Category Archives: Learning

Half of Motivation is Genetic

Scienceblog reports on a study showing that a significant percentage of motivation is genetic: Don’t blame kids if they do not enjoy school, study suggests

A study of more than 13,000 twins from six countries found that 40 to 50 percent of the differences in children’s motivation to learn could be explained by their genetic inheritance from their parents.

Instead, genetics and nonshared environment factors had the largest effect on learning motivation, whereas the shared environment had negligible impact.

And the shared environment had only about a 3% effect. I’m not sure what this means for motivating students in the classroom, but it does make us rethink our approaches to motivation.

Arguing Intelligently

Daniel Dennett (via Maria Popova) in his book Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking writes that

How to compose a successful critical commentary:

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.

  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.

  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

The Better Way Out to Learning

Mark Bernstein, commenting on Marcus Zarra’s article the Dangers of Misinformation, has the following to say about avoiding misinformation in writing code:

Make mistakes. Accept that code will be thrown away. Wrong turns aren’t a waste: they tell you where you didn’t want to go, and give you an idea of where you might head another time.

Find a way to be more at home with your work, and to work when you’re at home because it’s natural to do what you do. You can live with alienation, but you don’t want to.

Don’t trust the common wisdom of your technical enclave too far. Stand up, speak out, judge for yourself, and be ready to change your mind.

In other words, failure can be productive. Along these lines, Shane Parrish writes about Carol Dweck’s work on motivation, which divides people into those with the mindset that intelligence and ability is fixed and those who believe that they can be improved. Parrish cites Dweck as saying,

In the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.

So, what’s important is one’s attitude—or mindset—towards failure and learning.

Idries Shah makes a similar comment:

You yourself are your own barrier – rise from within it. —Hafiz

Part of being “your own barrier” is, as Bernstein comments, trusting in “common wisdom” without critiquing it, neither being opposed to it nor blindly accepting it. Rather, having a mindset in which, as he states, you “judge for yourself, and be ready to change your mind.” Basically, treat both failure and success as explorations in learning that lead to developing one’s ability.

Learning Styles Challenge

Will Thalheimer updates his “Learning Styles Challenge” to $5000:

That is, if any person or group creates a real-world learning intervention that takes learning styles into account–and proves that such an intervention produces better learning results than a non-learning-styles intervention, they’ll be awarded $5,000!

No one has taken him up yet. Although I can imagine that researchers aren’t looking for such challenges, it still seems odd to me that people can keep repeating the mantra of teaching to students’ learning styles without having any evidence that such interventions work.