what value is higher education supposed to add? And how is this different from what school or vocational education offer?
A further question is whether even the academic brand of critical thinking is being particularly well taught at university. According to Bryan Greetham, a philosopher and university researcher who has written several books on how students and professionals can improve their thinking, “We tend to want to do the simple thing – which is to teach students what to think, not how to think.”
This was most famously explored in the 2011 book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. The authors, American sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, found that 45 per cent of US undergraduates failed to significantly improve their critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills during their first two years at university. Other US-based studies have raised similar concerns. One from 2009, “Improving Students’ Evaluation of Informal Arguments”, published in the Journal of Experimental Education, warned that college and high school students have “difficulty evaluating arguments on the basis of their quality”.
But if universities don’t have the resources to offer intensive classes, could they weave the teaching of critical thinking skills into regular teaching? Britt thinks that academics can easily make time for quick “check-ins” during their lectures to ensure that their students understand what they’ve been told.
High school experience, of course, varies enormously by country. In France, studying philosophy – arguably the closest that traditional disciplines get to explicit critical thinking courses – is compulsory. In England, meanwhile, the critical thinking A level has recently been scrapped.
As well as calls for critical thinkers and smart thinkers, there are also frequent demands from politicians for more “entrepreneurial” university graduates – who, instead of joining graduate recruitment programmes at large employers, might start their own businesses.
Published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking and highlighted by the canny and pseudonymous Neuroskeptic, Danish researcher Morten Tromholt recruited 1,095 participants (by way of Facebook, naturally) and put them into two groups. One pledged to not sign onto the social network for a full week (87 percent made it) and a control group used the platform the same way as they always did.
In an attempt to offer more psychological support, they reached out to Grossman who is a teacher and co-founder of Mindful Schools. The definition of mindfulness, says Grossman, is to “pay attention, on purpose, to the present moment.”
more on mindfulness and storytelling in this IMS blog
oga teaches the deliberate command of movement and breathing, with the aim of turning on the body’s “relaxation response”. Science increasingly backs this claim. For example, a 2010 study put participants through eight weeks of daily yoga and meditation practice. In parallel with self-reported stress-reduction, brain scans showed shrinkage of part of their amygdala, a deep-brain structure strongly implicated in processing stress, fear and anxiety.
“There is a long history of people worrying and complaining about new technologies and also putting them up on a pedestal as the answer…
As a society, I think we’re beginning to recognize this imbalance, and we’re in a position to ask questions like “How do we live a more balanced life in the fast world? How do we achieve adequate forms of slow practice?”
xiv. fast world and slow world practices. always-on lifestyle.
p. 3. our devices have vastly extended our attentional choices, but the human attentional capacity remains unchanged. how to make wise choices and figure out what constitutes a wise choice, so we can use our digital tools to their best advantage and to ours.
by paying attention how you use your cellphone, how you handle email, how you feel when you are on FB or Pinterest, or when you multitask, you will be able to see which aspects of your current online practices are working well and which aren’t. seeing these will clearly will allow you to make constructive changes.
premise: we function more effectively and more healthfully online when we are more attentive, relaxed, and emotionally balanced. Also stated as negative: we function less effectively and less healthfully online when we are distracted, physically uncomfortable, and emotionally upset. that happens often when we are online. Good news – we can do something about it.
P. 4 engage and strengthen two forms of attention : 1. the ability to stay focused on what you are doing at the moment. 2. self-observation / self-awareness
p. 24. each excercise follows the same six-part structure
step 1: perform primary practice (email, FB etc)
step 2: observe what are you doing and feelig, paying special atention to what is happening in your mind and body as you engage in your primary practicestep 3: log your observation, in written form
step 4: consolidate observations by summarizing
step 5: formulate personal guidelines based on consolidated observatins
step 6: share and discuss with others
p. 25-26. mindfulness: the ability to direct your attention where you want it to go – to have a choice. in a world, where we are surrounded by advertisements, sales pitches, the biggest, best, and brightest promised of happiness and fulfillment that money can buy, not to mention the clear constant information overload of emails, status updates, tweets, photo albums, Netflix queues, RSS feeds, playin whack-a-mole with phone notifications. I wish I could say that we, could get away, but i don’t think that as a society we can, or even that we should (this is where Turkle cannot help).
p. 27 two modes of attention
p. 27 one is like a flash light in a dark room: you see a chair; move to the left, you see something else.
p. 28 the other mode is to go beyond focusing on a single object, but opening up to the surrounding environment. like the same flash beam, but instead intense narrowed one, this is a diffused allowing to cover more, but with less visual acuity.
p. 29 both modes can exclude each other
p. 30 attentional shift, attentional choice
how to deploy our task focus (focused attention) to our self-awareness (open attention)
the brain has two different attentional systems: one is top-down and is under conscious control. the bottom-up system, an earlier evolutionary development, is completely automated. scanning the enthronement for potential threats, alerting us to them whether we want or not, since it is hard wired.
p. 31-32 interruption have two varieties: external ones: sounds, smells, movements, physical contact. internal interruptions are: hunger, mental activity (remembering late appointment).
we cannot turn alerting mechanisms, but we can minimize distractions.
we cannot turn everything off and eliminate all interruptions. what we can do is to notice them as they arise and make a decision how to proceed and face them – whether to respond in the moment or ignore them.
it is now clearly established that we can mainly focus on only one thing at the a time. thus we have the ability to prioritize and focus on only one task.
34. emotions and the stress response
p. 40 strengthening task focus
mindful breathing – optional
simplest and most widespread form of attention training uses the breath as the object of focus. when mind wanders, bring back focus on your in- and out-breath: focusing, opening (noticing) and choosing. focus on your breath, notice when you have strayed and choose to come back to the breath
p. 41 strengthening self-observation / awareness
p. 42 Exercise 1. Observing email
Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman When he was young, Kaufman had central auditory processing disorder, which made it hard for him to process verbal information in real time. He was asked to repeat third grade because he was considered a “slow” learner.
Kaufman thinks the traditional IQ test does a good job of measuring general cognitive ability, but says it misses all the ways that ability interacts with engagement. An individual’s goals within the learning classroom and excitement about a topic affect how he or she pursues learning, none of which is captured on IQ tests. Worse, those tests are often used to filter people in or out of special programs.
FOUR PRACTICES TO CULTIVATE CHILDREN’S CREATIVITY
allowing more solitary reflective time in kids’ schedules. Whether it’s the constant demands on attention at school or in after-school activities, there often isn’t enough time in a child’s day when she can switch off the executive functioning network and tap into the imagination network.
“We support obsessive passion, but not harmonious passion,” Kaufman said. He defines harmonious passion as a core part of people’s identity that makes them feel good about themselves. Harmonious passion is characterized by flexible engagement, where a child can abandon the pursuit if it isn’t paying dividends.
give young kids a diverse set of experiences in order to increase the chances of inspiration. “Lots of things add meaning to our lives,” he said.
educators, parents, and policymakers need to reset their mindsets around student ability. “Kids who think differently are not appreciated in our school system at all
it’s even worth measuring imagination, but Kaufman believes that measurement is important so researchers can see how changing behavior affects creative achievement. But he hopes the measurements are never used as another sorting mechanism.
My note: Kaufman makes a new call for an old trend. The futility of testing is raging across the United States K12 system. Higher education is turned into the last several decades (similarly to the United States health care system) into a cash cow. When the goal is profit, then good education goes down the drain. Cultivating children’s creativity cannot happen, when the foremost goals to make more money, which inevitably entails spending less cash (not only on teacher’s salaries).
Lexxi Seay, a senior, was skeptical. “I actually never believed really in meditation. … I thought it was a joke,” she said during an interview.
Students “are just craving for ways to handle and cope with their stress” in healthy and nondestructive ways, said Gueritault. “It becomes sort of like instinctive and intuitive for them to just search for alternative ways to cope with their stress that have nothing to do with drugs or alcohol or whatever destructive behavior.”
More on mindfulness in education in this IMS blog: