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Learning styles, and the fallibility of grown ups - Learning styles, and the fallibility of grown ups - Sally's Journal Page 2
December 12th, 2005
10:40 am

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Learning styles, and the fallibility of grown ups
A musing on being wrong, being certain, trusting other people, and why the PhD all went wrongCollapse )

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From:inner_muppet
Date:December 12th, 2005 02:18 pm (UTC)
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*hugs*

Reading this feels quite odd as I've been thinking about the contrasting learning styles thing a lot recently, what with the masters application and all. I'm not sure there's space in the comment or time in my lunch hour to go into my thoughts in any detail though.

Do you still fancy coffee? Are you busy on Thursday?
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From:cathedral_life
Date:December 12th, 2005 02:25 pm (UTC)
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I want to say that I love the first paragraph. I want somebody to draw a picture of data being poked and stroked...
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From:cartesiandaemon
Date:December 12th, 2005 04:07 pm (UTC)
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:)

Data/Sally would be a nice follow up to grammar/pedantry :)
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From:cartesiandaemon
Date:December 12th, 2005 04:07 pm (UTC)
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When I wrote that, I was referring to the plural of 'datum'. But now I'm thinking of startrek. And I'm not sure which you were.
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From:flats
Date:December 12th, 2005 02:32 pm (UTC)
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Academia as debate works very nicely in the social sciences - particularly in anthropology, where you can resolve much tension by saying, "Well, that and that are both true to some degree", or "That's true there, but Other!That is true in Other!Place." I can see how it'd be more worrying in science, where postmodernism didn't happen to you and you still believe in truth of some sort at all! ;p Nonono, I do very much like the scientific method, and truth is good to strive for, but it does make it both easier and worse to say something wrong! Mmm, social sciences waffle does make life easier...
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From:sashajwolf
Date:December 12th, 2005 07:32 pm (UTC)
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But maybe the aggressive style is actually more productive than the nurturing style

From observation of friends in academia, I don't think so. I do agree that there's a spectrum of modes of expression between certain and uncertain, though, and that it's helpful to pitch towards the confident end without implying absolute certainty.
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From:vectorious
Date:December 12th, 2005 08:37 pm (UTC)
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One of my Physics tutors had a sort of reverse style to the argumentive one.

He would ask a question. The two tutees would consult, come up with an answer and give it to him.

Nothing. Not a twitch.

Tutees "damn. Got it wrong. Errr. Backfill quickly..." so we would put in caveats, gradually retreat, and andvance another theory.

Nothing.

A third theory is advanced, and maybe a forth.

Finally the tutor breaks and it turns out that we were right first time, but argued ourselves out of it.

It never failed.

Oh and never go to an philosophy tutorial. Intrinsically everything you say will be challenged and argued about (at least mine did). And you will have to hold your end up. It can get quite heated. But I suppose that is how you test philosophical ideas.
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From:robert_jones
Date:December 12th, 2005 11:56 pm (UTC)
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One of the things that still confuses me is whether all the people who seem more certain than me are just using their certaincy as a kind of shorthand, and if I prodded them they'd go "of course we can't know this, this is just my gut feeling at the moment, but there's no point prefixing everything with perhaps and maybe" or whether they really think they're right.

Let it be recorded that I am in the former camp.

When I sang in choir, we had a saying, "If in doubt, belt it out," meaning that it was better to sing the wrong thing audibly so that the mistake would be noticeable and could be corrected, than to whisper to oneself and never learn. It works better in rehearsal of course, but even in performance it can be better to be confidently wrong than diffidently right.

Similarly, if I want to test my contingent opinion (and all my opinions are contingent), the best thing to do is to put forward as strong and confident an argument as I can muster and see if the idea stands up to scrutiny. Indeed, when I am really confident that I am right (or at least better informed than my interlocutors) I am inclined to remain silent. The idea is not to hide the holes under the rug, but to bring the other person round to my view so that then I can say, "Aha, but there's this great gaping hole here, what are we going to do about it." Because if the other has not even agreed the persuasiveness of the idea, there is nothing for there to be a hole in.

I agree with you about asking stupid questions. I've recently been in the habit of immediately asking every time I don't understand something, and I find it works very well.
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From:jy100
Date:December 13th, 2005 09:51 am (UTC)
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...even in performance it can be better to be confidently wrong than diffidently right

Aargh. Wouldn't want to sing in a choir with [against?] you if that's your attitude!

Nothing personal, but for people to deliberately sing [split infinitive intended] disputed copy in performance is extremely dis-concerting [pun intended] to others.

May I suggest as an alternative maxim: "If in doubt, suck a clout"?

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From:robert_jones
Date:December 13th, 2005 03:02 pm (UTC)
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I think you have sung in choir with me, haven't you?
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From:jy100
Date:December 13th, 2005 03:39 pm (UTC)
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Um, probably. But I don't recall a conflict, so on those occasions you must have been either confidently right or wrong diffidently ;-)
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From:pjc50
Date:December 15th, 2005 11:03 am (UTC)
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From:sphyg
Date:December 16th, 2005 03:08 pm (UTC)
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YAMAICM5P.
From:douglas_reay
Date:January 5th, 2006 03:35 am (UTC)
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Hi Sally, *hugs*

I've a couple of thoughts I hope might be useful:

1. Maybe one compromise between "The answer is X." and "Is the answer X?" might be:

"I currently think the answer is most likely to be X because I've considered alternatives Y and Z and looked at factors F and G, and while the pros and cons of X,Y&Z were as follows, the balance seems to me to be mildly/strongly/overwhelmingly supporting X. What do you think? Are you happy with X too, or are there further factors or avenues of investigation that you feel likely to be worth persuing?"

Possibly making written notes for yourself in advance might be useful, if you know you tend to get flusted in verbal exchanges.


2. In business terms, the issue is ownership of risk. At a certain level of management and size of decision, your manager will not want you to explain to them all the factors and probabilities involved in an issue, so they can make the decision and carry the can if it goes wrong. They want _you_ to make the decision and stake _your_ reputation on it. The decision they want to be making is "Are you reliable? Are you the right person for the position?", and they want a clear Success or Failure record of decisions to be able to judge you on. Not very nice perhaps, but there are certain similarities in parts of academia, where the accepted language of discourse is such that you make headway by putting up a clear position and defending it. And a supervison might see part of their job as being a mentor who inducts you into this commuity, in which case they are less likely to adapt their discussion style to yours.

I have a feeling that it may depend on how you do your caveats. Whether you give them sufficiently context that you make clear for a reader without too much effort on their part the difference between your reservations, and a piece of waffle so hedged with ambiguity that it could be another Sokal Hoax.

Teachers now days are instructed not to accept answers of the form "Sir, is it 6?". The standard reply being "Is it? You tell me." hoping to elicit from the pupil a more definite "It is 6." The reason given to teachers for this instruction is that pupils will often use the question form when they are not sure between several alternatives, and if you don't pick them up on it but let them always use trial and error, they'll never learn the difference.


Douglas
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