Category Archives: Education

palace guards

Improving Communication Through Reverse Power Poses

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This paper by James Detert and Ethan Burris in Harvard Business Review has an interesting take on something that has been in the news a lot lately (and even a TED talk). The topic is “power posing” and the basic message is that if you adopt a power pose you exert a wide range of influences. It creates an internal frame by making you more confident in yourself. Even if you can’t see yourself in the pose, you know you are doing it.

Studies on power posing show that intentionally adjusting your body posture, facial expressions, and voice can help you express your ideas and concerns and win greater influence. This is true no matter what title or position you hold. Simply comporting yourself as if you’re a rung or two higher makes people act more deferentially toward you. Often, they’re not fully aware that they’re responding this way, yet the effect is in full force in any kind of hierarchy, whether it’s based on formal or informal status.

little girl in bed

Bedtime Math Stories

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So here is the set up. Too many parents have a phobia when they talk about math with their kids. They get visibly anxious and uncomfortable. They describe their interest in and ability with math negatively. “Math is hard.” “I am not good at math.” This leads their kids to think about math the same way. Plus, it reduces the child’s willingness to ask their parents for help with homework. They don’t share their interest in math with their parents over the dinner table. In the long run, it reduces our societal capabilities in math by slowing it down right from the start.

Even children who used the app with their parents as little as once a week saw gains in math achievement by the end of the school year. The app’s effect was especially strong for children whose parents tend to be anxious or uncomfortable with math.

classroom

Peer Pressure and Learning

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There have been many studies on the influence of peer pressure on behavior. One consistent finding is that many of us are influenced by the presence of others. Of course there are wide variations based on the context, the personality of the individual, the age of the individual and the peers, and the difficulty of the task. But peer pressure is often an 800-pound gorilla in the room.

As he and other researchers examined the question of why teens were more apt to take risks in the company of other teenagers, they came to suspect that a crowd’s influence need not always be negative. Now some experts are proposing that we should take advantage of the teen brain’s keen sensitivity to the presence of friends and leverage it to improve education.

students raising their hands

Curiosity Redux

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Defining curiosity is the first challenge because so many experts from the fields of education, philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience define it differently. The simplest, and the one that I personally prefer, is the one used by Celeste Kidd and Benjamin Hayden at the U of Rochester “a drive state for information.” This is independent of any tangible reward. The information is the desired reward.

Philosopher Thomas Hobbes called it “the lust of the mind.” Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt said it was “the most useful gift.” And, yes, we all know what killed the cat. But ask a group of scientists to define curiosity and you’ll get a rousing debate, and a lot of unanswered questions about its biology. No more, argue two University of Rochester researchers in a review of curiosity science published November 4 in Neuron. They propose that it’s time for researchers to organize and focus on curiosity’s function, evolution, mechanism, and development.

student sleeping

The Four Day School Week

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Many companies have experimented with their work schedules in an attempt to decrease costs, increase performance, or both. One common example is the four day/ten hour per day workweek. The workweek is still 40 hours, but compressed by a day. By moving to four days, the company can either close down the office for three days and save on maintenance and upkeep or they can rejigger shifts to have 4/day 3/day rotations that are easier to pair up than 5 day/ 2 day rotations would be. What about doing this in K-12 education?

How would you react if you were told that your local public school planned to change the schedule from the traditional Monday-through-Friday model to a schedule that contained four longer school days? Would you worry about long days for young children, their academic accomplishments and, of course, childcare?

business woman

Returnships

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At first, I was intrigued by the idea of a “returnship”. Lots of companies are experimenting with them. This is a parallel with an internship but for more senior employees. But also with some key differences that lead Working Mothers to think they are a bad idea.

A recent study found that 70% of women fear taking a career break. From my experience at Women Returners working with returning professionals, I know that many are low in confidence and feel it is impossible to find a satisfying corporate role after many years out. Is the returnship an innovative solution to enable these talented women to get back into senior roles?

Math Problem

Equal versus Equivalence

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I love this concept. On your immediate first impression, do you think of “equal” and “equivalent” being the same thing? Think again. Understanding the difference between equivalency and equality could be a really valuable concept for students to understand as soon as they are old enough to comprehend it. It would help their learning process in school (and in the real world) considerably.

Equal is defined as, “being the same in quantity, size, degree, or value.” Whereas equivalent is defined as, “equal in value, amount, function, or meaning.” In the above problem 5 x 3 is equal to 5 + 5 + 5, but they’re not necessarily equivalent. Equivalence relates to meaning, so it depends on the meaning of multiplication.

Eistein and chalkboard

Lifetime Development of Expertise

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For this week’s Human Factors in History, I went back to the 1920s to a book on the development of expertise. As you know, I am passionately interested in this topic. I am an advocate of Scott Barry Kaufman’s approach, which he shares quite extensively in his book Ungifted. But little did I know that a similar approach had been proposed as early as 1920 by Catharine Cox who had studied eminent scholars from the 15th through 19th centuries. Now THAT is a historical perspective!…

Lego Color Bricks

Motivation

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I am just catching up on some old Wired Magazine reading and I found this gem in the Mr. Know-It-All advice column. A parent wrote in asking if he should motivate his daughter to clean up her Legos by instructing her to sort them by color when putting them away. This was intended to make it more interesting. So why not let your kid decide? Let her dictate the system. Let there be a different system every time. That will generate excitement about cleaning up,…

Hand completing a multiple choice exam.

Multiple Choice Endowment Effect

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As soon as I saw this, I had to share. Not only is it a great example of the endowment effect, it has some important advice for all of our student readers out there.

Often, you’ll hear people say that you should “trust your instincts” when making decisions. But are first instincts always the best?

Psychological research has shown many times that no, they are often no better – any in many cases worse – than a revision or change. Despite enormous popular belief that first instincts are special, dozens of experiments have found that they are not.