Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Starbird’

Engaging Change: Transform Yourself

February 9, 2016

Element 5 of “The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking,” is what Drs. Burger and Starboard term the  Quintessential Element.  This fifth element is telling us to just do it.  Apply the first four elements.  Reading the book is not enough, we must work at changing our habits.

I would like to add some personal notes here.  As you can easily tell from the preceding posts, that I value this book highly and urge you to read it, engage change and transform yourself.

If I had one criticism of this book it would be the title.  I object to the article “The” in the title.  There are more than these five elements to effective thinking.  I would further argue that if you apply the elements in this book to thinking, you will likely find them.

I find myself engaged in several lines of inquiry at one time.  I must apply these elements to each line of inquiry as well as thinking across lines of inquiry.  We all have limited cognitive resources, so there is only so much we can do during a given time frame.  So we must all prioritize our efforts.  This is constantly a limitation, which is frustrating.  But the mental activity is enjoyable and fulfilling.  And it builds growth mindsets.

I would also remind you that much thinking takes place in your non conscious  or unconscious mind.  After you have engaged in the exercises described in the elements of effective thinking and ceased to think consciously about them, your unconscious mind will continue to work on the problemss.  You might well find solutions popping into your mind that are presumably unsummoned.  To read more about these processes enter “unconscious” in the healthy memory blog search box.

I also encourage you to read healthymrmory blog posts bearing on critical thinking (enter “critical thinking” into the healthy memory blog search block).

© Douglas Griffith and, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Seeing the Flow of Ideas

February 7, 2016

Seeing the Flow of Ideas is the fourth element of effective thinking and the fourth chapter in “The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking,”   The subtitle is “Look Back, Look Forward.”  As was mentioned in an earlier post, this is something that is fairly easy to do with respect to technology in this age of technology.  Centuries before developments were occurring at a snail’s paste and this task was much more difficult.  I attended some very interesting lectures on the development of pre-human species, which was an extremely long process.  This is painstaking research, limited by the scant available evidence, and it needs to be carefully place together.

Looking back and looking forward fits nicely into the concept of memory as a device for time travel.  Perhaps the primary purpose of memory is to look back in terms of personal and collective knowledge (transactive memory), for the purposes of looking forward or trying to predict the future.  Drs. Burger and Starboard chose this to be one of the elements of effective thinking.

All too often people conceive of an idea springing forth from the  mind of a genius.  Actually, it is a matter of an individual building upon previous ideas and producing the future.  It is not surprising that the authors, being mathematicians, chose calculus as one of their examples.  In the popular mind, the calculus was developed independently during the same period by Newton and Leibniz.  As the authors note, Newton and Leibniz each built upon the work of previous mathematicians.  Newton himself noted that if he had seen further than others, it is because he stood on the shoulders of giants.  The authors noted that Leibniz’s initial essay on calculus was just six pages.  They noted that today’s introductory calculus textbook is over 1,300 pages.  And that is just for introductory calculus.  Calculus itself has advanced far beyond that to say nothing of the multitude of applications of calculus in science and engineering.  Moreover, many other areas of mathematics have been developed and refined.  Understanding the  past development of mathematics facilitates not only its understanding, but also provides insights into future developments and applications of mathematics.

One individual who did the most by seeing the flow of ideas was Thomas Edison.  He was extremely successful at inventing product after product, exploiting the maxim that every new idea has utility beyond its original intent.  Edison wrote, “I start where the last man left off.”  He also noted that many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to successes when they gave up.”

One of the exercises to provoke effective thinking is to ask “What Were Thy Thinking.”
In an earlier post I asked the hypothetical question as to what the colonizing powers have done given the morality of today.   So the early colonies in America killed many of the native populations and made their property their own.  They also used slavery.  What were they thinking?  How did they justify what today would be regarded as crimes against humanity?  And consider today, how might some version of colonialism succeeded without stealing and killing native americans, and without slaves.  This should be an interesting, and, I hope, an enlightening exercise.

The authors asked the question, which is an especially relevant question for educators, why are there grades of “F,”  After all, the second element of effective thinking is fail to succeed.  So why are Fs derogatory? What is of interest is what the individual did to correct or remove the F.  It appears that the formal grading procedure is based on a faulty premise.

Of course, there is much more to this chapter, and I urge the reader to read the original chapter itself.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking

January 30, 2016

As I mentioned in the post “We’re Back”, there were many interesting symposia presented during our Scientific American Insight Cruise, and it would take some mulling in deciding which ones to write healthy memory blogs.  The very first presentation was by Dr MIchael Starboard is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas in Austin, whose presentation was one of the highlights of the entire cruise.  As his talk was on the five elements of effective thinking, and given that this is the healthy memory blog and that one of our mantras is growth mindsets, this talk is of special relevance.    However, I wanted to read his book “The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking,” which he co-authored with Dr. Edward B. Burger before drafting a blog post.  Now having read the book, I think that multiple posts will be necessary.  Even then, I’ll only be scratching the surface.  I strongly recommend that you read the entire book.  It is available on Amazon, including a Kindle version.  This first post provides a general overview of the book.  The book begins with the following quote from Albert Einstein:

“I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent.  Curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas.”

The first element is to ground our thoughts by understanding deeply.  One of the examples he provided regarded a workshop he attended for virtuoso trumpeters.  The workshop was led by a world famous trumpeter.  He invited the participants to play a virtuoso  piece, which they did. He completed them all, but then asked them to play some basic exercises.  Then he played the basic exercises.  There was a clear difference in the quality he played these exercises as compared to the participants.  Then he played a virtuoso piece, which was clearly well beyond anything played by the participants.  The workshop participants admitted that they devoted little time to playing basic exercises, and they saw that the continuing practice of these exercises was reflected not only in the quality with which the exercises were played, but more importantly were evident in virtue performances.  This example was particularly informative for me.  My wife  has a Master of Fine Arts degree, and is a superb artist.  I had been puzzled as to why she continued to practice her drawing.  Now I understand why she is such a superb artist.   This particular example deals with performance.  Drs. Burger and  Starbird go into much detail as how this is done and is important in any knowledge domain.

The second element involves igniting insights through mistakes, what he calls falling to succeed.  He provided an example from a class he conducts on effective thinking.  He asked the class to prove a theorem regarding infinity.  He informed them that this was well beyond their abilities, but to try anyone, even though he knew what they did would be wrong.  He asked them to work in groups and after three minutes he called upon a woman to show what her group had produced.  She was reluctant and embarrassed, but eventually did so.  Dr. Starbird said to find just one think wrong and to fix it.  She did and the process was repeated nine more times.  Dr. Starbird was amazed to find that after ten interactions a new, ingenious proof had been produced.  His warning is never to stare at a blank screen.  Produce something even if you know it is wrong.  Consider that you are 10% done and continue to iterate.  Continue chipping away at the problem until you have produced a satisfactory answer.

His third element involves creating answers out of thin air.  This is what he calls being our own Socrates.  Creating questions enlivens our curiosity.  Answers to these questions can lead to new questions.  Very often the problem involves no formulating the correct question.  This element leads to our addressing the correct question.

The fourth element involves seeing the flow of ideas, by looking backward to understand how the current idea developed, and by looking forward to try to predict where the current idea will go.   At one time in human history, this flow of ideas was excruciatingly slow.  But in our current age of rapidly developing ideas advance quickly.  Consider the flow of ideas from the first personal computer to where we are today and try to predict where these ideas will go in the future.

The fifth element is to engage change and transform  yourself.  Ready about these ideas is a stimulating academic exercise, but the objective should be to transform ourselves by engaging personal change by using these ideas to transform ourselves.