Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Another skill commonly self-taught: Thinking

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I’ve mentioned the difficulties encountered by self-taught practitioners: in trying to develop an entire discipline, from scratch, on their own, they end up using faulty techniques and make common errors. An informed and trained coach can offer guidance that will produce greatly improved performance in a short time.

What’s strange are the number of essential skills that still must be self-taught for most of us: the skill of listening, for example—very few are taught good techniques of listening, even though of the communication skills it’s the most important.

And the skill of thinking. I’m reading an excellent myster, PopCo, by Scarlett Thomas, about a Go-playing game designer and cryptanalyst. (It was recommended by The Eldest, and I’m sure The Son will love it, too.)

The protagonist mentions Edward de Bono, I think the first to approach the teaching of thinking as a skill. His books teach one or several specific techniques to assist in thinking (the most famous being “lateral thinking,” with various ways to encourage that).

He developed a multi-year course in teaching thinking skills to elementary, middle, and senior students. The course consists of weekly 30-60 minute sessions, gradually building up a solid repertoire of thinking skills and awareness of thinking weaknesses/errors. The course in fact works: when thinkers who have had the course are presented with various problem situations, they come up with many more ideas—and better ideas—than self-taught thinkers.

It’s odd: everyone agrees that it’s important to know how to think well, but by and large we still do not teach it. It reminds me of a private school at which I taught, before the days of computers. They firmly believed that students should know how to type, but they didn’t want to teach that. (Now, of course, one can get excellent computer programs that teach solid keyboard skills.) Somehow, they wanted students to be self-taught, but also expert. It doesn’t happen.

There’s now an on-line course in thinking skills from CoRT (Cognitive Research Trust, the research organization de Bono founded). Here’s some info on the school programme. A one-book introduction to the techniques is De Bono’s Thinking Course, copies of which you can get at the link for $1 plus shipping (at least for now). (Here are reader reactions to the book.)

Written by LeisureGuy

8 September 2006 at 11:58 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Election

One Response

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  1. I saw your entry on Friday, and I ran out and bought a copy of PopCo (the last one on the shelf). I haven’t got very far into it yet, but seems pretty good so far. A toy company where everyone plays Go. Cafeteria tables with Go boards etched into them. It sounds fun.

    Reading more about the author, Scarlett Thomas, one of her favorite author/book is Simon Singh’s “The Code Book”. One of my favorites too. A very interesting book. It was so cool, I learned how to solve a Vigenere cipher for the very first time (which is similar, but much better, than a cipher I invented when I was 15). As a kid, I always enjoyed code breaking, and solving the cryptograms in the crossword puzzle magazines.


    10 September 2006 at 6:57 pm

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