Tuesday, October 6, 2015

It's Nothing Specific. It's Just Really a Sorta Gestalt Thing. (With UPDATE FOR OVERLORD RGM.)


Okay, what I mean is. I have a bafflement surrounding me. I bet some of you do, too. What's yours about?

23 comments:

  1. Dammit, Hiram, at least TRY to fake some content...

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  2. I'm baffled by people who are apparently immune to evidence.

    I have my biases, I'll admit, but I've also changed my mind on a variety of topics over time when the evidence warranted it. I thought that was pretty normal. Cognitive science, as I understand it, suggests that I'm actually kind of weird. Not that there's any surprise there.

    I'm also baffled by performative administration. I know meetings are a kind of ritual, and public fora particularly so, but I'm trying to figure out why and how these gestures actually function, especially among a population that's supposed to understand how these things work.

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    1. A colleague who follows things closely suggests this procedure for breaking student biases in quantitative science.

      1. Show students a demo that goes to a often misunderstood concept. Explain what you are going to do to set it in action. Ask them to commit to an outcome and a reason for preferring that outcome. I poll the the class and write on the board the number who voted for each outcome (use clickers or equivalent for anonymity; flashcards held near the chest are good enough). If you students are willing collect reasons, too.

      2. Run the experiment. Get the class to describe the actual outcome. Explain why the actual outcome is correct, and in particular why the usual wrong reasons are incorrect.

      (I was doing all that, but the next steps are critical)

      3. Show them a variation on the same demo; one that probes exactly the same ideas. Get them commit to an outcome and reason,a gain. If possible poll them again.

      (3b. Boggle at how many are sticking with the same explanation they used last time. But only inwardly. Here is where a professor is an actor.)

      4. Run it again. Explain again why the wrong explanation are wrong and the right explanation is right.

      This time it will stick for at least some of them.

      The key is that you have to directly challenge the misunderstanding twice in a row or it doesn't stick. We'll call the guy who told me about this Mike. Mike is a chemist, so the person who demonstrated it to him used a physics demo. Mike reports getting it wrong the first time, but also getting it wrong the second time and only then realizing that he'd kept his original reasoning in the aftermath of the first round of demonstration. Apparently this is normal; AKA people are weird.

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    2. I'm not entirely sure how I'd translate that into history... maybe primary sources debunking a common myth? Thinking...

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  3. I am baffled by students who will nod their heads and smile, make eye contact. Almost give a fucking thumb's up!

    And then five minutes or five days later say, "Huh? What? You never told me about that?"

    Are they taught on-verbal cues they are to use to kiss ass of an older person or authority figure? I'd rather have them look dumb as dirt like I was. My teachers used to always say, "Uh, Cal, baby, close your mouth. You're attracting flies. Now, what didn't you understand."

    I was better off.

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    1. I've learned that the visual signs that I think of as engagement only translate into credible test results about 1/3rd of the time. But every semester I have to discover which 2/3rds are just going through the motions...

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  4. I'm baffled by "Digital Natives" having only the most rudimentary computer skills. They also are averse to clicking. If they have to click more than twice, an overwhelming fatigue sets in, and they can't go on.

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    1. The other day, on some website or other, I saw TWO clickbait links to slideshows of people using selfie sticks to record themselves doing stupid things that ended badly.

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  6. Replies
    1. Famous for being famous. Celebrity substitutes for royalty in the States. At least British royalty know something about decorum. American celebrities, not so much.

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    2. The media focus on The Donald as a farce when his competitors have recently and clearly expressed heinous opinions about rape, abortion, and women's health.

      I'm also baffled that I have found respect for Megyn Kelly.

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  7. I'm baffled by students who say they want to teach, but who don't want to study.

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    1. Oh, well, see, you don't have to KNOW something to teach it, amiright?

      I am baffled by students who are applying (or who have already been accepted) to my program in advanced hamstermobile diagnostics, who, when I ask them "what makes a hamstermobile go?" reply "you just step on the gas pedal and it goes," while wearing an expression that I've just asked a question beneath them like what letter comes after E.

      I am baffled, but not surprised. I saw the same shit in my classmates as an undergraduate: they had chosen to study in a field for which they lacked sufficient prior interest to at least have read an encyclopedia article on it.

      Underlying this is they think it would be cool to do something, and/or they could make big bucks doing it, because they saw someone pretending to do it on TV. They don't seem to understand that to become good at it will require learning, which is work! So before you spend all this time and money on learning something, wouldn't you want to be sure that you'll actually enjoy aspects of that work?

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    2. Interest, curiosity, whatever you call it -- it really is a prerequisite for learning (or that much-desired other prerequisite for learning, engagement), isn't it? And no desire for a particular lifestyle, or earning level, is a real substitute (though desperation to earn enough to keep one's, and/or one's family's head(s) above water might be a close substitute. Most of our students, for better or for worse, aren't at that point.)

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  8. I'm baffled by being midcareer without really having something that resembles what we usually call a career, on a non-tenure-track "track" that isn't really a track (it's more like a very long deadend street, or perhaps some sort of endless loop -- a hamster wheel, perhaps? That's kinda what it feels like). I've been doing my present job for c. 15 years now, and I don't hate it, but I am ready for more responsibility (or at least different responsibilities), and I'm very, very ready (despite a few substantial raises along the way) to earn more (despite said raises, I still don't earn as much as the greenest entry-level tenure-track professor in my department, and they're by no means overpaid in relation to the local cost of living). I could probably still change career (i.e. have a career), but I dislike the idea of throwing away the experience I've gained so far. So I'd like to do something that makes use of those skills, which brings us back around to the fact that what I'd really like to do is progress, in the various incremental ways that usually go along with a career/track, from my present position. Except it's not at all clear how to manage that. I'm pretty sure I could find ways to make/take new responsibilities, as long as I didn't expect compensation for same, but that doesn't seem like a great idea for multiple reasons. So here I stand, both periodically overwhelmed by grading (and all the other demands of an increasing proportion of students who are themselves baffled/scared/nonplussed etc. by what I'm asking them to do) and periodically bored by the whole thing, which doesn't seem like a good combination.

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    1. P.S. Hiram, it's good to see you back, even if you're currently baffled about what to be baffled about.

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    2. I'm baffled that we treat you (collective) this way.

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  9. I'm baffled by the students who, seven weeks into the semester, seem surprised that they're supposed to sign a roll sheet every day (yes, I know, but I'm supposed to certify whether students are "active" in the class and, if not, their last day of attendance).

    I'm more baffled by the students who, seven weeks in, sign the roll sheet but don't pick up a handout from the pile next to it.

    I'm most baffled by the five students who signed in today and picked up the handout and then put them away in their bags. The handout said "XYZ instructions." We're doing XYZ today. When I asked students to refer to the handouts, they noisily unzipped and clicked and got them back out. Seven. Weeks. In.

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  10. I'm baffled by the student who got a schedule change 7 class periods ago, who then came to my class yesterday when I had a substitute. He sat in the class the entire period and turned in the assignment. oO

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  11. Ben Carson. Here's what Phil Plat says about him:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2015/09/24/ben_carson_anti_science.html

    Jeez, Hopkins is going downhill fast.

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