04 Mar

i had a unique opportunity today that allowed me to finish the book i was reading by malcolm gladwell entitled ‘blink’ the power of thinking without thinking. i spoke in a previous post about thin slicing and there were a few ideas that gladwell brings up that struck me. the first has to do with information overload and how having too much information can sometimes hinder a decision. he uses a brilliant example of a chicago hospital and how they diagnosed if chest pains were heart attacks. without getting into the specifics the hospital ended up running thousands of case studies into a computer program that pointed out that by using only 4 different pieces of data treatment would not only be more efficient, but more accurate. gladwell says ‘the irony is that the very desire for confidence is precisely what ends up undermining the accuracy’ when talking about the presumed need for all the information as opposed to just the necessary information. he uses a different example of a war games exercise the military used when information overload not only led to defeat but to paralysis when time for action came. gladwell goes on to say that to be successful decision makers, we have to edit. looking for the necessary information makes sense in scenarios like medicine and military but it also makes sense when we are looking to drive home a point in our professional lives as well. sometimes it’s not as important to impart all the facts, it’s just important to make the most important and pivotal fact, for facts, stick. if we lack the ability to edit, our message becomes muddled and weighted down with ‘other’ and our goals of clarity or calls to action are ineffective. what does this mean for teachers as they work with students? does this thinking apply? i can see how it would instructionally speaking, when it is important to focus on a key fact, but what about when it comes to assessment? don’t we want a full picture of the student with many samples of work to make a judgement like a grade? if so, then this theory appears to fall apart. or does it? perhaps instead of fixating on the sheer number of work samples, time would be best spent looking at the proper samples to assess and grade. imagine that, not taking every single assignment into account for grading, but looking closely at the ones that would exhibit mastery. it appears the skill of editing has a wider application than we may think.

1 Comment

Posted by on March 4, 2009 in Uncategorized


One response to “blink

  1. kvanek

    March 4, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Dan, what struck me about Blink was that snap judgments were often the most valid. I think that as educators however, we too often let snap judgments interfere with using assessments for learning to help us diagnose and differentiate for individuals where we meet their needs as learners, see what is preventing their success and lead them all to mastery. It’s often those snap judgments that interfer with this process. Maybe if our snap judgments were made from the perspective of educators who practice assessment for learning, we would all come out winners? If so, maybe snap judgments would streamline the assessment process and get to the heart of the matter – helping students succeed?


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