The Scout Mindset

15th December 2022

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Year!

The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t, by Julia Galef. Critical thinking has stood for decades near the top of the World Economic Forum’s “10 skills needed to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution.” A real standout for us amongst the hundreds of books on this vitally-important topic is The Scout Mindset—a book about being able to see things as they are, not as you wish they were

You can think about it this way.  Some people are like soldiers.  They are there to protect their own thoughts and the thoughts of their team.  It really doesn’t matter if those thoughts are well-founded or not, their job is to fight off any evidence that might be threatening to their position. As Galef, co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality, observes: “A scout is different.  Scouts are sent out to find out what is really out there—not what we want to be there.”  

If you are looking for a great holiday gift, we highly recommend The Scout Mindset—one of the best books on critical thinking we’ve encountered. 

A useful Twitter thread discussing metanalyses and growth mindset

In the past, we’ve been critical of growth mindset.  But this set of Tweets has encouraged us to be more open to the idea that, in some circumstances, growth mindset interventions may have modest value. [Hat tip Adam Trybus].  We like this observation from amongst the comments:   “Having a growth mindset probably matters. But interventions on growth mindset probably don’t work very well.” 

Duolingo burns its userbase

It’s a bit sad watching language-learning app Duolingo throw away its greatest feature—the variety of pathways learners used to be able to use for advancement.  Users are up in arms about the rigid new single pathway, but Duolingo CEO and co-founder Luis von Ahn is doubling down on the changes, convinced that the complaints will pass.  Self-determination theories of motivation in learning predict otherwise.  And indeed, despite her three years of consecutive experience, Barb has deleted her Duolingo account and is now joining thousands (millions?) of others in exploring other language learning platforms.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Memrise, Babbel, Busuu, and other platforms are apparently experiencing overwhelming surges.

Short form version of Barb & Terry’s essay “The Promise of Habit-Based Learning”

Here is a short-form version of Barb & Terry’s popular essay on the value of habit-based learning. This essay turns the lens of neuroscience onto math education, showing how long-derided “rote” learning is actually extremely sophisticated and has an important place in education.  

Age of distraction: It’s not just the kids. Parents can’t focus either. 

Here is a useful article from the ever-interesting Deborah Farmer Kris on how to calm your increasingly distractable mind.  (We love how Deborah describes the “Pavlovian response”): 

“One of the most popular attention strategies is the Pomodoro Technique… Choose one task to work on (unitasking!), minimize distractions, set a timer for 25 minutes and go. After 25 minutes, take a brain break — step outside and get some fresh air, move your body or just let your brain rest and clear.  Then dive in for another 25 minutes. 

“I’m using this strategy right now. After my disastrous attempt at crafting the introduction, I turned on a favorite Pomodoro app — one that shuts down notifications on my phone. I’ve used this app so often in the last few years that my response is Pavlovian: My brain chatter settles down, my anxiety ebbs, my focus sharpens and I am suddenly able to engage with whatever project or article I’ve been procrastinating. 

“When I teach this strategy to students in study skills workshops (and when they actually try it at home) the response has been universally positive: “I finished my homework in half the time it usually takes me” or “I got a draft of my college essay written in 25 minutes after dreading it for weeks.”

Helping your gifted child to achieve their potential

It’s worth your while to read this blog post on how the founder of Mentava, a new  support platform for gifted kids, got 50 high profile angel investors to join their seed round.  We believe Mentava  is going to go far, because it is meeting the needs of gifted children being held back by today’s approach to education.  As the platform notes: “Gifted kids are dramatically underserved by today’s education system. Education policy heavily focuses on getting struggling students up to par, but isn’t concerned with whether high performers are achieving their potential. And the problem is getting worse: California’s DOE says no algebra for 8th graders, Virginia eliminates accelerated math before 11th grade, NYC competitive admissions switching to random lottery. ‍Whether during preschool, elementary, or beyond, Mentava provides students the opportunity to accelerate their learning when their school is unable to do so.”  If you have a gifted child (and isn’t every child gifted?), we encourage you to check out Mentava. [Hat tip: Lissa Hanckel]

You don’t need to necessarily be perfect in reviewing everything you are trying to learn! 

This worthwhile study “Selective restudy can reset recall of forgotten information,” reveals that restudying helps not only with remembering the material that’s been reviewed, but also helps with remembering related material.  This is a definite spirit-booster for those who can’t make it through everything they’d like to in a given study session! [Hat tip: Artur Wieczorek]

Birthdays and Thanksgiving

Well, we’ve got stuffing on our face with our posting about Thanksgiving, which is on the 4th, rather than 3rd, Thursday of November since, (ahem), 1942. Scout mindset matters!  [Hat tip: Cere Tabbert]

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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