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Hard Knock Kids
I like this article, To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test, by Pam Belluck in the New York Times Online.
From the lede:
“Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.
The research, published online Thursday in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods.
One of those methods – repeatedly studying the material – is familiar to legions of students who cram before exams. The other - having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning – is prized by many teachers because it forces students to make connections among facts.
These other methods not only are popular, the researchers reported; they also seem to give students the illusion that they know material better than they do.”
That last point is important, “other methods not only are popular, the researchers reported; they also seem to give students the illusion that they know material better than they do.”
Further along in the article Belluck hits on what I believe to be the key point:
“Why retrieval testing helps is still unknown. Perhaps it is because by remembering information we are organizing it and creating cues and connections that our brains later recognize.
“When you’re retrieving something out of a computer’s memory, you don’t change anything it’s simple playback,” said Robert Bjork, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved with the study.
But “when we use our memories by retrieving things, we change our access to that information,” Dr. Bjork said. “What we recall becomes more recallable in the future. In a sense you are practicing what you are going to need to do later.”
It may also be that the struggle involved in recalling something helps reinforce it in our brains.
Maybe that is also why students who took retrieval practice tests were less confident about how they would perform a week later.
“The struggle helps you learn, but it makes you feel like you’re not learning,” said Nate Kornell, a psychologist at Williams College. “You feel like: ‘I don’t know it that well. This is hard and I’m having trouble coming up with this information.’”
By contrast, he said, when rereading texts and possibly even drawing diagrams, “you say: ‘Oh, this is easier. I read this already.’”
The teaching strategies that seek to lessen or shield students from having to struggle with the material in a meaningful way – make things ‘easier,” also appear to keep them from actually learning the material in a meaningful way.
It is the struggle. It is the effort. If things are too easy we are not fully engaged. We do not learn as fully and deeply as we can.
I believe this goes for any type of learning – academic or athletic or artistic. If you need more data read Dr. Carol Dweck’s book Mindset.
Take The Test.
Found this Amazon.com Interview with Dr. Stuart Brown, MD, author of the book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.
You can check out another play related post here – Play: A Glimpse of the Divine.
Q: How do you know play is important to both adults and children?
Dr. Brown: In my career I have reviewed more than 6000 life histories, looking specifically at a personÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s play experiences over his or her life. In studying these histories it has become vividly apparent that play is enormously significant for both children and adults. I began thinking about the role of play in our lives while conducting a detailed study of homicidal males in Texas. What I discovered was severe play deprivation in the lives of these murderers. When I later studied highly creative and successful individuals, there was a stark contrast. Highly successful people have a rich play life. It is also established that play affects mental and physical health for both adults and children. A severely play deprived child demonstrates multiple dysfunctional symptoms– the evidence continues to accumulate that the learning of emotional control, social competency, personal resiliency and continuing curiosity plus other life benefits accrue largely through rich developmentally appropriate play experiences. Likewise, an adult who has Ã¢â‚¬Å“lostÃ¢â‚¬Â what was a playful youth and doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t play will demonstrate social, emotional and cognitive narrowing, be less able to handle stress, and often experience a smoldering depression. From an evolutionary point of view, research suggests that play is a biological necessity. There is evidence that suggests the forces that initiate play lie in the ancient survival centers of the brain–the brain stem–where other anciently preserved survival capacities also reside. In other words, play is a basic biological necessity that has survived through the evolution of the brain. And necessity=importance. But one of the strongest arguments for the importance of play is how strongly we identify ourselves through our play behavior. Just look at the eloquent memories of 9-11 victims the New York Times published. The headlinesÃ¢â‚¬â€the summation of a life—were lines like Ã¢â‚¬Å“A Spitball-Shooting Executive,Ã¢â‚¬Â a Ã¢â‚¬Å“Lover of Laughter.Ã¢â‚¬Â Play is who we are.
Q: What are the areas of our culture most in need of Ã¢â‚¬Å“play hygiene?Ã¢â‚¬Â
Dr. Brown: Most adults have Ã¢â‚¬Å“forgottenÃ¢â‚¬Â what it was like to engage in free play when they were kids. And truthfully, they may have not had much experience with free play when they were young. Beginning in preschool, the natural mayhem that 3-5 year olds engage in (normal rough and tumble play) is usually suppressed by a well meaning preschool teacher and parents who prefer quiet and order to the seeming chaos that is typical of free childhood play. We need adequate play hygiene in preschools so that both parents and preschool teachers recognize the difference between dangerous out of control boundary-less anarchy, and normal play– diving, screaming, chasing, even some punching. When there are smiles and continuing friendships, rambunctious play is healthy. The awareness on the part of parents and teachers of the value of free child-organized–meaning lightly supervised–play for elementary school children at recess is another area where greater insight about play hygiene is needed. Play should also be used with teachers in their classroom, and by parents when they help their child with homework. Learning should not be drudgery. Play promotes true intellectual curiously. It has been shown to increase lifetime performance, just as adequate recess time leads to increased long term academic accomplishments. Also, parents need to control their anxieties about maximizing every minute of their child or young adultÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time to increase their competitiveness and performance so that their college resumes will be strong. With every moment scripted by adult ambitions for them, kids cannot become naturally attuned to their innate talents.
Q: How can a review of oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s own life history of their play help?
Dr. Brown: If adults can begin to reminisce about their happiest and most memorable moments, they can capture the emotion and visual memories of those moments and begin to connect again to what truly excites them in life. Generally, a personÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s purest emotional profileÃ¢â‚¬â€temperament, talents, passions– is reflected in positive play experiences from childhood. If you can understand your own emotional profile when it was in its purest form, you can begin to apply it to your adult life. Going through this process may encourage someone to give serious consideration to shifting to another job that may bring them more joy, or to infuse their current life with those elements that once brought them enlivenment but may have been left behind as they conformed to cultural stereotypes of success.
Q: If you could only cite one discovery you have made about play that continues to excite you what would it be?
Dr. Brown: It is that we, as homo sapiens, are fundamentally equipped for and need to play actively throughout our lifespan by natureÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s design. While most social mammals have a life cycle that involves dominance and submissiveness (as in Chimpanzee troops or wolf packs) with play diminishing significantly as adulthood arrives, we retain the biology associated with youthfulness despite still dying of old age! By this I mean that our overall long period of childhood dependency, which is dominated by the need for play, does not end with our reaching adulthood. Our adult biology remains unique among all creatures, and our capacity for flexibility, novelty and exploration persists. If we suppress this natural design, the consequences are dire. The play-less adult becomes stereotyped, inflexible, humorless, lives without irony, loses the capacity for optimism, and generally is quicker to react to stress with violence or depression than the adult whose play life persists. In a world of major continuous change (and we are certainly facing big changes economically now) playful humans who can roll with the punches and innovate through their play-inspired imaginations will better survive. Our playful natures have arrived at this place through the trial and error of millions of years of evolution, and we need to honor our design to play.
Q: Who is your favorite player? Why?
Dr. Brown: The exuberance that is my grandson Leo makes him my current #1 play companion. His innate humor, constant curiosity, ability to make life a playground is so contagious and pure that he sweeps me away. He takes me out of a sense of time, brings me joy, engages me fully, and does so in a climate of love. But I guess I can also muse that my favorite player is God, who somehow put this marvelous divinely superfluous process into the cosmos for us to embrace.
Incorporate them at the place you work and play. See what kind of difference they can make.
- Show respect for people, process and place.
- Exercise radical responsibility: embrace your circumstances.
- Seek balance, harmony and integration.
- Balance gravity and levity with serious play.
- Focus attention and presence. Be here now.
- Participate fully with end-to-end commitment.
- Everyone works with everyone.
- Come with an empty cup, ready to learn.
- Seek transformation and clarity of purpose.
- Save face: praise in public, punish in private.
- Develop a growth orientation: focus on the process and the journey.
- Walk your talk.
“Leonard Skinner, the no-nonsense, flattopped basketball coach and gym teacher whose name is forever linked with JacksonvilleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s legendary Lynyrd Skynyrd, died in his sleep early Monday morning. He was 77.” (Florida Times-Union)
“Part of the band’s attraction was also the name. If you were a guy with long hair in the ’60s and early ’70s you very well might have been disciplined at some point by a teacher who thought you were breaking some sort of dress code. Skinner, as the Times-Union recounts, once sent young Gary Rossington and some other boys to the principal’s office at Robert E. Lee High School, in Jacksonville because their hair was too long.”
Seth Godin wrote a post on his blog titled, How Big Is Your Red Zone. In it he describes and maps what happens in the gap/zone defined by difference between the difficulty of learning something new and the joy of mastering that task over time. Godin writes:
“Every activity worth doing has a learning curve. Riding a bike, learning to read, using Facebook… the early days are rarely nothing but fun. The red zone, is the gap between the initial hassle and the initial joy. My contention is that the only reason we ever get through that gap is that someone on the other side (the little green circle) is rooting us on, or telling us stories of how great it is on the other side.
The bigger your red zone, the louder your green dot needs to be. Every successful product or passion is either easy to get started on or comes with a built-in motivator to keep you moving until you’re in. This is so easy to overlook, because of course you’re already in…”
Godin’s contention is that the “built-in motivator on the other side telling us stories of how great it is on the other side” is the “only reason we get through the gap.” As coach and parent, I like that focus. It appeals to my vanity. My job is to tell those stories and root those in my charge on to the place where they hopefully experience the joy of mastery.
But that appeal to my vanity misses what I am coming to believe is the most crucial piece to mastery. Godin does hint at it though. In the last sentence he writes, “This (his main contention, ed.) is so easy to overlook, because of course you’re already in…” What are you “already in?”
My contention is that what “you’re already in,” is what Dr. Carolyn Dweck calls Mindset. Dweck posits there are two predominate mindsets – a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
For those who are held fast by a fixed mindset, no matter how big or small your red zone is you will need a loud motivator to break through your preconceived notions of your ability to realize the joy of
accomplishment. And in that mindset there typically is no joy in accomplishment, only relief.
For those who have a growth mindset, the joy of the struggle is equal to or greater than the degree of
difficulty of the challenge, or hassle as Godin puts it. In the growth mindset you enjoy not only the
accomplishment but the hassle. That is part of it.
Godin’s charts illustrate a point, but there is a larger point to be made. There are not two separate lines, hassle and joy, in the process of gaining mastery. There is only one line and two mindsets. One looking for the end of the line and the other enjoying the journey. Overcoming the challenge, managing
the hassle is the mastery.
At 2010 Pan Pacific Games, [iX3]sports family friend and reader, Charlie Houchin, solidified his place on the US National Swim Team by posting the 2nd fastest time by an American in the 400 meter freestyle. He is becoming “one with the water.”
Keep your eye on this one. We will be watching his progress with great interest.
Gotta give my nephew, Nick Tyrey, a bit of pub. He’s a sophomore at Cardinal Gibbons H.S. in Raleigh, NC and an outstanding distance runner. He broke the tape in his first race of the 2010 fall campaign winning the Freshman/Sophomore Kickoff 3K at WakeMed in Cary, NC. He covered the distance in 10:13. A very good time for early season on a course with some very nice climbs on it.
He’s the guy rocking the [iX3]sports T in the pic below. Keep your eyes on him.
Lewis Pugh talks about his Mt. Everest swim at TED.
Found this on metacool in my travels today. I thought it important for me to share. Will you?
“Tomorrow, in a very real sense, your life — the life you author from scratch on your own — begins.
How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make?
Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?
Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?
Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?
Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?
Will you bluff it out when you’re wrong, or will you apologize?
Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?
Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?
When it’s tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?
Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?
Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?”
- Jeff Bezos