Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Thinking differently with divergent and convergent modes

The American psychologist Joy Paul Guilford (1897-1987) introduced the terms divergent and convergent thinking in 1946.  The divergent and convergent thinking are two natural forms of thinking (two sides to the same coin) that produces solutions to problems (production type of thinking). “Convergence” refers to thinking that leads to a single correct solution. “Divergence” refers to thinking that leads to number of correct solutions. Both divergent and convergent thinking are necessary for problem solving, decision making, creativity and innovation. Divergent thinking is used to create ideas and convergent thinking is used to judge ideas. Convergent thinking is opposite of divergent thinking. In divergent thinking, one thought stimulates many others and the thinking branches or broaden out (multi-directional thinking). In convergent thinking, many thoughts are reduced to a single one and the thinking funnels in (linear thinking). In divergent thinking, a problem can be solved with different approaches whereas in convergent thinking, there is one answer for any given problem. Divergent thinking is generating options without judgement and convergent thinking is judging the options.
Creativity = “diverge before you converge
Creativity = Divergent thinking (“thinking up ideas”) + convergent thinking (“assess the effectiveness of the ideas”) 
Creativity = Generating many ideas + converging on the best idea 
Definitions and explanations
Convergent thinking is the ability to apply logic and knowledge to narrow down the number of possible solutions to a problem. Convergent thinking is more rigorous and analytical and is associated with focused attention.  Consideration, improving and fine – tuning of ideas are part of convergent thinking. Convergent thinking focuses on ‘screening, selecting and evaluating alternatives’ (Puccio et al. 2006). The goal of convergent thinking is to find the one correct answer or the best answer of the options available.
Divergent thinking is the ability to think along many paths to generate many solutions to a problem. Brain storming is a typical example of divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is essentially open-ended thinking involving non-logical processes which allows using one’s imagination to explore all sorts of new possibilities. The goal of divergent thinking is to come up with many possible solutions, answers or options. Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner and many ideas are generated in a random, unorganized fashion. J.P. Guilford (1950, 1967) described divergent thinking as a primary method of achieving creative ideas.  
Divergent thinking à thinking outwards—centrifugal movement-- broad focus of attention—less goal bound—gathering diverse points of view—suspending judgement-- idea generation—creative process.

Convergent thinking à thinking inwards –centripetal movement--narrow focus of attention –more goal bound -- sorting ideas into categories—exercising judgement – idea analysis—evaluative process.

Convergence and divergence
Convergence means bringing together and moving toward one point. Divergence means developing in different directions. Divergence is a mode of thinking in which one uses the right brain to explore ideas or solutions without judging them. In convergence thinking mode one uses the left brain to analyse ideas and think them through logically.  Convergence and divergence are two necessary types of thinking for being creative. In any problem solving situation from the beginning to the end, individuals are shifting their thinking modes between divergence and convergence. The ability to switch from one type of thinking to other is called pivot thinking. Pivot thinking is a cognitive problem solving style that easily pivots or shifts between divergent or convergent problem solution possibilities. One of the key indicators of an innovative process is the alternation between divergent and convergent thinking modes of thinking with frequent pivots between the two modes. A “converger” would tend to prefer convergent problem solving techniques while a “diverger” would tend to favour divergent problem solving techniques. A “pivot thinker” would display problem solving preferences that easily pivots or shifts between divergent and convergent approaches.
Rules of divergent thinking
A divergent thinking involves imaging, reframing and seeing issues from different perspectives. Divergent thinking is complex, associative process of bringing alternative, novel, and original ideas to emergence. Divergent thinking allows one’s imagination to produce variability and encourages the production of multiple answers. It involves thinking laterally, not just in or convergent ways.  Divergent thinking usually occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing and non-linear manner. Einstein was a strong divergent thinker. The strategies for encouraging divergent thinking include brainstorming, keeping a journal, free- writing and mind mapping.
1. Expand ideas and defer judgement
2.  Create and accept plenty of ideas
3.  Combine ideas and consider novelty
4.   Break paradigms and generate strange ideas.
Commandments of divergent thinking (M.D. Jones)
  1. The more the ideas, the better – “Quantity breeds quality.”
  2.  Build on other ideas –expand the range of options, perspectives and elements.
  3. Seek wild and unusual ideas –wacky ideas incite humour and open up many paths.
  4.  Don’t evaluate ideas – suspend judgment.  
Forms of divergent production (Paul Torrance 1915-2003)
  1.  Fluency –generating many ideas.
  2. Flexibility – generating different types of ideas.
  3. Originality – generating novel ideas.
  4.  Elaboration – building on and developing ideas.
Rules of convergent thinking
 Convergent thinking processes move from data, clues or parts of a problem to a specific idea. Convergent thinking involves analysis of ideas and synthesis in to concepts, evaluation and prioritization of concepts. Convergent thinking narrows down a large number of ideas through the process of analysing, sorting, judging, eliminating and selecting (directed thinking). Convergent thinking emphasizes accuracy, correctness and effectiveness. In convergent thinking, there is usually one conclusion or answer that is regarded as unique and thinking is channelled or controlled in the direction of that answer. Convergent thinking allows us to use our knowledge to examine concepts. Convergent thinking is particularly appropriate in science, maths and technology. Convergent thinking is essentially about traditional problem solving.
  1. Be systematic and analyse the objectives
  2.  Evaluate the ideas using rules of logic
  3. Use intuition
  4. No paradigm breaking and draw a best answer.
Convergent and divergent thinking skills are both important to critical thinking. Convergent and divergent thinking tools are extremely helpful when making decisions. Creative achievement requires a complex combination of both divergent and convergent thinking. In the generation stage, teams or individuals use divergent thinking to develop novel ideas. In the application stage, they use convergent thinking to make those ideas useful. Divergent thinking is the wellspring of invention. In academic settings, when a student takes a multiple choice exam, he tries to find out the right answer from a set of incorrect options. Most training in schools encourages convergent thinking. 
                                      "Diverge before you converge"
                                       "Not all thinking is the same"

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Worldviews: the best way to change your lens on the world

People have different mental concepts and different ways of looking at the world. A worldview is a person’s mental concept on all of the world and the whole of life or a system of philosophy relating to it. Worldview literally means “a general view of the world” or “philosophy of life.” Every human being has a worldview. Most people do not even know they have one. A worldview can be true about some things and not true about other things. Worldview is the framework of beliefs, values and images within which a person makes decisions and conducts the business of living. In other words our worldview not only describes reality, but it also prescribes how we act and respond to every aspect of life. The worldview is not only the content, but also the mode of thinking about reality. Worldviews develop over the course of a lifetime and are transmitted from generation to generation through such means as education, family tradition, religious belief, political orientation and the mass media. Worldview affects what one believe about God, marriage, politics, social structures, environmental concern, educational requirements, economics, the raising of children, food habits etc.

Scope of worldviews
Our worldviews help in determining our priorities in life. Worldviews helps to explain our relationship to God, fellow human beings and environment. Worldviews help oneself to assess the meaning of events. Worldviews also helps to justify one’s actions.
“The ideas and beliefs we use to guide our actions. We use them to explain cause and effect as we see them, and to give meaning to our experience.”  -O’Connor, 1997.
The term ‘worldview’ is a mental framework through which individuals and groups view the nature of reality, the nature and purpose of human life, and the laws governing human relationships.
“A worldview constitutes an overall perspective on life that sums up what we know about the world, how we evaluate it emotionally, and how we respond to it volitionally” (Rudolf A. Makkreel 1999).
Phillips and Brown (1991) state that, “a worldview is, first of all, an explanation and interpretation of the world” and second, “an application of this view to life.”
The term ‘worldview’ or weltanschauung (German) was first used by Immanuel Kant in his Critique of judgement, first published in 1970. He combined two German words into one: welt which means “world” and Anschauung, which means, ‘conception’ ‘idea’, opinion’ or ‘view’.
Salient features of worldview
The worldview is the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. Most worldviews are learned early in life and are not easily changed. Worldview is intuitively developed and does not require individuals to have higher or university education. Worldview is not one’s point of view but it is much more than personal preference or opinion. Worldviews evolve in response to critical examination and reflection. Every religion reflects a worldview and every secular ideology reflects a worldview. Worldviews are often varying among individuals as a result of cultural traditions and experiences. Worldviews are ideal types. They are used for description rather than prescription; for analysis rather than evaluation.  The worldviews are shaped by our life experiences which in turn reshape our approach to life. Religion, philosophy, ethics, morality, science, politics and all other belief systems shape our worldview.  Worldviews can be resources for understanding and analysing conflicts when fundamental differences divide groups of people. Worldviews are important determinants of risk perception. Worldviews shape all that we think, do or consider to be normal or abnormal and acceptable or unacceptable and trustworthy or unreliable. Worldviews can lead to beliefs, behaviour and lifestyles that can work for or against environmental sustainability. The analysis of one’s worldviews is a powerful starting point for examining belief systems.
Characteristics of worldviews
  1. Worldview is the truth claims that explain the world and reality. It is the sum total of what we believe about the world. It helps people make sense of the world.
  2.  Worldview should be rational. It should not be contradictory.
  3.   It should be supported by evidence. It should be consistent with what we observe.
  4.   It should give a satisfying comprehensive explanation of reality.
  5.   It should provide a satisfying basis for living.
Types of worldviews
Formal worldview –is a major system of ideas that orders human hearts and mind.
Personal worldview – is one-to-one relationship with the established formal worldviews.
Environmental worldview – is collective beliefs and values that give people a sense of how the world works, their role in the environment and right or wrong behavior toward the environment.
Western worldview –sees human as dominant over nature and feels natural resources should be used for the benefit of humanity.
Key elements of worldviews
Views of human nature- basic beliefs about nature of people-e.g. people are naturally good or evil.
View of the good life – the goals to strive for living one’s life – e.g. personal accomplishment, peace of mind, love, adventure.
Equality with others – belief about the status of some individuals or groups in relation to others – e.g. social status and hierarchy.
Responsibilities to others – beliefs about the extent of obligations to others – e.g. self-centered or other- centered.
Relationship between individual and the state (govt) – beliefs about the balance between individual and collective rights – e.g. individual rights are more important than the rights of the society.
Relationship of humans with nature – beliefs about the way human beings should look on and act toward the environment – e.g. preserving nature is more important than using natural resources to support human activity.
Sources of ethical wisdom – beliefs about the ultimate authority for ethical principles – e.g. religion, God, science, natural rights.
Core areas of worldviews 
  1. God and the immaterial
  2. The meaning and purpose of life
  3.  Human nature
  4.  What we trust in the primary source of spiritual truth.
Factors affecting worldviews
Ideas and knowledge – what a group knows e.g. scientific, intellectual, technological, artistic and spiritual knowledge.
Contact with other groups – interactions between societies and between different groups in a society.
Geography – where a group lives: the climate, plants and animals, bodies of water and natural resources.

Importance of worldviews
Worldviews serve as the necessary foundation and framework of our thoughts and actions. It is our belief about what is real and important –belief about the unseen –the spiritual, the philosophical and valuable. Our worldview will determine how we interpret our lives and the world around us. It shapes how we think about everything. Everyone constructs ‘a worldview story’ to make sense of our lives. Different cultural contexts lead to the formation of unique worldviews, beliefs, values, and assumptions, modes of social conduct, behavior and expectations among individuals.  Worldviews keep our lives coherent, giving oneself a sense of meaning, purpose and connection. Worldviews create a context for everything we do. Worldviews provide some purpose to a given cultural system. It gives a paradigm of reality for a particular society. Worldviews stimulate people’s imagination.  Worldviews have formative influence on the lives of individuals, communities, groups and especially those in positions of leadership. Worldviews have a significant influence on the overall health of an individual. Worldviews can influence student learning and development in academic settings. Worldviews contain something more than scientific information. Region is the cornerstone of worldviews.
“Our worldview changes as our beliefs change. If you change your core beliefs in your worldviews,then your life will change drastically.”

Monday, June 13, 2016

Personal creativity- the unique human resource

What is creativity?
Creativity is defined as a combination of abilities, skills, motivations and attitudes (Honig 2006). In other words, creativity is the capacity or ability of an individual to create, discover or produce a product, thought, art, process etc.  Creative thinking is thinking ‘out of the box’ to produce new, novel or original unique ideas or solutions. The creative process uses divergent and convergent thinking. Facione (1998) describes creative or innovative thinking as the kind of thinking that leads to new insights, novel approaches, fresh perspectives, and whole new ways of understanding and conceiving things.
Creativity is complex
Creativity is a highly complex phenomenon.  The creative process refers to the sequence of thoughts and actions that leads to a creative idea or a product. Creativity involves ideas, purposefulness, playfulness, exploration, problem solving, and artistic and imaginative invention. Creativity requires the interaction of four themes – people, context, method and outcome. In short, creativity is not a simple thing- it is multidimensional.
Every human is a creator
Every person is inherently creative.  Expression of creativity in each person is only a matter of degree and frequency. Creativity is possible in all areas of human activity like arts, sciences, business, technology and daily life. Creativity has transformed our cultures, economies and life styles. Creativity is valued by human society.  Creativity is a major driver of human evolution.
Creativity is a habit (Sternberg 2006)
An eminent American psychologist Robert J. Sternberg conceived of Creativity as a habit  – a routine response. Creative people habitually respond to problems in fresh and novel ways (Albert and Runco 1999). Creativity can be made into a habit. There are three basic factors that help turn creative thinking into a habit: opportunities (to engage in it), encouragement (to go after such opportunities) and rewards (for the demonstration of creative outcomes).
Creativity exists at all ages
The potential for creativity exists in all people and at all ages. In general creativity develops with age and experience. Creativity may changes in quality across the life span. Creativity is a function of knowledge, curiosity, imagination and evaluation. Creativity is bound to situations and contexts. Creativity is a state of mind that is fresh, alert and sensitive.Creative mind explores new possibilities, patterns and options. Creative individuals are typically “buy low and sell high” in the world of ideas (Sternberg and Lubart 1995).
Creativity exists in all domains
Creativity is found in many domains such as the arts, literature, sciences and everyday life. Creativity is often enhanced when one crosses domains. Creative people often transfer their knowledge and skills from one field and apply them to another. They have the advantage of seeing the new domain from different perspectives and of making significant changes. Creative people are really good at mixing and matching all sorts of seemingly contradictory emotions, ideas and personality traits to produce something truly original and valuable.
Creativity is making and breaking connections
Making is connecting –making connections is an important aspect of creativity (Duffy 1998). The acts of creativity usually involve connecting things together (materials, ideas or both) to make something new and novel.  Creativity arises from the conceptual integration of other’s ideas. Conceptual blending is a creative thinking process that involves blending two or more concepts in the same mental space to form new ideas.  Creativity is the ability to make connections between things that do not seem related. Sometimes creative ideas may come from new combinations of old ideas.
Creativity keys
The first key to creative thinking is clarity. Creativity needs critical thinking in evaluating and improving ideas. Critical thinker thinks clearly, precisely and rationally. The second key is concentration.  The creative thinker has to put aside and concentrate single-mindedly on focusing one’s mental powers on solving one single problem. The third key is open mind. The creative thinker tends to remain very flexible and open to a variety of ways of approaching the problem. The fourth key is inspiration. It means being inspired by oneself or by others. Creativity thrives on curiosity, fresh input and rich domains of knowledge. Another key to creativity is motivation i.e., having a purpose to do so. Motivation is what we need to add value to creative effort. Creativity needs encouragement of others. The sixth key to creativity is gestation i.e. allowing time for creative ideas to emerge. Insight and intuition are often associated with creativity. The seventh key to creativity is collaboration through the support of others or a community.
Creativity is the main driver of innovation
Creativity is about imagination and ideas whereas innovation is about actions and process. Creativity is largely cognitive and innovation is largely behavioural. Creativity involves only ‘thinking up new things’ and innovation is only ‘doing new things’ (Peters and Waterman 1982). Innovation is the end result of creative process. The ideas (creativity) can be capable of being transformed into successful action (innovation).  Innovation requires creativity, but creativity does not always lead to innovation.
        Creative power = Imagination+ Determination+ desire to launch
Creativity is a synergy of many personality traits
There are six personal traits essential for creativity: intelligence, knowledge, thinking styles, personality attributes, motivation and environment. Creative people possess a cluster of traits such as curiosity, originality, ingenuity and a willingness to challenge convention and tradition. Creative people are purposeful dreamers. Day dreaming is a healthful, problem solving brain practice. Dreamers always dream of change. They dream of better world, a better reality and a better future.
A creative person is a divergent thinker
Divergent thinking is a prerequisite for creative performance. Divergent thinking is one aspect of lateral thinking. Fluency, flexibility and originality are considered the primary components of divergent thinking. Divergent thinking involves processes like shifting perspectives, transforming or producing multiple answers from the available information and thus favours the production of novel and unconventional ideas.
Creativity is a  process
Creativity unfolds as a process. In 1926, Graham Wallas described stages of creativity in which a creative idea is first prepared, then internalized through incubation, after which the creative individual uses the illumination or insight to finally go through the verification process of applying the idea.
             Preparation à Incubationà Illumination à Verification (Wallas, 1926).
            Clarificationà Transformation àImplementation
Diversity is the mother of creativity
Cultural diversity breeds creativity. Culturally different people have different interpretations of the world. People have different ways of generating solutions to problems. Diversity in thinking looks for solutions from diverse perspectives of a problem. Teams can use diversity of techniques in order to generate more creative ideas. For example teams with racial diversity significantly outperform the groups with no racial diversity.
Creativity is tied to culture
Culture is what makes us who we are. It gives us strength; it is a wellspring of creativity and innovation.  There are many different ways by which societies shape all aspects of creative expression ranging from the availability of resources to the provision of rewards.
Creativity is enjoyable
Creativity brings about a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and reward. It can also provide a sense of peacefulness and joy. There is a direct connection between fun and laughter and creativity. Freedom, democracy and tolerance encourage greater creativity.
Creativity shapes academic success
Educational achievement is closely associated with creativity and intelligence to a certain level. Creativity is more important than intellectual capacity- helping one to learn more effectively, efficiently and flexibly. In general creative individuals are achievement – oriented.
Creativity is valuable
The outcomes of creativity bring about benefits for individuals, groups and organizations. A nation needs creative scientists, engineers, technocrats economists, poets, painters, musicians etc. . Great inventions, scientific discoveries, all forms of artistic expressions –painting, literature, music, drama – have depended on creative thinking. Creativity is the central ingredient in human development. The function of creativity is to improve society, products and services become more convenient, cheaper, faster and better. Creativity transformed our cultures, our lifestyles and our daily life. Creativity is an essential skill for effective leadership and entrepreneurship. Creativity is critical to the performance and survival of any organization. Creativity is an ultimate economic resource. Historians of sciences have used “discoveries” as the bench marks of economic progress.
Creativity is a tool for survival
Creativity is one of the primary instincts and motivating forces of life. Everyone is born creative. Creativity is a natural part of being human. Creativity provides anyone with an intrinsic ability to face and respond to the uncertainty and mysteries of our existence. Creativity supports one’s drive to be more competitive, productive and effective. Creativity is a vital source for meeting the challenges and dangers as well as opportunities.
Creativity is 85% a leaned skill (Harvard study) 
Creativity is potentially achievable by anyone, anywhere. Everyone can strengthen their creative powers with practice, persistence and patience. In order to develop creativity, one has to focus on creativity every day. He has to try something new every day. Creativity is more like a muscle that needs to be exercised in order to consistently give out best results.
“Creativity stands out as an activity to be studied, cherished and cultivated.”  -Silvano Arieti.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lifelong self-directed learning

Self-directed learning (SDL) is listed as a key component of the 21st century skill for adult learners. Self-directed learning is viewed as a process “in which a learner assumes primary responsibility for planning, implementing and evaluating the learning process” (Brockett and Hiemstra 1991). Self –directed learners learn more things and learn better than teacher –directed learners (TDL). The goal of lifelong learning is to equip people with skills and competencies to continue their own “self-education” beyond the borders of formal education. Online learning is also closely associated with self-directed learning from both the process and the personal attribute perspective. American Association of Colleges and Universities (2002, 2007) suggests that a major goal of higher education is to create lifelong learners – intentional, independent, self-directed learners, who can acquire, retain and retrieve new knowledge on their own. Now a days there is increasing recognition of the importance self-directed learning within higher education. Knowles (1975) views self-directed learning as an inherent characteristic of adults, closely related to a natural process of professional and psychological development.

Basic ideas of self-directed learning
The concept of SDL consists of three distinctive ideas: (1) A self-initiated process of learning that stresses individual’s ability to plan and manage his/her own learning. (2) An attribute or characteristic of learners with personal autonomy as its hallmark. (3) A way of organizing instruction in formal settings that allows for greater learner control (Cafferella 1993). Self-directed learning is also named, “self-teaching, independent learning, autonomous learning, individual learning, self-initiated learning, self-instruction, self-study and self-education.”
Goals of self-directed learning
The goals of SDL can be grouped as follows: (1) to enhance the ability of adult learners to be self directed in their learning ; (2) to foster transformational learning as central to SDL; (3) to promote emancipatory  learning and social action as an integral part of SDL.
Characteristics of self-directed learners
  1.    Independent in learning;
  2.    Effective in learning;
  3.   Accepting of responsibility for learning, and
  4.   Able to use problem solving skills.
Competencies for being a self directed learner (Knowles 1995)
  1.  Understanding the differences between teacher- directed and self-directed learning;
  2.  Determining one’s concept as a self-directed being;
  3.  Relating to peers collaboratively and as  resources for learning;
  4.  Diagnosing learning needs and formulating objectives;
  5.  Viewing teachers as facilitators;
  6.  Identifying other resources;
  7. Collecting and validating evidence of accomplishments.
Knowles (1995) defined SDL as a process in which individuals take the initiative’ without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies and evaluating those learning outcomes.
Self- directed learning is any knowledge, skill, accomplishment or personal development that an individual selects and brings about by his or her own efforts using any method in any circumstances at any time (Gibbons 2002).
Steps in SDL (Knowles 1975)
The learners undergo following steps: (1) climate setting; (2) diagnosing learning needs; (3) formulating learning goals; (4) identifying human and material resources for learning; (5) choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies; and (6) evaluating learning outcomes.
Advantages of SDL
  1. Self-directed learning promotes self-confidence, initiative, perseverance and life satisfaction.
  2.  Self-directed learning helps learners to be motivated, independent, self-reflective, self-disciplined and goal oriented.
  3. Self-directed learning provides opportunities to pursue wider range of interests other than the usual school curriculum.
  4. Self-directed learners can gain new skills, knowledge and attitudes to improve their work performances.
  5. Self-directed learning in higher education provides opportunities for adult learners to learn how to learn as well as lifelong learning.
  6. Self-directed learning can not only leads to be more effective learning, but can also result in immediate professional successes.
Disadvantages of SDL
  1.  Self-directed learning is prone to frequent errors.
  2.  Self-directed learning is quite time consuming.
SDL refers to an instructional method. SDL is compatible with any and all learning styles and strategies. SDL is a process of learning appropriate for adults, who weaned away from traditional educational consumption. Self-directed learning is fully an autonomous learning. Personal autonomy is the hallmark of SDL. Self-directed learners take full responsibility for their education. SDL is a process that centres on the activities of planning, implementing and evaluating learning. Self – direction does not mean the learner learns alone or in isolation. SDL occurs outside of formal institutions. SDL is NOT time –dependent.  SDL is a tool for lifelong learning. SDL provides a foundation for transformative learning. Educators can facilitate learners become increasingly able to assume personal responsibility for their own learning (Brockett and Hiemstra1991). Educational institutions  at all levels can prepare learners for a life of self-direction.

              Self-direction in learning is a way of life (Brockett and Hiemstra 1991).

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Metacognition: thinking about one's thinking

Metacognition refers to critical analysis of thought or purposeful thoughtfulness. Metacognition refers to the knowledge, awareness and control of one’s own thinking and learning. During Metacognition, one can examine one’s own brain’s processing.  Metacognition is a form of cognition, a higher order thinking process or a supervisory or metalevel system which involves active control over cognitive processes. It can be simply described as thinking about thinking or knowing about knowing or cognition about cognition. Metacognition serves many diverse functions. Metacognition plays an important role in communication, reading comprehension, language acquisition, social cognition, attention, self-control, memory, self-instruction, writing, problem solving and personality development (Cooper 1999). Learning is facilitated through the use of metacognitive strategies that identify, monitor and regulate cognitive processes.

Metacognition-meaning and definition

John Flavell, a psychologist of Stanford University is regarded as a foundation researcher in metacognition.  Metacognition was first coined by Flavell In the mid 1970s. The term Metacognition as used by Flavell (1979) refers to an individual’s awareness of his/her cognitive processes and strategies. The word “Metacognition” combines the prefix “meta” (derived from Greek meaning after, behind, or beyond) with cognition which refers to the process of knowing (derived from a Latin verb meaning “to learn or to know). Metacognition is described as the ability to monitor, regulate and select strategies in doing a task. The strategies can include any methods, thoughts, beliefs, practices, tricks, behaviours or moods that are specifically cultivated to improve one’s ability to learn.

Metacognition is important because it affects acquisition, comprehension, retention and application of what is learned. In addition it may affect critical thinking, problem –solving and decision making.  Metacognition include both knowledge and strategy components. Cognitive and metacognitive strategies are closely intertwined and dependent upon each other. Metacognition involves information processing activities. Metacognition refers to thinking that enables the understanding, analysis and regulation of thought processes. Metacognition is defined as thinking about one’s thoughts (Harris and Hodges 1995). The National Research Council (2001) defines Metacognition as “the process of reflecting on and directing one’s own thinking.”

Metacognitive components

Metacognition consists of two complementary elements such as metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive regulation (Flavell 1979).
Metacognitive knowledge – awareness of one’s thinking – refers to what the learner knows and understands about the task in hand.
Metacognitive regulation – the ability to manage one’s own thinking processes –refers to the strategies the learner uses to complete the task.
Flavell (1979) describes three kinds of metacognitive knowledge.
1.Awareness of knowledge –understanding what one knows, what one does not know and what one wants to know.
2. Awareness of thinking – understanding cognitive tasks and the nature of what is required to complete them.
3. Awareness of thinking strategies – understanding approaches to directing learning.
There are three kinds of content knowledge. Researches support the claim that skilled learners possess declarative, procedural and conditional knowledge about cognition. This knowledge usually improves learner’s performance.
1.Declarative knowledge – knowing ‘about’ things – knowledge of one’s own learning processes and about strategies.
2. Procedural knowledge – knowing ‘how’ to do things – knowing what skills and strategies to use and how to apply them.
3. Conditional knowledge – knowing ‘when’ and ‘why’ to apply different cognitive actions- knowledge about why and when various learning strategies should be used.
Metacognitive regulation refers to a set of activities help learners to control their learning. It includes three essential skills:
1. Planning – involves working out how a task might be approached before you do it.
2. Monitoring – refers to the learners on –task awareness of progress, comprehension and overall performance.
3. Evaluation – requires the learner to review the outcomes and efficiency of the learning experience e.g. revisiting goals and conclusions.

Metacognitive levels of thought

1.Tacit –thinking without thinking about it;
2. Aware –thinking and being aware that you are thinking;
3. Strategic – organizing our thinking by using strategies that enhance its efficacy; and
4. Reflective – reflecting on our thinking (pondering how to proceed and how to improve; Swartz and Perkins 1990).

Metacognition and learning

Metacognition allows learners to take charge of their own learning. It involves awareness of how they learn, an evaluation of their learning needs, generating strategies to meet these needs and then implementing the strategies (Hacker 2009). Metacognitive strategies in learning include planning for learning, thinking about the learning process as it taking place, monitoring of one’s comprehension and evaluating the learning outcomes. Monitoring and reflecting on the process and products of one’s own learning is crucial to successful learning as well as to learning how to learn. Metacognitive knowledge is crucial for efficient independent learning because it fosters forethought and self- reflection. John Dewey often considered the father of progressive education, viewed reflection as a central part of active learning. Metacognitive skills are essential for lifelong learning. Metacognition helps the learners to understand how they learn, their strengths and their needs and better understand the learning process. Palinscar and Brown suggested four concrete teachable metacognitive learning activities: summarizing, questioning, clarifying and predicting.  Ann Brown and her colleagues (1983) describe three ways we direct our own learning:
Planning approaches to tasks –identifying the problem, choosing strategies, organizing our thoughts and predicting outcomes.
Monitoring activities during learning – testing, revising and evaluating the effectiveness of our strategies and
Checking outcomes – evaluating the outcomes against specific criteria of efficiency and effectiveness.

Metacognition and reading

Metacognition plays an important role in reading comprehension. Metacognitively skilled readers are readers who are aware of knowledge, procedures and controls of the reading process. They use this knowledge during the reading process to improve reading and comprehension ability. Reading comprehension refers to the ability of readers to understand the surface and the hidden meanings of the text using metacognitive strategies.  The reading strategies include metacognitive components such as inferring, self-questioning, monitoring, ‘fixing’ and summarizing. Reading for meaning involves the metacognitive activity of comprehension monitoring and reading for remembering includes identifying important ideas, testing one’s mastery of material, developing effective study strategies and allocating study time appropriately.

Metacognition and listening

Metacognition has a lot to offer to listening comprehension.   Metacognitive strategies for listening include analysing requirements of a listening task, activating appropriate listening process required, making appropriate predictions, monitoring their comprehension and evaluating the success of their listening approach (Vandergrift 1997).

Metacognition and problem –solving

 Research has shown that one of the key traits good problem solvers possess is highly developed metacognitive skills and are generally self-aware thinkers. Davidson, Deuser and Sternberg (1994) identified four metacognitive processes that may be applicable in solving problems: identifying and defining a problem, mentally representing the problem, planning how to proceed and evaluating what you know about your performance.  Some of the metacognitive processes involved in problem solving situations include self-planning, self-monitoring, self-regulating, self-reflecting and/or self-reviewing.  Learners with superior metacognitive abilities are better problem – solvers.

Benefits of metacognition

Metacognition is important for the development of critical thinking and effective learning (Larkin2000). Metacognition once learned, supports reflective thinking, helps problem solving, gives responsibility and improves self-confidence for quicker decisions for the rest of one’s life (Kuiper 2002). Metacognition plays a pivotal role in oral comprehension, reading comprehension, problem solving, attention, memory, social cognition, certain types of self-control and self – instruction (Gama2000). Metacognition is closely intertwined with learning to learn, life-long learning, flexible learning, independent learning, and gaining responsibility for learning (Yurdakul 2004). Metacognition is important in project work because learners must make decisions about what strategies to use and how to use them. Metacognitive skills have a positive influence on both problem solving (Schoenfeld 1987) and mathematical problem solving (Hacker 1998). Metacognition enable educators to teach students how to learn as well as what to learn. Metacognitive knowledge is critical in guiding the writing process. As noted by Strickland (1972) “The quality of what is expressed in writing depends upon the quality of thinking that undergirds it.”

Concluding thoughts

Metacognition enables a critical awareness of one’s thinking and learning and oneself as a thinker and learner. Metacognition is crucial to effective thinking and competent performance. Good metacognitive thinkers are also good intentional learners. The function of cognition is to solve problems. The function of Metacognition is to regulate a person’s cognitive operation in solving a problem or executing a task (Vos 2001). “To make an individual metacognitively aware is to ensure that the individual has learned how to learn” (Garner 1988).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Principles of effective leadership

Leadership is one of the most complex human behaviours. Leadership is a multidimensional process that is conceptualized as a trait, as an ability, as a skill, as behaviour, as a relationship and as a process (Northouse 2015, author: Introduction to Leadership). Effective leadership is a key factor in the survival and success of an organization. Leaders can make the difference between success and failure. A leader is a person who directs, organizes, administers, makes decisions, delegates possibilities and plans for future. Effective leadership needs skills, styles, character and the spirit of serving to be effective, efficient and productive. Leaders need to have a vision, communicate that vision with passion so followers are inspired. Successful leaders have a strong desire to lead and exercise power, exhibit honesty and integrity and are highly self-confident. The world’s most effective leaders –Gandhi, Mandela, Churchill, Lincoln, Thatcher, Mother Teresa etc. – display widely different personal qualities.

Leadership concept

Leadership can occur between the leader and another individual; between the leader and a group, or an organization or a community or a society. Leaders need followers in order to lead. Followers need leaders in order to follow. Leadership is a relational concept. Leadership exists in relation to others (followers). Leadership deals with people in relationships. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner said, ‘Leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow.’ So leadership is composed of leaders, followers as well as situations. Leadership is a process of social influence (not power), which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal (Kruse 2013). Psychologist Bernard Bass (1990) reviewed 28 studies and found evidence that the desire for achievement is an important motivating factor among effective leaders.  Successful leaders are characterized as “electric, vigorous, active and full of life.” (Kouzes and Posner 1987). They are ‘tirelessly persistent’ in their activities – especially in communicating their vision to followers (Bass 1990).

Leadership definition

Leadership is commonly defined as a process of interaction in which the leader influences others toward goal achievement (Yukl 1998). Leadership occurs among people, involves the use of influence and is used to attain goals.  So leadership can also be defined as the ability to influence people towards the attainment of goals. Leadership is a ‘people activity.’ In order to lead, the leader must do something benefiting followers and the followers allow the leader to lead. Leadership is a transaction between leaders and followers.  Leadership is a process whereby an individual (a leader) influences a group of people to achieve a common goal.

Leadership factors

Leadership is composed of four primary factors such as leaders, followers, communication and situation.
Leader –leaders require traits, skills and knowledge. The leadership traits include intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity and sociability (Stodgill 1974).
Follower – The process of leadership involves the leader and the followers in interaction. Peter Drucker said, “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”
Communication- Communication skills are the foundation for effective leadership.  Communication includes how the leader speaks, listens and learns. Many American presidents like John F Kennedy, Franklin D Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln have made impact as great communicators.
Situation – the situation normally has a greater effect on a leader’s action than his/her traits. What a leader do in one situation will not always work in another.

Leadership theories

Trait theory – assumes that a leader is born with specific traits that made him/her a good leader. This theory assumes that the leader is different from the average person in terms of capacities, talents and personality.
Behavioural theory - assumes that anyone can learn to become a good leader because he is not drawing on personality traits.
Transformational theory – assumes that people will follow a leader who inspires and motivates them.
Transactional theory – assumes that people are motivated strictly by reward and punishment.

Leadership function

Leadership have three essential roles: they have to define the task, achieve the task and maintain effective relationships.
Planning – seeking all available information and defining the task; developing a workable plan.
Initiating – explaining people the aims and the plan;
Informing – clarifying the task and the plan; summarizing suggestions and ideas coherently;
Controlling – making sure that all resources and energies are properly harnessed;
Supporting –setting and maintaining organizational and team values and standards;
Motivating – gaining the goodwill and genuine commitment of the team and each member;
Evaluating –establishing and applying the success criteria appropriate to the field;
Setting an example – leading from the front while exemplifying the qualities and behaviours expected in the team.

 Leadership components

Character – the leader’s behaviour and personality;
Style –the way leader relates and does the job daily;
Skills – performance, which could be developed on the job;
Service – a leader is a servant first and then a boss. Leadership is relationship of service to people and purpose (Kouzes and Posner)

Leadership characteristics

The purpose of leadership is to change lives. The leader bears an almost sacred duty to create conditions that enable people to grow and have happy and productive lives (Senge 1990). Leadership is often thought of as more inspirational or guidance –oriented as well as informal. Leadership relies more on personality traits and people skills. Leadership is thinking creatively and innovatively; empowering others through focus on execution. A leader who is innovative and produces better results is respected and looked upon. In a research conducted in 2008 (McKinsey research), it was found that more than 70% of the senior executives believed that innovation was one of the drivers for organizational growth.

Leadership styles

Four distinct leadership styles are identified based on the relative presence (high-low) of task and relationship behaviour:
Telling – (high task-low relationship) –The leader makes the decision. The leader defines roles and tells followers what, how, when and where to do various tasks, emphasizing directive behaviour.
Selling – (high task – high relationship)- the leader makes the decision and then explains it to the followers. The leader provides both directive and supportive behaviours.
Participating – (low task-high relationship) – The leader and followers share decision making. The main role of the leader is to encourage and assist followers in contributing to sound decisions.
Delegating – (low task – low relationship) – The followers make the decision. The leader provides little direction or support.

Leadership qualities

Leadership behaviours are a function of intelligence, personality traits, emotional competence, values, attitudes, interests, knowledge and experience. Leadership qualities can be divided into two categories: traits and core values. Leadership traits represent WHO you are. They develop over time. Leadership core values represent HOW you are – the guiding principles for how everyone in an organization thinks and acts.
Vision – the sense of vision causes the leader to accept the duties of leadership and inspires others. Leadership is a strong sense of purpose. Warren Bennis said, “leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
Character – is a significant source of personal power. Character in leadership is pursuing noble ends with noble means with knowledge, skill and talent. The leader must have drive and determination to stick with difficult tasks until they are completed. Successful leaders remain calm and confident even during tense situations.
Personal integrity – It is the quality of honesty, strength of character and courage of leader. Integrity leads to trust and trust leads to respect, loyalty and ultimately action. Fuchan Yuan said, “There are three essentials to leadership: humility, clarity and courage.”  Dwight Eisenhower also said, “The supreme quality of leadership is integrity.”
Charisma – Charisma is a Greek word that means ‘divinely inspired gift.’ Charisma means attractive or possessing a certain quality that raises enthusiasm or interest.  Leaders are talkative, good looking authoritative or energetic. The result is admiration, enthusiasm and the loyalty of followers.
Energy – To have energy is to have the physical and psychological ability to perform. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The world belongs to the energetic.”It is a better indicator of long-term leadership success than many traits.
Competence – competence in leadership is seen as a matter of task accomplishment and interpersonal relations. Task accomplishment involved traits like intelligence and knowledge. A leader must have a keen mind to understand information, formulate strategies and make correct decisions. Interpersonal competence involved the ability to communicate and to demonstrate caring, insight and empathy. A leader’s interpersonal skills are vitally important in the process of inspiring others toward implementing the vision. By counting attributes per category, leaders must have a ratio of about 60% interpersonal and 40% personality attributes.
 Flexibility – those who are adaptable are willing to use alternatives, substitutes and surrogates. Adaptability is a key component of flexibility as a positive leadership.  Adaptability allows the leader to adjust multiple demands, shifting priorities and rapid change. Adaptability helps the leader to be resilient in the face of constraints, frustrations and adversity.
Sociability – is ready and willing to engage others without anxiety or fear. The leader must be sincerely and deeply concerned about the welfare of people.

Leadership effectiveness

Leading groups effectively is a tremendous challenge, a great opportunity and serious responsibility. Leadership is mobilizing the interest, energy and commitment of all people at all levels. Bardwick (1996) clearly states that leadership is not intellectual or cognitive but emotional. Noted author Warren Bennis, who has spent over three decades studying leaders described leader as “one who manifests direction, integrity, hardiness and courage in a consistent manner that inspires trust, motivation and responsibility on the part of followers, who in turn become leaders themselves" (Johnson 1998). Effective leaders have more drive, honesty, leadership motivation, self-confidence, intelligence, knowledge, creativity and flexibility. Successful leaders accept responsibility and accountability for their actions and decisions. They have clear goals and communicate them to their followers.  Great leaders are and always have been of service to their followers first and then leaders into a new, better, more productive life. Effective leaders are both task-centred and people – centred. Current research indicates that emotional intelligence is crucial factor in leadership effectiveness. Emotionally intelligent leaders are equipped with the insight to see people’s pattern of emotions, the relationship between emotions and how emotional states change from one to another. Raymond Perras, the author of AiM for Life Mastery said, “If choose peak performance, you will learn to apply the right stuff, in the right amount, at the right time.”
                             “Great leaders inspire greatness in others” – Anon. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Skilled interpersonal communication

Interpersonal communication (IPC) is central to our daily routines. It is essential to our survival and happiness. Communication is the exchange of thoughts, opinions or information using speech, signals or writing. Communication may serve a variety of purposes – for example to learn, to relate, to help, to influence or to play. We communicate to develop identities, establish and build relationships, coordinate efforts with others, have impact on issues that matter to us and work out problems and possibilities. Studies have shown that most people spend between 80 and 90 percent of their waking hours communicating with others. Experts tell us that 70-80 percent of our working time is spent in some kind of communication. Communicating inter-personally is a ‘way of life’ in organizations. Effective communication is an important element of success for every organization, leader, manager, supervisor and employee.John Powell said, “Communication works for those who work at it.”

Meaning of communication

The word communication comes from the Latin communicare, which means ‘to make common’ (Weekley 1967) or ‘to share’. The word interpersonal is derived from the prefix inter, meaning ‘between’ and the word person; Interpersonal communication (IPC) literally occurs between people. Interpersonal communication is an exchange of information between two or more people. Information is conveyed as words, tone of voice and body language. Studies have shown that words account for 7 percent of the information communicated. Vocal tone represents 55 percent and body language 38 percent.

Defining  interpersonal communication

Interpersonal communication (IPC) is defined as the process that we use to communicate our ideas, thoughts and feelings to another person (Wikipedia).
Interpersonal communication is the process by which people exchange information through verbal and non-verbal messages.

Elements of communication

The elements of communication include purpose (why a message is communicated), audience (who is listening to the message), vehicles (the means used to deliver the message), and barriers (outside forces that keep an audience from listening).
Purpose – know what the real purpose of the message (e.g. to persuade or inform);
Audience –know your audience and adapt your message to their particular needs;
Vehicle – choose the best medium (e.g. a report, personal conversation or presentation) for conveying your message;
Barriers –troubleshoot or present possible communication barriers.
All communication has both a purpose and audience. The purpose may be to describe a situation, explain a procedure or persuade someone. An audience is one or more readers or listeners. A communication vehicle is the medium through which something is transmitted, expressed or accomplished. There are many of them e.g. verbal, written and visual. There may be distractions and interruptions. 

Communication model

Effective communication begins with first understanding how the communication process works. The sender-message-channel-receiver model describes the communication process.  In 1949, Claude E. Shannon and Warren Weaver published the transmission model of communication. This model had five components:
  •  An information source, which produces a message;
  • A transmitter, which encodes the message into signals;
  • A channel to which signals are adapted for transmission;
  • A receiver, which decodes the message from the signal and
  • A destination, where the message arrives.

Characteristics of interpersonal communication (Hartley 1999)

  • Communication is from one person to another.
  • Communication is face-to-face. 
  • Both the form and the content of the communication reflect the personal characteristics of the individuals as well as their social roles and relationships.

Forms of interpersonal communication

Communication is more than just verbal. Verbal communication involves all aspects of language: words, style, grammar, content, pitch, volume, tone, pronunciation, pace, timing and the clarity and the use of voice. Non-verbal cues are very important in communication. Non – verbal communication is what we say with our body. It includes physical-facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, body posture and motions and positioning within groups. It may also include the way we dress, our silence and other mannerisms. Researchers have estimated that approximately 7 percent meaning is transmitted by words, 38 percent is transmitted by vocal cues and 55 percent is transmitted by body cues.

Principles of interpersonal communication

There are ten principles of interpersonal communication:
1. Interpersonal communication is inescapable-we cannot keep ourselves away from communication.
2. Interpersonal communication is irreversible – it is rightly said that a word uttered once cannot be taken back.
3. Interpersonal communication is contextual – communication does not take place in isolation. They are context specific.
4. Interpersonal communication involves ethical choices – ethics refers to a set of principles or rules for correct conduct. As you respect yourself and your ideas and feelings in ethical communication, you must honour those of others.
5. People construct meanings in interpersonal communication – meanings reside not in words alone, but rather in how we interpret them.
6. Meta-communication affects meanings –meta-communication is communication about communication. Metacommunication may be verbal or nonverbal. It can increase understanding.
7. Interpersonal communication develops and sustains relationships- IPC is the primary way we use communication to develop and sustain relationships.
8. Interpersonal communication is not a panacea – although communication is powerful and important, it is not a cure-all.
9. Interpersonal communication effectiveness can be learned – effectiveness in IPC can be learned through committed study and practice of principles and skills.
10. Interpersonal communication is complicated – no form of communication is simple due to the number of variables involved.

Importance of interpersonal communication

On a fundamental level, interpersonal communication plays an important role in fulfilling several basic human needs like the need to belong, the need for competence and the need for autonomy (Baumeister and Leary 1995). Communication can move communities, influence cultures and change history. It can motivate people to take stand, consider an argument or purchase a product. Competence in oral communication is a prerequisite to student’s academic, personal and professional success in life. Good communication is important in maintaining relationship in family and with friends. Strong communication skills are vital to effective management. Effective communication is very helpful in workplace where we need to interact with different types of people. In general most communication in the workplace is to either convey information or persuade co-workers (or supervisors) about a course of action.

Skilled interpersonal communication

According to Hargie (2011) communication is a form of skilled performance. Skilled interpersonal communication improves individual and group outcomes in life and work. Skills needed for interpersonal communication are self awareness, control over oneself, speaking clearly and pleasantly, good manners and etiquettes, active listening, understanding of non-verbal behaviour and feedback.
Active listening – Listening is the cornerstone for good communication and is often the least developed skill. To listen demands an active effort to search and understand the meaning of what is said. The active listener listens intently with the aim of empathizing with the speaker.
Focus attention – the first requirement for good listening is to pay attention to be completely focused on the speaker. Listen intently and avoid any distractions. Show your are paying attention with eye contact and non-verbal indicators.
Reflect content and feelings – Use your own words to paraphrase the message to check your understanding of what the speaker is saying. Acknowledge the feelings you hear behind the speaker’s message.
Effective questioning – Ask permission to ask questions. It is a good step toward building trust and will allow a more honest, straight forward, free flowing exchange of information. Questioning the speaker helps to obtain more information and to clarify an earlier point.
Assertion – assertiveness is the ability to confront someone in a non-aggressive and non –manipulative manner.
Giving feedback – Feedback is returning output of information based upon input received by another. When communicating, you must learn to be effective both in the way you receive feedback from others and the way you tell others what you think of their ideas.

Uses of interpersonal communication

  • Furnish, gather and understand information.
  • Develop acquaintances and preserve personal relationships.
  • Influence the stances and conduct of others.
  • Make decisions and solve problems.
  • Establish an identity with others.
  • Satisfies your four needs: physical, practical, social and ego.
                        All communication has both a purpose and an audience,