The Graduate Student as Writer

15th August 2019

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

This week’s recommendation is rather an unusual one. “Anonymous friend” writes: “I’m one of 1M ‘silent’ students of LHTL who also enjoys your Friday Greetings emails since 2015. A friend of mine recently self-published The Graduate Student as Writer: Encouragement for the Budding Scholar, a tiny book (1.5hr read time) to encourage and help fellow young scientists to develop writing skills. It would be great if could take a quick look at it… Why? I trained as a physicist and did fMRI from 1996 to 2010, and then quit science altogether because I couldn’t figure out how to deal with ‘publish or perish’ BS. Had I come across something like Shuyi’s book, things might have been different. If it ‘worked’ for me with 15 years of age difference, it might be even more effective for people with a smaller age delta.”

And yes, we agree—it’s a very good book!  And it’s free on Kindle Unlimited.

Barb at the Harvard/MIT/Dana Alliance Learning and the Brain Conference in Boston

Don’t miss this great conference! Barb will be keynoting and giving a workshop on November 22nd (two days before her birthday!).  More information about the conference is here

A Shoutout to Southwestern College in San Diego

Barb gave a full-day professional development workshop for instructors at Southwestern College earlier this week.  What a treat it was! Southwestern College is on the forefront of learning science, with special focus on both inclusivity and diversity—right at the heart of the insights from neuroscience that were the focus of the day! 

MOOC of the Month

We’d like to bring your attention to the MOOC “Understanding Dementia,” produced by the University of Tasmania. This extraordinarily popular MOOC came from nowhere (that is, it is not on any of the usual MOOC platforms) to become one of the world’s most popular MOOCs. If dementia is posing a challenge for your family or a friend’s family, we strongly recommend this MOOC, which people have found to be of real benefit for those in trying circumstances. And yes, this MOOC is indeed on Class Central’s list of top 100 courses of all time—coming soon!

The Hardy Haberland Show

Here’s Barb in a gentle and lively podcast with Hardy Haberland, a wonderfully likeable podcaster from Germany. (And yes, in case you’re wondering, Barb’s just lounging out—that’s her bedframe and pillow behind her.)

Are You Capable of Knowing When You’ve Messed Up? Metacognition and the Brain

It turns out that people who are capable of accurately assessing their own performance, as opposed to those who are relatively clueless about their competence, actually have differences in their brains. As this fascinating article on research by Dr Steve Fleming notes:

“Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the volunteers’ brains… revealed that those who most accurately assessed their own performance had more grey matter (the tissue containing the cell bodies of our neurons) in a part of the brain located at the very front, called the anterior prefrontal cortex. In addition, a white-matter tract (a pathway enabling brain regions to communicate) connected to the prefrontal cortex showed greater integrity in individuals with better metacognitive accuracy.”

So the next time you shake your head at a clueless colleague, driver, or student, remember their cluelessness may be neurologically derived. Of course, the real question is, can we change those portions of our brains? Perhaps through learning?  Which brings us to our next study…

Can Students Learn How to Learn Better?  

Here’s an interesting major study revealing that most conventional methods of helping students to improve their performance in college just don’t work at all. [Hat tip: Brett Reynolds] Is it because students just don’t want to change? Or is it that, if they don’t have the metacognitive abilities to grasp their competency, they don’t have the impetus to change? Or is it that better methods of teaching students how to learn could do a better job? Remember—we’ve seen plenty of past testimonies in our Cheery Friday emails of students who have made remarkable changes in their lives.  What’s going on? Weigh in on the discussion forum here.  

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

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