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.
Neil deGrasse Tyson published a short piece in The Huffington Post titled What Science Is — and How and Why It Works. It’s a very safe bet that it will be used as required reading in many IB Theory of Knowledge classes when the definition of “knowledge” is discussed. And I’d bet dollars to donuts that many teachers will be using this accessible column in many other classes, too.
One assignment I learned about at my original IB Theory of Knowledge training was having groups of students invent a classroom appropriate product and have them create a short commercial four of the fallacies that we have studied. I have each group show their video, and then they call on people to identify the fallacies used in it.
I have my IB Theory of Knowledge students work in groups to prepare weekly presentations on our textbook chapters that they read for homework. When we were discussing the role of emotion in the search for knowledge, one of the presentation groups was asked if emotion is sometimes like a voice in our heads that we have to control. I then showed this clip from the National Press Club, which is a perfect example of that in action.
Secondly, we spend a few days studying Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. You can see many of those resources at our TOK class blog, along with examples of student videos – they have to create modern versions of it. This year’s students will be showing their own creations on Monday, and I’ll be adding some of them to that class blog post. Students viewing the videos will be using this anonymous evaluation form, which will be completed after each video is viewed, collected, and given to the video’s creators.
TED-Ed released this excellent video and lesson — perfect for IB Theory of Knowledge classes when studying language:
This video would be a useful one to show when discussing indigenous knowledge systems in IB Theory of Knowledge classes:
In IB Theory of Knowledge classes we examine in both math and human sciences how people taking polls/surveys can manipulate the answers. Here’s a video that would be a nice introduction to the topic (after first explaining to U.S. students the definition of “National Service”):
This video is from PBS, and is a great one for IB Theory of Knowledge teachers when exploring the arts:
I spend a lot of time working with my IB Theory of Knowledge students on the importance of illustrating each point they make, both in essays and in presentations, with stories. In fact, many highlight that fact in their end-of-year class evaluations as one of the most important things they have learned. You can see many of the resources I use to back-up my hammering on that concept at The Best Digital (& Non-Digital) Storytelling Resources (especially in the bottom-half).