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Re-introducing Sloth and Froth!

I am not sure if I’ve ever formally introduced you to Sloth and Froth. They appear in my posts off and on. In other words, they’ve been freelancing – but now I intend to offer them a permanent position here. Thus, it becomes all the more necessary that they are introduced to you, their real audience.

Meet Sloth.

He (yes, HE) is a personification of his name. He is lazy. He is someone who’d love to have a droid doing his work for him. Sloth hates to get up in the mornings, he abhors the idea of taking a bath (even of  brushing his teeth, but he won’t tell you that,) and his daily To-do list begins with the task of finding an unsuspecting mule who’d do his work for him.

Fortunately, Sloth is very intelligent. His huge body houses an equally huge IQ…and so he’s not a complete loser, but he is absolutely NOT charismatic…and he doesn’t care. He loves to complain, and he is of the opinion that the entire world has been paid to conspire against him.

Now meet Froth.

She (yes, SHE – what did you think?) is bubbly, quite like her name. She’s full of energy. She resembles a freshly uncorked bottle of Soda. She’s extremely energetic and you’d think that she’d never tire out – but she does, because she’s also a perfectionist. She is an extreme hardworker – to the extent that she burns every extra ounce of fat off her perfect body. Froth’s charismatic; she’s attractive, and she’s very lively.

Froth is a career woman. She wants  to do well in her career and she doesn’t want to do it by cutting corners (if you know what I mean.) She is always politically correct but at the same time  she’s also quite emotional. This makes her feel stressed at times.

Following are the posts in which Sloth and Froth have featured so far. I hope you like them, because you’ll be seeing a lot more of them on this blog:)

PS: Does this post smack of Reverse-Gender-Bias?

Froth says: This isn’t gender-bias, this is how things are. Women are blah…blah…and men are blaher…bhaher!
Sloth says: Who cares? Pass me the mustard!

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Prior Learning in Adults – A Double-edged Sword?

A double-edged sword has to be wielded with care. My experience with adult learners has taught me that the heaviest and the deadliest double-edged sword that most adult learners own is their prior learning.

The Principle of Experience in Knowles’ Andragogy suggests “he/she accumulates a growing reservoir of experiences that becomes a resource for learning”. There’s nothing wrong with this principle. In fact, from the Cognitivist’s angle, this “reservoir of experiences” helps us design effective learning content. But how the adult learner chooses to use his or her prior learning, would in fact, determine whether it would facilitate or impede the acquisition of new learning.

Here’s what happened when Sloth and Froth attended a short orientation program on Organizational Behavior. The program focused on understanding the factors that motivated people.

Sloth, as you know, had spent most of his life closeted in his office-cum-bedroom, with his mom doing his bidding all the time. While thus closeted, he spent his time reading all sorts of books, and this led him to become a “reservoir of theoretical knowledge.” Obviously when the training came up, he found it rather difficult to haul himself to his car and then drive to the training venue. He reached a little late and took his seat after mumbling an indistinct apology to the trainer. The day had begun for him.

Froth, on the other hand, lived alone and preferred to spend her spare time with her friends. She liked to learn what she could apply – nothing more, nothing less. Froth cooked her own food and she maintained a tidy apartment. She had been looking forward to this training program, the entire week, and so on the morning of the training day, she was prepared. She reached the training venue a little before time, and even had an opportunity to talk to some of the other participants.

The trainer began with a quick icebreaker, which didn’t really go down well with Sloth. “Let’s not waste time,” he said into the ear of participant who sat on his right, who gave a non-committal smile.

Before the trainer could begin, Sloth had a question. He wanted to know whether the MBTI would be covered in the training. Right after the trainer had begun, something made Sloth remember something about the theory of X and Y, and so he asked, and when the trainer said that it wasn’t part of the program, Sloth offered to tell others about it. His offer was turned down politely, but the refusal continued to rankle in Sloth’s mind. He made a note of it in his mind, and waited patiently for the discussion to begin. There would be a discussion, all training programs had them – it had something to do with the adult learning theory, thought Sloth.

The response that Sloth’s query invoked in others could be called mixed. The fresh incumbents were in awe of him and felt inadequate. Those who knew Sloth knew what was to come when the discussions began.

In the discussions, Sloth tried to become the center of attention, but he quickly lost track. Though he had much to share, his contribution wasn’t relevant. Instead, it steered the participants away from the core discussion. Froth however was more interested in reviewing how what she had learned mapped or didn’t map to her prior experiences. These feelings she shared with her group-mates, who then began sharing their experiences as well. The facilitator tried to help Sloth, but his prior learning had already hardened into an attitude and it was almost impossible for him to leave his mold so soon.

You know the end of the story…don’t you?
Froth went home richer and happier. Sloth went back grumpier and dissatisfied. Froth didn’t have prior knowledge of Organizational Behavior theories – she had prior experiences though. She shared them. Sloth didn’t have prior experiences, he had prior knowledge, and the knowledge interfered with his ability to learn more. They both exhibited the same adult learning behavior – they wanted to share what they knew!

Let us review the success of the training program.

The training program was created for people who needed an orientation; it was designed for the newly minted managers. Most of the newly minted managers had profiles that matched the audience profile for the training. It was assumed (and not incorrectly) that the executives who were recently promoted to being managers would not have spent many years of their lives going through the motivational theories. For this reason, the program was successful for 14 out of 15 participants. It worked for everyone, except you-know-who. The trainer went home happy – the learners went home happy…everyone was happy except the person who knew it all – but who couldn’t use any of it!


If not wielded carefully, Prior Learning could be a dangerous weapon!

If you are a learner with tons of knowledge, do the right thing. Read the next post on this blog to discover how you could rein in your knowledge and direct it usefully.

 

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Attribution Theory & Self-Serving Bias – Stability & Controllability (2 of 3)

The previous post introduced us to the Attribution Theory and Self-Serving Bias. It also illustrated the first of the three attribution factors, the locus of control. In this post, we will discuss the two remaining factors – stability and controllability.

Let’s revert to the self-propping reflections of Sloth and Froth.

Sloth: Froth got promoted because her boss (a male in this case,) is completely smitten by her. I wasn’t promoted because my earlier boss, who was reasonable and sweet, got transferred; and now I’ve got to work under this insufferable hag! Her boss and my boss – they are here to stay! I can’t change a thing! She’ll continue to be promoted; I’ll continue to slog!

Froth: I got promoted because I am smart and intelligent. It’s my hard work on that project that led to this promotion. Sloth? He didn’t get promoted because he’s a sloth-ball. He’s an incorrigible procrastinator! I got promoted because I put in that effort – Sloth missed it because he doesn’t want to work hard!

So, Sloth attributes his failure and Froth’s success to “external”, “stable”, and “uncontrollable” causes. Froth on the other hand attributes Sloth’s failure and her success to “internal”, “unstable”, and “controllable” causes.

Thus, both Sloth and Froth are trying to cast the other person in the worst possible light. (Sloth says, she succeeded because everything was conducive for her, Froth says, Sloth failed because he didn’t work hard, which he could’ve…and so it’s too bad!)

The point to note here is that each one of us attributes causes in a similar way…though the degree might vary. Knowing this can help the trainers and the content writers in anticipating their learner’s responses. If you’ve been a moderator of a discussion, you’d know how you could raise a firewall between yourself and the participant by saying those two fatally poisonous words, “You are wrong!” Remember, that the audience thinks that he or she is much better than the average person on accomplishing everything (except whatever the audience has learned to feel helpless about – read, the Learned Helplessness posts.)

Let us sum it up.

Attribution theory says that humans attempt to attribute the reasons behind an event in a manner that they are able to cast themselves in the best light. They do this by evaluating the event on three factors, which are:

  • Locus (Whether internal or external)
  • Stability (Whether stable or unstable)
  • Controllability (Whether controllable or uncontrollable)

These three factors are “perceived” to establish a self-serving bias.

Important Note: There’s also a cultural dimension to self-serving bias. Despite the rapid westernization, the Eastern Cultures (India included) inhibit self-serving bias.

In the third and final post on this topic, we will discuss the Training and Content Creation implications of the Attribution theory, and of self-serving bias.

(Read the first post in this series here.)

 

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Self-Concept II

Self-concept is a product of our interactions with our environment, which would include our families, our friends, and the society in general.

Studies have shown that only when a child is about a year old, it begins to show signs of self-concept. Thus, it can be inferred that self-concept grows with age. As a person continues to interact with the environment, the self-concept increases – more dimensions are added in form of abstract generalizations (He said that I don’t mix with people, I must be an introvert.) Note the “self” in self-concept – My self-concept thus, could (and usually is) different from another person’s concept of me.

It’s obvious, especially to those who understand constructivism, that self-concept is dynamic in an exponential sort of way. My perception is different from another person’s because the experiences that led to my self-concept were different. Whatever new I have perceived from the environment would now be processed and integrated into my self-concept, making it change in a specific manner!

Let’s get back to Sloth and Froth. They’ve both received a phone call from their dates – canceling the date!

Sloth: It must be because I look like a sloth-ball.
(Feels depressed – goes into the kitchen – opens the refrigerator – makes himself a sandwich.)

Froth: Good riddance! He wasn’t good enough for me.
(Feels happy – dresses up – goes shopping with her girlfriend.)

Nevertheless, self-concept is not a chaotic array of opposing characteristics. It is logical and the traits identified by an individual for creating the self-concept are usually in harmony with one-another. Thus, Froth is unlikely to label herself “intelligent” while Sloth would never dream of visualizing himself as a “desirable hunk.” (Fantasies notwithstanding!)

 
 

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