I’m going to have students read it (after first making sure the understand what the word “entrepreneur” means) and then have them respond to this writing prompt:
What does Adam Grant say about failure? Do you agree with him? To support your opinion, be sure to include specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observations of others, or any of your readings.
I just learned another today from his email newsletter:
Last fall, a Wharton student named Lauren McCann came to me with a wonderful idea: what if seniors wrote letters to freshmen about what they wish they had known earlier in college? She took the initiative to make it happen—the website had over 10,000 hits in the first 24 hours alone, and other schools are now adopting it. Join me in congratulating her, and feel free to check out the letters here.
He’s talking about college seniors and freshmen, but the idea could easily be applied to high school.
I have students at the end of the school year write letters to students who are taking my classes next year, and I’ve had my Theory of Knowledge students write about how they’ve handled self-control issues so that other students could read them. However, with the proper scaffolds, something like what they’re doing at Adam’s school could be used to great effect in a school like ours.
I’ll certainly be talking to our teachers about it.
I was particularly struck by some ideas he shared for teachers in the NPR interview, including this lesson he does in his university class:
I assigned them to work on their own mini TED Talk in pairs. Every student had a partner. They were supposed to film a video of five minutes or less on an idea that they believed in that went against the grain or challenged conventional wisdom.
They can pick any topic in the course, but they had to champion a message that was counter-intuitive, and you know, bring some evidence and experience to bear on it. And I was blown away by how interesting and novel their ideas were.
I do some assignments already in my IB Theory of Knowledge classes that I think promote creativity, like having them do a “What If?” History Project (see The Best Resources For Teaching “What If?” History Lessons) and asking students to write and talk about a time when they challenged a widely accepted assumption or rule.
I think Adam’s idea would be another great one to add, and I think I’ll try it as a year-end assignment. I’ll let readers know how it goes, including sharing some of the videos.
So I sent an email to Adam asking about this apparent contradiction and he was kind enough to respond right away. Here’s what he said:
In “Mindset”, Carol Dweck describes her famous body of groundbreaking research demonstrating that when we praise children for their intelligence, they develop a fixed view of ability, which leads them to give up in the face of failure. Instead of telling them how smart they are, it’s wise to praise their effort, which encourages them to see their abilities as malleable and persist to overcome obstacles. Some parents and teachers have stretched this idea to its logical conclusion: always praise actions, not fixed qualities. In the domain of moral character, though, this might be the wrong approach. If we want children to become caring and generous, the evidence suggests that there’s value in helping them see these as stable dimensions of their identities.
That said, even in the moral domain, there may be some risks of praising character. Research on moral licensing suggests that when we see ourselves as good people, we sometimes feel greater freedom to engage in unethical behaviors. This is captured in chilling detail in Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, and in The Honest Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely. I’d love to see more research on how to instill a sense of moral character without leading people to say, “I’m a good person, so I can do a bad thing”—or worse yet, “I’m a good person, so this clearly isn’t a bad thing.”
So, now, based on this research, we might need to be aware of which character quality we want to teach and employ contradictory instructional strategies for some of them.
Atul Gawande gave the commencement address at CalTech this month, and The New Yorker published his speech under the headline “A Mistrust Of Science.”
Here’s an excerpt:
The whole piece would be useful in IB Theory of Knowledge classes when discussing science. I especially like his discussion of pseudoscience (you might also be interested in Video: Bill Nye On Pseudo-Science.
Police Body Cameras: What Do You See? is a new very impressive interactive at The New York Times. After first soliciting the reader’s general feelings about the police, the interactive shows several staged police encounters from different cameras and angles – asking you to judge what you think you saw. Then, those judgments are compared to other what others said and their feelings about the police. It’s extraordinarily useful to just about any class, and will be a superior addition to my Theory of Knowledge lesson on perception,Videos: Here’s The Simple Theory of Knowledge Lesson On Perception I Did Today. That post shares several other videos showing the same event from different angles.
You may, or may not, be familiar with the BBC’s “A History of Ideas.” It’s a show with 72 one-hour podcasts and 48 accompanying short video animations about philosophy. You can access all the podcasts and videos on the BBC site, which is particularly nice since a lot of the other material on the BBC won’t play in the United States. All the video animations are also on YouTube.
My 2014 post, New “Fillable” PDF Forms For IB Theory Of Knowledge Presentations & Essays, has been very popular, with TOK teachers from around the world not wanting to brave the IB website just to download some simple forms. Instead, they’ve just gone to that post, and I haven’t heard any objections from IB about my making them available. In January, though, I heard from TOK teacher Vladi Stanojevic that, in their infinite wisdom, IB decided to make some changes to the Presentations form (the Essay form appears to be the same):
It’s very similar to the old one, except it doesn’t have space for the candidates names. It does seem odd that they have entirely removed any space for student names, but I’ve given up trying to figure out IB decisions….