December 30, 2011

Bètacoach: promising project to improve math education

Recently someone told me about a promising and innovative project (named Bètacoach) by Monique Pijls (photo) a Dutch math teacher and consultant. The project is aimed at improving math education (in The Netherlands, the exact subjects are sometimes called 'bèta subjects') . I find this project interesting because I think improving math education is important and because the project seems to have some solution-focused characteristics.

December 29, 2011

A few questions for the new year

  1. What went well in 2010? 
  2. What did you do that you are you proud of?  
  3. What would you like to be different? 
  4. How would you like next year to become? 
  5. What would you like to try differently? 
  6. How would you like your future to become?

December 27, 2011

When you become good at something

Often, when you become good at something, your 'reward' is that you're asked to do more of that activity so you'd better find interesting what you try to become good at.

December 26, 2011

Top 15 posts of 2011

As an end-of-year tradition here is a list of what I think are this year's best posts. This year I wrote fewer posts on this blog than in previous years. While, of course, I can't objectively say how interesting and useful this year's posts were, I can say that some of the posts I wrote this year belong to my favorite things I have ever written. I learned a lot thinking and writing about these topics and by reading your comments. I am glad that you, reader, appear to have found some of them useful and interesting, too. If you want to let me know what your favorite post was, that would be nice.

What I think were this year's best posts:

December 24, 2011

The map is not the territory

In my posts Objective reality as an asymptote and On truth: we can distinguish between false and falser (and discussions that followed those posts - mainly in my LinkedIn group) I shared my views on the difference between reality and our interpretation of it.

Summarizing my thinking about this: I argue against: 1) saying that reality does not exist, 2) saying that reality is unknowable to us, 3) saying that we should not bother trying to refine our understanding of reality, 4) saying that there is no sense in trying to distinguish between the validity of one truth claim and another, and 5) calling one's view on the world 'one's truth' (and therefore saying that everyone has his own truth and that everyone's truth is equally valid).

December 21, 2011

10 Tips to make your written communication more solution-focused

A manager asked me how solution-focused principles and techniques may be applied in e-mails and written proposals. An interesting and important question. Solution-focused practice is usually primarily associated with oral conversations but there is no reason why it could not be used in written communication as well. Here are some suggestions off-the-cuff to make your written communication a bit more solution-focused:
  1. Make it useful by asking in advance what the other person's expectations are from your text. It may sound counter-intuitive but you can just ask your clients what they would like your proposal to look like, how lengthy it should be, and what elements it should contain. 
  2. Make it simple: make your words, sentences and structure no more complicated than strictly necessary. Writing a simple text may seem easy but it usually isn't. It often requires more time and attention. But simple and clearly structured texts are more easily understood by readers and more pleasant to read. 

A tripartite taxonomy for teaching, measuring and conceptualising solutionfocused approaches to coaching

By Anthony M. Grant

Solution-focused approaches to facilitating purposeful positive change through methodologies such as coaching have great potential to contribute to the broader human change enterprise. To date there has been limited exposition of psychological theory within the solution-focused arena, and few attempts to articulate taxonomies specific to solution-focused research, teaching and practice, thus restricting the development and broader adoption of the solution-focused paradigm. Drawing on the established solution-focused literature, this paper seeks to address this issue by articulating a tripartite taxonomy for solution-focused coaching based on the framework underpinning the Solution-Focused Inventory. This model consists of three factors: (a) Goal-orientation; (b) Resource Activation; and (c) Problem Disengagement – subscales of the Solution- Focused Inventory. Implications of this taxonomy for teaching, research and practice are discussed and a range of future directions for research explored.

Source: The Coaching Psychologist Volume 7 No 2 December 2011, p98-106

December 16, 2011

Testing the Association between Solution-Focused Coaching and Client Perceived Coaching Outcomes

Visser, C.F. (2011). Testing the Association between Solution-Focused Coaching and Client Perceived Coaching Outcomes. InterAction 3 (2), 9-27

This paper describes a survey study into the association between SF behaviours of coaches and clients perceived coaching outcomes. A web-based survey was administered with 200 clients of coaches. The survey consisted of a list of 28 coach behaviours, 14 of which were SF behaviours and 14 of which were behaviours SF coaches would avoid. Clients were also asked to describe on several dimensions how effective the coaching had been. SF coach behaviours were strongly positively associated with positive coaching outcomes. Non-SF coach behaviours were moderately negatively associated with positive coaching outcomes. A multiple regression analysis was done, which gave insight into which specific coach behaviours were predictive of coaching success. The paper closes with some reflections on the implications of this study and with suggestions for followup research.

Read full article (draft)

December 15, 2011

Objective reality as an asymptote


To my post On truth: we can distinguish between false and falser, I received several responses. One response contained the following statement: "For what I understand of radical constructivism (thinking I am one), reality is not denied (this is another thing). It's just that "true reality" cannot be objectively known, for there's always a subject looking at it, either directly or through devices (scientific apparels). So, any view of reality is true in and for itself. Yet, that doesn't prevent people from talking about their differing views and coming to a consensus to what true reality (or reality "out there" as constructivists say) probably is. When everybody though Earth was flat, so it was. Yet, someday, someone experimented (and measured) that it was spherical. (personal) experience grounded that belief and we yet have to find someone who can prove that Earth is flat again (or cubic). So we trust that to such a high level that we relinquish doubt and consider that the earth reality out there is indeed spherical."

Here are my thoughts on this: I would not say "any view of reality is true in and for itself". I think any view may seem/feel true but this different (I think) from whether it actually is (or to which extent is actually is). In the same vein, instead of saying "When everybody thought Earth was flat, so it was.", I would say "Although everybody thought Earth was flat, it actually wasn't." Although it may have not mattered much to most people whether or not it was flat, and they may have treated the earth's supposed flatness as truth. This, however, did not reflect the reality of the shape of the earth which wasn't flat.

December 14, 2011

On diagnostics in personnel selection

David Creelman will soon publish an article on the use of diagnostics in personnel decisions. In it, he points at some problems with formal diagnostic tools. He argues that organizations should always use formal tools in combination with informal tools. I'll link to the article when it's online. Meanwhile, David asked me for my views on the use of diagnostics in personnel management and here is what I said:

On truth: we can distinguish between false and falser

Yesterday, I received an interesting reaction to my post Two dimensions of rationality: "Isn't SF based on constructivism? I may be too radical, but in this case that would mean that there's no such a thing as "what's true" (more precisely: what's true is unknowable for any kind of knowledge is constructed into one's own mind). So, it boils down to "what works" and "what you experienced as true" (meaning that someone else may have experienced something differently, being "true" on different points or even "false" from their point of view)."

My response is: "Thank you for your reaction. Yes, one of the main inspirations for the people who originally formulated SF was social constructivism / social constructionism, which were popular philosophical perspectives in those days. These knowledge theories consider how social phenomena or objects of consciousness develop in social contexts. Some people, inspired by these ideas think that objective reality is not knowable for us. Others have even said that objective reality does not exist. The latter people may say that there is not one truth but there are many truths or they may reject the whole notion of truth and reality.

December 13, 2011

Two dimensions of rationality

In his book What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought, Keith Stanovich explains how cognitive psychologists define rationality. They distinguish two basic forms of rationality: 1) instrumental rationality, behaving in such a way that you achieve what you want, and 2) epistemic rationality, taking care that your beliefs correspond with the actual structure of the world.

At the risk of simplyfying too much, instrumental rationality seems to be about doing what works and epistemic rationality is concerned with truth and refers to seeing reality for what it is. It seems to be a pitfall to overlook any of these two rationalities. Two undesirable situations may happen:

A.    Only focusing on what is true but forgetting to do what works may lead to your neglecting to do things that help you to survive and remain connected to other people. In extreme cases this may lead to a situation in which your questioning dominant false beliefs may threaten governing institutions so much that they may want to isolate you or worse (for example think of Copernicus and Socrates).
B.    Only focusing on doing what works but neglecting the what is true question may lead to you moving efficiently through a web of falsity distancing you more and more from reality. In extreme cases it may lead to such pragmatism that individuals may gradually go along with and adapt to situations which systematically undermine human thriving of themselves or others (such as joining a religious sect). 

Thinking about this, I thought of visualizing this as follows:

December 5, 2011

Do recent publications prove Anders Ericsson and colleagues wrong about the importance of deliberate practice? No.

About deliberate practice
I have written much about deliberate practice. Researchers have demonstrated there is a lack of evidence for the claim that natural ability is the main factor behind top performance. They have found out that what is crucial instead is the amount of time the individual has practiced and the specific way in which he or she has practiced (read more about deliberate practice here and here). Recently, two articles were published on the relative importance of deliberate practice and 'talent' for achieving high levels of performance. First, there was Deliberate Practice Is Necessary but Not Sufficient to Explain Individual Differences in Piano Sight-Reading Skill by E. Meinz and D. Hambrick. Second, there was Deliberate Practice: Necessary But Not Sufficient by G. Campitelli and F. Gobet. Do these articles shed a new light on how important deliberate practice is? Do they call for a return to the idea that innate abilities are, in the end, more important? Did these authors prove Anders Ericsson et al. wrong? No. I'll explain why.

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