Monday, July 25, 2011

What is a waste of time?

In Calistoga last weekend, Tracy and I met a man and an impressive bike (curses for not taking a picture).  The bike was decked out with flags, wind chimes, colorful banners, and even a carriage for his dog. The man, John, said this project has taken him years to create, and he is trying to share his happiness. John's bike was his platform for celebrating life. His display attracted conversation and stares from people passing through.

While I was entertained by the extravagance of the bike, the pragmatist in me could not help but think of the alternative uses of that time.  Surely, he could have been volunteering or working towards some endeavor of human progress (e.g., teaching, cleaning the environment, or building something usable).

But as I reflected, I thought of the countless hours I have spend on the bike (or the more countable hours, I have spent blogging).  Do these seemingly selfish acts have the same opportunity costs?  The more I thought and discussed this with Tracy, the more I realized the need for a new paradigm for productivity. Perhaps, John brought more happiness than he could by making something for consumption. Perhaps, he was able to use objects that might have been disregarded.  And as for me, perhaps there is something redeemable about cycling and blogging. Cycling is eco-friendly, healthy, and can raise awareness for the sport and cycling safety.  In a different way, blogging can be healthy, stimulating for others, and start an important discourse.

In sum, the activities that we might stereotypically label as selfish or self-serving might have a larger social value to them.  In other words, there are likely many positive externalities of our individual endeavors.  And maybe we could benefit from rethinking and relabeling productivity.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Unemployme---er, Vacation!

It's been a while since either of us have updated, so I thought I'd take a moment out of my SUPER BUSY (note exaggeration) day to provide a quick update. 
Most of you know I graduated in May from nursing school, but with a dismal job market (45% of new RN grads from 2010 are still unemployed), I am --- let's just call it forced time off. 

In late May, Leo and I took a trip to Europe, traveling to Switzerland, Italy, and Spain. We got engaged at the end of an epic hike in the Swiss Alps! Last weekend, Leo spent a few days in Los Cabos, Mexico celebrating his friend J.R.'s approaching wedding.

I am trying to make the most of my forced time off. I've been reading (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Emperor of All Maladies), cooking (my new blog!), playing outside, and completing other projects (cleaning my parents' wedding silver, making homemade stationary). I am also thinking about taking up the ukulele.
I have missed the constant exposure to healthcare and interactions with patients, but what's that  saying about the grass is always greener?

Please comment on suggestions for ways to be productive, questions and topics for discussions on current healthcare trends, and any favors you need a hand with!

USF Graduation

Lemon Poppyseed Cookies

Cinque Terre, Italy. Check out that face.

Cinque Terre, Italy. Overlooking Monterosso

Cinque Terre, Italy.   See Leo jumping into the water? 

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Unseen Sea

I'm sharing this video because it speaks my love for San Francisco.

Come March, my postal address will no longer include those words, but that just means I'll be scrambling up the hills to catch glimpses of the city across the bay, reflecting on my MUNI experiences, or making any excuse to go visit Green Apple Books and Burma Superstar.

Thanks Simon Christen for a beautiful reminder.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Motivation Theories: The Skinny

Motivation is cool. So cool that I decided to write a dissertation about it (to be written--still waiting on the motivation and the data). Turns out that a lot of people think motivation is cool, and you can get paid lots of money for helping people motivate other people (not in the Chris Farley motivational speaker kind of way, but in the Daniel Pink book Drive kind of way). Anyway, in the last 60ish years, tons of psychologists have theorized about human motivation. Most of these theories are social-cognitive theories, which all assume that human behavior can be shaped through social interactions with others (directly and vicariously). So, in my mind, six main social-cognitive theories stand out above the rest. Undoubtedly, there is much overlap among these theories, but I want to give you a quick overview of them. 

Self-Determination Theory: The quality and quantity of human motivation (and development) is contingent on the environments’ capacity to promote or discourage three innate, universal needs: (1) autonomy, (2) competence, and (3) relatedness. So, if you feel able, connected to others, and self-endorse your actions, you are more likely to persist, be enthusiastic, and thrive. 
Contributors/big names in the field: Deci, Ryan, Vallerand, Skinner
Note: This is my favorite theory! And I'm facebook friends with Richard Ryan (jealous?).

Value-Expectancy TheoryIn short, the expectations of success, the utility of the task, and the value ascribed to an activity shapes your motivational behavior.  If you think you can succeed, the task can provide you with something meaningful, and you value participating in the task, then you'll probably choose to engage, persist, master the activity, and be enthusiastic to do it.
Contributors/big names in the field: Eccles Wigfield, Tonks
Note: For those considering Educational Psychology, know one thing. Whenever you try to contribute something novel to the field, check Eccles first. She's probably already done it. If she hasn't, someone else from the University of Michigan has.

Attribution Theory: Motivation behaviors are a result of self-made attributions about the locus of causation of an event.  Attributions can be internal (I did poorly on that test, because I didn't study hard enough) or external (I did poorly on that test, because my teacher tried to fail us).  One's attributions can be shaped by ability, effort, luck, or difficulty of a task.
Contributors/big names in the field: Weiner, Jones, Heider
Note: Weiner is pronounced like one who complains a lot. Sorry kids. If it makes you feel better, I learned this by being corrected at a national conference. Consider yourself warned.

Achievement Goal Theory: In short, this theory outlines two types of goals: performance and mastery goals. Performance goals (less adaptive) are aims to appear accomplished, whereas mastery goals (more adaptive) are aims to become competent at the task. 
Contributors: Maehr, Ames
Note: Carol Dweck's theory of self-views of intelligence (which is so hot right now) aligns achievement goal theory.

Self-Worth Theory: Achievement goals adopted by people whether mastery or performance oriented, reflect a life-long struggle to establish and maintain a sense of worth and belonging in a society that values competency and doing well. The focus of this theory is-- how do people define success?
Contributors: Covington
Note: Marty Covington is at UC Berkeley. I took his course, but other than that, I have never seen the guy on campus. Word is that if you want to get in touch with him, he'll give you a mailing address to an island where he resides. I'm not kidding. 

Self-Efficacy Theory: Your perception of your abilities shapes your behavior (and your environment).  These ability perceptions come from actual performance (striking out in baseball), vicarious experiences (the batter before you striking out), forms of social persuasion ("This pitcher throws 95 mph and is being recruited by the Yankees. Good luck.") and physiological indices (rapid heart rate, buckling knees). As you can see, I have some residual feelings of low-efficacy from a past life. Anyway, this theory acknowledges that the values and outcome expectations held by the actor play a role too. 
Contributors/big names in the field: Bandura, Schunk, Pajares
Note: In reflecting about all of these theories, efficacy is a consistent thread throughout. Take home message: you perceptions of your own ability matter.

So, what did you learn? Leo hasn't resolved his baseball failings, Eccles has researched everything, none of these theorists has made as much money as Daniel Pink, and efficacy is very, hecka, wicked, muy important.  And you have a starting point and a few heuristics to think about what motivates you, what motivates others, and why those questions likely have different answers. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Understanding Social Settings--Points of Intervention

Get ready for a major theoretical-meta-view from 30,000 feet-post. Bare with me, okay? (This may or may not be me using my blog to study for my qualifying exam.)

Your organization may have areas of improvement; in fact, I'm sure it does. To get to the root of it, think about the social processes, resources, and organization of resources... Vague, I know. Let's clarify:

  VivianTseng and Edward Seidman (A Systems Framework for Understanding Social Settings [2007]) address three points of intervention: (1) social processes, (2) resources, and (3) organization of resources.  Social processes are two-fold: (a) one-on-one relationships with teachers and peers, and (b) social networks.  These social processes aggregate to the norms, expectations, school climate, and the larger school narrative.  Resources can be financial, human, (e.g., social capital, knowledge and abilities), physical (spacing, structures, design), and temporal (e.g., length of school day and year).  Finally, the organization of resources, which is so often neglected, considers the way in which resources are arranged and allocated.  If the best teachers are allocated toward the highest performing students and schools, how does this affect the achievement of the system as a whole?  Similarly, if mental health resources are devoted only to ten percent of the population, how does this influence the system as a whole?  Beyond academic knowledge, what social processes and capital do students of lower academic tracks miss out on?  How does the physical organization of a classroom or cafeteria influence the social interactions throughout the school day? 

Again, think about your organization. We begin to see how every aspect of design influences these three aspects of social settings.

As education reformers, policy-makers, and administrators construct and reconstruct school settings, they are--intentionally or inadvertently--influencing the social processes, resources, and organization of resources.  For example, hiring more teachers (more teachers = more resources) is effective so long as it influences the organization of those resources (i.e., smaller ratios of students to teachers, more knowledge, skills, and ability) and the social processes (i.e., more warm, responsive, and productive interactions among teachers and students) change accordingly. Hiring teachers promotes achievement only as long as it influences social interactions among teachers and students.  I would ask how qualified (qualified is not synonymous with credentialed--a larger discussion for another post) the teachers are.  How will teachers organize their time with lower ratios?  How will students interactions actually change?

As a point of reflection, I encourage you to rethink the organization(s) that you are involved.  No matter where your role lies in the vertical arrangement, considerations of these three facets may help to promote your intended outcomes (in my case-- psychosocial and academic development). 

Whew! meta-stuff I know, but if everyone gets involved in the conceptualization of their environment, I think we're all better off.  Now you're thinking like a social psychologist.

Bill Gates talking about education... wait no, I mean polio

My last post advertised an appearance by Bill Gates on The Daily Show. I expected him to talk about his education reform efforts, but he ended up talking about Polio... Polio! I guess this is a worthy cause too, but it is sort of estranged from my education soapbox. Nonetheless, as promised, here is his interview:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bill Gates
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bill Gates on the Daily Show tomorrow

In an effort to send more students--especially underserved populations--to college, Early College High Schools have received a great amount of attention in the last few years.  Much of the funding for this movement has come from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

Bill Gates will be interviewed on the Daily Show tomorrow (1.31.2011). So if you're curious about this foundation and its work, I encourage you to watch! (Not to mention, I encourage viewing the Daily Show in general). I'll post the video Tuesday. Stay Tuned!

Also, Bill Gates has appeared on the Daily Show previously to talk about his foundation. See below.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bill Gates
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook