult tasks. They began to question their own intelligence, even though just moments before they were confident of their abilities. The growth mind-set folks did not have the same difficulties...they never thought of themselves failing and they continued to work at those seemingly impossible tasks (that some completed)...why???

Dweck did a similar test twenty years later based on the same principles as before only with a focus on words. Two groups, same routine, puzzle to solve...the difference was afterwards the students were given six words of praise; half were praised for their intelligence, the other half praised for their effort. The reason for this was simple...see if words could make a difference in productivity and success.  Guess what??  After the first go around, students were given another test. They were asked if they wanted the easy or hard test. Two thirds of the intelligence-praised students chose the easy test whereas 90 percent of the effort-praised students chose the hard test. The students that were praised as intelligent were "afraid" of failure and not living up to their intelligence label while the effort based folks were ready for a challenge...Interesting!!

Now, step away from Psychology for a minute and think about your own world. How many times have we know a person that has always been the cream of the crop, whether we are talking about athlete, musician, student, etc that never quite lived up to the expectations of others. Was it because their intelligence or "natural talent" was praised as opposed to the effort put into the tasks. Think back to the 10,000 hour rule...those folks that put in hours upon hours (thousands) of purposeful practice most likely did not think much about their natural talent while they were banging the piano keys, shooting free throws, or doing math calculations forever and ever, they were putting in the time...focused on effort.

I find myself doing it all of the time.."you are so smart!...That should be an easy question..." When I probably should be saying, "that is a great effort you put into that problem...you really worked hard on that task." Think about those that have low self-confidence or those that are behavior issues. When we tell them how smart they are or how talented they are or how good they are....at that moment they are good, but then reality hits. "I've got to maintain these assumptions about me...how am I going to do that!!!" That is why we see, over and over, the behavior disorder kid do great, then, all of a sudden, tank...self-sabotage. It is harder to maintain the image of an intelligent, well-behaved learner for those kids. 
So is it talent? Don't get me wrong, I am still not convinced that some people aren't blessed with some special talent that allows them to jump higher, hit farther, sing better....However, as I see these studies, my eyes begin to open about the possibilities not only for my students but for ME! Hard work does matter, practice does work, diligence pays off. If I want to learn Spanish, I can. If I want to learn guitar, I can. If I want to become better at calculus as a 36 year old educator...I can! One thing I hope for is to start leaving behind the notions that talent makes a difference and start realizing that hard work, purposeful hard work can overcome those talent shortfalls. 

For more on how hard work overcomes talent read...
Syed, M. (2010). Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham and the science of success. Harper Collins: New York.
Gladwell, M. (2008), Outliers: The story of success. Little, Brown, and Co: New York.


June 13, 2016

Harry Harlow and the Monkeys (old post I repurposed...Enjoy!)

For those of you that do not know this, I am a huge Dan Pink fan. Pink has written several books that are definitely worth the time reading, especially A Whole New Mind and Drive. The focus of this Friday's conversation is based on some of the things I have gathered from the book Drive by Dan Pink (a great deal of the future conversations will come out of these readings). Anyways, Dan Pink spends a great deal of time on the topic of motivation, specifically instrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. This is a topic that intrigues me and it will you too if you ever decide to try one of his books. 

In the 1940s a man named Harry Harlow conducted experiments with eight rhesus monkeys for a two-week period. The task was for the monkeys to solve a simple 3-step puzzle that required them to pull out a vertical pin, undo the hook, and lift up the hinged cover. This would be a super easy task for the normal human but seemingly difficult for a monkey in a lab. To make a long story short, these monkeys (left alone) began to figure out these puzzles and became rather good at solving the problem. Now because there were no rewards, such as food, praise, etc, Harlow questioned why they were able to figure this out. Scientists at this time knew of only two drives that motivated humans. One, was biological...hunger, thirst, etc. The second, rewards and punishments, also not present in this experiment. So what was it?? 

Harlow deduced that there is a third drive, "the performance of task." The monkeys performed the task simply because they found it gratifying to solve the puzzles. It seemed they actually enjoyed it! Harlow eventually called this drive "intrinsic motivation." They later tried similar experiments but added "rewards" such as raisins or other treats for completion of the puzzle. The scientists believed that by adding the external motivator that surely the monkeys would perform even better. Interestingly enough it was discovered that the monkeys actually performed worse. "Introduction of food in the present experiment," Harlow wrote, "served to disrupt performance, a phenomenon not reported in the literature." This was an interesting finding that ultimately lead to Harlow leaving the field...not because of success but because he was "run" out due to it not aligning with conventional wisdom.

What does this mean for us??? Humans react the same way (adults and kids). The carrot and stick approach may work in the short run but over time the "prize" has to significantly increase or the kids simply begin to lose interest in that motivation. As educators we have to continue to look for ways to develop that third drive (intrinsic motivation) in our students. We have to continuously look for ways to motivate these students not for the rewards they receive but because they have pride in what they do and they want to succeed. This is not an easy task but the smiles on the faces of those unmotivated students that finally feel accomplishment is our own little instrinsic motivation. Let us continue to strive to find ways to motivate the un-motivated as well as those that have already set specific goals for themselves.

This is one of the many interesting stories/studies you will find in books such as Dan Pink's Drive. 
Pink, D. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Penguin Group: New York.

June 6, 2016

The Urinal Pattern...

Here is an interesting observation...hang with me on this, it may seem way out there.

I got this idea the other day when going to the bathroom....stay with me.  This was a bathroom I used on a regular basis in a school where I previously taught. My mind was sparked for one reason...I went to the same urinal that I always used when I was a teacher there 7 years ago. I didn't even think about, went straight to the same urinal as I always did.  Again, bear with me...