Growth Mindset Research–Why we need to re-consider teaching cursive handwriting.

Quote:  “Cursive handwriting improves neural connections in the brain,” and stresses physiological movement of writing cursive letters to “build pathways in the brain while improving mental effectiveness.” Iris Hatfield

What you may not realize–and what many educators and parents do not realize– is that by learning cursive you are learning how to communicate in another method from printing and keyboarding. In practicing cursive you are building the neural pathways necessary to stimulate brain activity that enables language fluency and vision-motor control important for cognitive development, learning, reading, sports, and other everyday tasks. In most three grade classrooms computers and key boards now dominate every classroom. With the entrance of the information age has come a shift to emphasizing the development of knowledge skills over physical skills.  Keyboarding is in vogue and cursive is out as one of the Common Core Standards for best education practices.

What you may not realize–and what many educators and parents do not realize– is that by learning cursive you are learning how to communicate in another method from printing and keyboarding. In practicing cursive you are building the neural pathways necessary to stimulate brain activity that enables language fluency and vision-motor control important for cognitive development, learning, reading, sports, and other everyday tasks. In most three grade classrooms computers and key boards now dominate classrooms throughout our nation. With the entrance of the information age has come a shift to emphasizing the development of knowledge skills over physical skills.  Keyboarding is in vogue and cursive is out as one of the Common Core Standards for best education practices.

Without recognizing it, those repetitive cursive handwriting drills we did as children were some of our first and most basic steps in developing our cognitive abilities. Fine motor skills are the building blocks our brains need to connect and make sense of the world around us through our 5 senses. Understanding and knowing how to form letters on lines to a certain shape and size, at a certain angle, in real time and space comes through the fine motor control of the hands and arms. Cursive handwriting naturally develops sensory skills, as they are called, by taking advantage of a child’s inability to fully control their fingers. Through repetition the child begins to understand how much force need be applied to the pencil and the paper, positioning of the pencil to paper at the correct angle, and motor planning to form each letter in fluid motion from left to right. This physical and spatial awareness allows them to write but more importantly builds the neural foundation  of sensory skills needed for a myriad of everyday tasks such as zipping up clothes to tying shoes, picking up and using objects, copying words from blackboards, shaking hands, and most importantly, reading! Unfortunately we are abandoning the activities that allow for this cognitive and physical development to take place.

Over the past few years doctors and neuroscience specialists alike have been working to understand and educate the masses on the effects of educating the mind alone.

As Pulitzer Prize nominated neurologist Frank Wilson wrote in his book, “The Hand: How its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, And Human Culture,” “teachers should not try to educate the mind by itself.” If educators continue to dissolve the disciplines that involve the hands and the body in full movement, much of the knowledge will be poorly processed and inadequately learned.

So what do we need to do as parents if neuroscience science experts and their brain research studies show the positive effects of teaching cursive handwriting as a basic building block of cognitive development?

Challenge: Find ways to educate school leaders on the neurological benefits of cursive handwriting and make parents aware of the positive effects on brain development and cursive handwriting One solution is to promote this problem is for schools to require and teach all three modes of writing–  printing, cursive and keyboarding. All of these modes have benefits for brain development and are necessary tools for brain development.

Consulted resources and research:

  1. The Hand: How its use shapes the brain, language, and human culture. Frank R Wilson. First Vintage Books Edition, September 1999.
  2. http://www.newamericancursive.com/docs/NAC Why Teach Cursive.pdf
  3. http://www.helium.com/items/197736-cursive-handwriting

 

What would Aristotle say about the “Marshmallow Effect and Happiness?

What would Aristotle say about marshmallow effect and happiness?

The essence of instant gratification or “marshmallow” effect is summarized here: Delaying Gratification More than 40 years ago, Walter Mischel, PhD, a psychologist now at Columbia University, explored self-control in children with a simple but effective test. His experiments using the “marshmallow test,” as it came to be known, laid the groundwork for the modern study of self-control. Mischel and his colleagues presented a preschooler with a plate of treats such as marshmallows. The child was then told that the researcher had to leave the room for a few minutes, but not before giving the child a simple choice: If the child waited until the researcher returned, she could have two marshmallows. If the child simply couldn’t wait, she could ring a bell and the researcher would come back immediately, but she would only be allowed one marshmallow. In children, as well as adults, willpower can be thought of as a basic ability to delay gratification.

Aristotle would be strongly critical of the culture of “instant gratification” or eating the marshmallow in the moment. Yet in our world of instant gratification, most people want to be rewarded now not later. For example, instant gratification is so predominate in our society today because of or selfishness and technology. Yet in Aristotle’s non-tech world his view was in order to achieve a life of balance and complete virtue, people needed to make the right choices, and that involved keeping an eye on the future, on the ultimate result want for lives as a whole. Aristotle believe that people  achieve happiness not by enjoying the pleasures of the moment. Unfortunately, this is something most people are not able to overcome in themselves because of lack of will power.

As Aristotle laments, “the mass of mankind are evidently quite slavish in their tastes, preferring a life suitable to beasts… and instant pleasures (Nicomachean Ethics, 1095b 20). Later in the Ethics Aristotle draws attention to the weakness of the willpower. In many cases the overwhelming prospect of some great pleasure obscures one’s perception of what is truly good. Fortunately, this natural disposition is curable through self-awareness and training, which for Aristotle meant education and the constant aim to perfect character or what he called perfect virtue. As he puts it, “a clumsy archer may indeed get better with practice, so long as he keeps aiming for the target.”

Note also that it is not enough to think about doing the right thing, or even intend to do the right thing: we have to actually do it. Thus, it is one thing to think of giving up alcohol or smoking, or create a beautiful piece of art or heart felt poem and another thing to put together a plan to create the sustained energy, effort and time to do it. When we impose a form and structure upon the idea of happiness and actually produce a compelling change in our daily life, we are challenging our rational and intellectual abilities and emotions that if accomplished bring a sense of delayed happiness, pride and fulfillment.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Examine your life over the next 24 hours and identify one instant gratification” habit  you would like to change. Then create a SMART STEP Action Plan for change it in the next 30 days.

Mindfulness: Try Creating more FLOW in your Moment to moment Living

Daily Quote: “Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last blockon a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves…The task is to learn how to enjoy everyday life without diminishing other people’s chances to enjoy theirs.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

“A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”  – Csikszentmihalyi, 1990

Here are some of the characteristics that comprise THE FLOW EXPERIENCE according to Csikszentmihalyi’s.

Characteristics of flow:

  • Complete focus on the task at hand
  • Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback
  • Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down of time)
  • The experience is intrinsically rewarding, has an end itself
  • Effortlessness and ease
  • There is a balance between challenge and skills
  • Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination
  • There is a feeling of control over the task

Who experiences flow?

Interestingly, a capacity to experience flow can differ according to personality. Studies suggest that those with ‘’autotelic personalities’’ tend to experience more flow.

A person with an ‘’autotelic personality’’ tends to do things for their own sake rather than chasing some distant external goal or dream. This type of personality is distinguished by certain meta-skills such as high interest in life, persistence, and helping others.

It can be speculated that negative and critical individuals are more prone to anxiety and being self-centered, which are conditions that can block the state of FLOW. In contrast, servant leaders, responsible, considerate and realistic individuals are more likely to spend time on mastering challenging tasks, which are characteristics important for creating the flow experience.

What happens in the brain?

The state of flow has been rarely investigated from a neuropsychological perspective but is a growing interest. According to Dietrich, it has been associated with decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex.

The prefrontal cortex is an area responsible for higher cognitive functions such as self-reflective consciousness, memory, temporal integration, and working memory. It’s an area that’s responsible for our conscious and explicit mind state.

However, in a state of flow, this area is believed to temporarily down-regulate; a process called transient hypofrontality. This temporary inactivation of the prefrontal area may trigger the feeling of distortion of time, loss of self-consciousness, and loss of inner-critic.

Moreover, the inhibition of the frontal lobe may enable the implicit mind to take over, resulting in more brain areas to communicate freely and engage in a creative process. In other research, it’s also hypothesized that the flow state is related to the brain’s dopamine reward circuitry since curiosity is highly amplified.

Play to Learn using Growth Mindset and 10,000 hour rule.

The Game of Learning Design—The goal of effective learning is to  take valued people from where they are now to where they want to go by learning to live on purpose and becoming master of their potential into high performance.                                                                      

We all know that at some point we are going to die. So the question becomes what are we going to do with our time here?  What is our purpose for living? How long will it take to become a “master” in some professional skill or performance activity?

 I just finished reading Malcom Gladwell’s latest book, Outliers. In one of its chapters, he explains the 10,000-hour rule. This rule states that people don’t become “masters” at complex things (programming, music, painting, free throws) until they have accrued 10,000-hours of practice. And…he does a great job of illustrating that people who are commonly regarded as “masters” are really just people who hit the 10,000 hour mark very early in their lifetimes. (Examples: Mozart and the Beatles in music; Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak in programming, Michael Phelps in swimming.

The research he cites to prove his point is compelling. It does support this 10,000 hour threshold and crosses all types of areas from foreign language acquisition computer programming through hockey. Who cares, you ask? As learning professionals, WE SHOULD.  In an era where company management wants training on just about anything distilled down to a few hours of training rather than months or even years of hard work and perseverance, what can a learner realistically do to assure mastery in their field ? One of the ways to gain mastery is to learn the fundamentals of the Growth Mindset: effort, deliberative practice and seeing failure as a challenge not a reason to give-up trying to learn.   

Think about it. Today’s companies want people to spend less and less time in training, and they want to “downsize” out the most experienced workers (i.e. the most expensive ones).  It’s time for us to tell companies the truth: we can’t make people competent at anything complex unless we really allow them the time required to learn. And a 30-minute e-course or 4-hour classroom experience – or even an 8-hour e-course and week-long training course won’t make people “masters” at anything. At best, we give them a starting point to use in building competence on the job over the long haul. 

Don’t believe me? How long would you speculate someone needs to practice before you’d say they were a “good” doctor? Do you want the 1st year resident taking out your appendix or the general surgeon whose been doing her job for 10 years? What about driving? How many hours on the road does someone need before you feel like they are a good driver? I’ll bet it’s not the six hours that is the sum total of most driver’s education training programs.  IF you had to have someone selling your services or your product, who would you prefer: The employee who just transferred into the sales department or the sales department’s top seller, who, by the way, has been doing sales for more than 5 years (which would translate to about 10,000 hours of time if you multiply 52 weeks x 40 hours x 5 years)? 

No one gets good at anything without deliberative practice – and lots of it. The more we practice the right things and get feedback, the better we get. We need to think through learning design very carefully if we really want learners to get better at what we’re trying to teach them. Companies don’t have 5 years to train the new sales guy, so we have to come up with a design that allows as much practice as possible in as short a period of time as possible. When our designs are all “tell,” and no “do,” then we are setting learners up to be absolutely no better at doing something AFTER training than they were before training – even if we provided lots of great information or “reference” material. And when we pretend we can make people good at presenting, conducting meetings, project management, selling, managing, troubleshooting, innovation etc. by creating and delivering a 60-minute e-course or 1/2-day classroom session for them to take, we are just plain mistaken. This short-term training just does not work. 

How can we do a better job of helping people actually get good at something through the learning solutions we devise? Self-directed learning via the computer so workers can learn to choose what, how and go at their own pace is one solution.

Self-Coaching. Quality of Life Intervention: Want to Increase Your time and energy for important things in life?

Daily Quote: “Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

The format for this quality of life exercise is to take a blank page in your journal and list all of the things in your life that you have left incomplete ( no matter how trivial they may seem). When you have exhausted them all, push to add at at least five more items. When done listing you will probably have 10-15 items. Assign the letter A to those items that are most important for you to accomplish. Assign a B to those items items that are somewhat important but less critical than the A ones. Then assign the letter C to those items that are least important.

Then within 24 hours complete one of these in-completions. It doesn’t matter if they are from the A,B, or C items, just get one completed. After completing the item reflect in your journal what the item was, how did it make you feel in completing it and why you think you have been putting off doing this thing. Then go back to your list and select an A item one that you can complete within the next 48 hours. After that keep your list handy and work through them one at a time over the next three weeks seeing how many A’s and B’s you can complete. Most of the C’s may have disappeared by then, if they were were assigned the right letter if not go ahead and complete them. Always after completing an item take time to reflect on your feelings and insights. This exercise hopefully will result in you seeing how in-completions can drain your energy resources. Doing this exercise over a month will provide you time to build a new habit of more effectively managing and prioritizing your time. Have fun with this exercise and feel free to change the approach if you discover a better way to get the in-completions completed in your life.

How to Grow the Brain and Learn to Love Learning–10 Life Principles

“Hold on to your own convictions, despite what society and other people want you to believe.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

  1. Be more open and curious by embracing the goal of life-long “learning”. Learn something new everyday.
  2. Find Courage and Mental Toughness by embracing Vulnerability and Failure. Learn the lesson form screwing-up  and then show resilience by snapping back into action.
  3. Accept imperfection by building more competence and confidence through increased Self-Efficacy
  4. Feel Compassion: For Yourself and Others
  5. Except Uncertainty and change with more ease
  6. Express and show more gratitude and kindness toward others
  7. Physically Present yourself in a more assertive and positive manner
  8. Be more mindful and present in the “here and now”
  9. Play and Learn More: Take on learning challenges, try new things, be “gritty” and have fun!
  10. Give Trust away…

 

 

 

 

 

Growth Challenge for this Week

Have you learned this lesson for living a more constructive life?

Reflection: If any thing is sacred in life, it is the human mind, words, body and behavior being congruent. Other wise you are perceived as inauthentic and a hypocrite. So be curious and authentic when interacting with others and not judgmental or just playing nice.

Challenge: How are going to be more positive and congruent when interacting with others?