Lessons from Adam Grant’s Think Again (2021)

It takes humility to reconsider our past commitments, doubt to question our present decisions, and curiosity to reimagine our future plans. What we discover along the way can free us from the shackles of our familiar surroundings and our former selves. Rethinking liberates us to do more than update our knowledge and opinions it’s a tool for leading a more fulfilling life.

Grant (p. 243)

During my doctoral defence my committee asked me what I would have done differently. I responded with an emphatic “EVERYTHING!” If I knew then what I know now it would have been a completely different project.

After reading Adam Grant’s Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know (2021) I think my response demonstrates how much a really did learn in those five years. As he explains, his book is “an invitation to let go of knowledge and opinions that are no longer serving you well, and to anchor your sense of self in flexibility rather than consistency.” (p. 12)

Initially I was intrigued by Grant’s commentary on attachment. He explains, “I’ve learned that two kinds of detachment are especially useful: detaching your present from your past and detaching your opinions from your identity” (p. 62). For me I saw connections to how post-secondary educators have adapted to online teaching and learning. I don’t identify as a lecturer. In fact, I often tell students that public speaking is my worst fear. I wonder how this detachment from an identifying as a lecturer served me during the pivot. Did it allow me to experiment with the curation of content more? The sudden shift from fact to face learning to remote delivery also forced me to acknowledge I didn’t know how to teach online. By the end of March, I signed up for course on how to teach in a mode new to me and as a student I was able to experiment with different approaches. Put in the role of the learner I was completely humbled. Grant quotes psychologist Elizabeth Krumrei Mancuso and her colleagues who write, “Learning requires the humility to realize one has something to learn” (p. 25).

Then I became curious to see how I could apply his scientific approach winning debates and influencing people in my role as division mentor for humanities. This position was recently created to support colleagues navigate the pivot to remote teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic. My own experience aligns with Grant’s theories of how people express their preach, prosecute, and politick to argue their beliefs. In many cases my first reaction was to act like a preacher extoling the virtues of online teaching and learning, point like a prosecutor at those who were struggling to adapt to our new reality, and persuade colleagues to embrace the changes like a politician.

Instead, in thinking like a scientist I am interested in exploring various hypothesis about teaching and learning in our current unprecedented times. Grant explains: “Thinking like a scientist involves more than reacting with an open-mind. It means being actively open-minded. It requires searching for reasons why we might be wrong – not for reasons why we must be right – and revising our views based on what we learn” (p. 52). Writing for Inside Higher Ed, Joshua Kim also explores the implications of Grant’s Think Again for the post-secondary landscape post-pandemic.

Additionally, without specifically naming it, Grant makes a compelling case for open pedagogical practices. In ‘Chapter 9: Rewriting the Textbook’ he gives an example of a high school teacher who has students pick a chapter from their history textbook and rewrite it to include people and events they view as underrepresented. Rethinking occurs as learners are encouraged to be critical of the information they are consuming and thoughtful of constructing knowledge themselves.

He continues on to challenge traditional lecture practices in favour of active learning, noting “Lectures aren’t designed to accommodate dialogue or disagreement; they turn students into passive receivers of information rather than active thinkers” (p. 192). He also recognizes that while students often enjoy lectures research demonstrates they actually gain more knowledge and skill from being engaged in active learning. Grant believes “good teachers introduce new thoughts, but great teachers introduce new ways of thinking” (p. 203).

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested how to enact change for themselves, and within their communities. He gives concrete strategies for having the difficult conversations we are all facing in 2021. As always Grant has given me something to think about well after I closed his book.

And perhaps most importantly I will stop asking my daughters what they want to be when they grow up. Read Think Again, to find out why.

Open Art Histories: Three Views on Open Educational Resources

Friday, February 26, 1:00pm – 2:30pm EST

Register in advance for this meeting:
https://langara.zoom.us/meeting/register/u50lcOuqrjsrH9HEi0C0devRKYGVaRX0uPW0

Are you interested in what ArtxHistory.org founder Natalie Coletta describes as “rejecting the dominant language and scholarship that create a climate of elitism and exclusivity” in art history? Are you curious about using open educational resources (OERs) to do so? Join us for an afternoon session of talks with three art historians leading the development of open access teaching materials that seek to challenge traditional textbook conventions. Leah Clark will discuss how Open Arts Objects, an open access platform providing free films inspires diverse audiences to understand art and visual culture while leading change in museum educational programmes and professional practice and increasing public awareness about a global approach to art history. Natalie Coletta founded the ArtxHistory portal as a means to decolonize academia, while serving students and teachers and addressing challenging topics in the areas of artistic practice, history, and critique of 20th and 21st century art. Smarthistory’s Dean of Content and Strategy, Lauren Kilroy-Ewbank will speak about how the resource’s free, award-winning digital content unlocks the expertise of hundreds of leading scholars making the history of art accessible and engaging to more people around the world.

Leah Clark, The Open University, Open Arts Objects

Dr. Leah Clark is project lead on Open Arts Objects, an innovative project that provides free open-access films and teaching support materials geared to the new A-level in Art History. She appears in over 10 films on topics ranging from Chinese porcelain collections in Renaissance Italy to “critical terms for Art History” on hybridity and globalisation. Open Arts Objects was shortlisted for a Times Higher Education Award in the category of Knowledge Exchange/Transfer Initiative of the Year for 2019. Dr. Clark was also runner up for the Open University’s Research Excellence Awards: Outstanding Impact of Research on Society and Prosperity in 2019. In June of the same year, her research was showcased in one of 15 interactive exhibits at the British Academy Summer showcase festival for curious minds, “What can Italian Renaissance art tell us about global trade?​,” which led to an interview on BBC 3 counties radio and an article for The Conversation.

Natalie Coletta, Community College of Rhode Island, ArtxHistory

A professor of Art History at the Community College of Rhode Island, where she has been teaching since 1994, Natalie Coletta has been committed to the support and development of affordable, inclusive, open-door education throughout her career. Prof. Coletta believes strongly in the importance of creating a just and dynamic learning experience for students in the foundational years of their college education: it’s the early years that shape the foundation of our thinking. The intention of an inclusive classroom was defined early in Prof. Coletta’s pedagogy, particularly through the mentorship of feminist practitioners Natalie Boymel Kampen and Wendy Wassyng Roworth, with whom Prof. Coletta studied at the University of Rhode Island in the 1980s. A two-year directorship at Hampden Gallery during her MA studies in American Art at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, was seminal in developing Coletta’s theory and practice around the gallery as a critique of culture and curriculum.

Lauren Kilroy-Ewbank, SmartHistory

Dr. Lauren G. Kilroy-Ewbank is the Dean of Content and Strategy at Smarthistory, and a longtime content editor and author for Smarthistory. At Smarthistory, she works to make art history engaging, accessible, and free to as many people as possible—and to do it responsibly. She has initiated several projects, including the successful “Expanding the Renaissance Initiative” that seeks to open up new pathways to understanding art between c. 1300–1650 across the world. Her research focuses on religious art in the Spanish Americas and Iberia, emotions, women in art, and digital art history. She has won several teaching awards and grants to support innovative digital teaching initiatives involving virtual reality, digital platforms and software, and more. Prior to joining Smarthistory full time she was a tenured Associate Professor of Art History at Pepperdine University, and assistant professor at Brooklyn College, CUNY and the Graduate Center, CUNY.

January 6, 2021.

Slavers were never a major part of the population of the District of Columbia (census records, for example, indicate 3,185 resident slaves in 1860, or only 4.25 percent of the city’s residents). Yet on the national political scene, no single patch of ground was more consistently and more controversially thrust into public light during some four decades of abolitionist and proslavery campaigning. Even when they could make no headway in the rest of the South, Northern activists tried repeatedly throughout the antebellum years to erase the blot of slavery in the nation’s capital.

On Slavery in Washington, “Eastman Johnson’s Negro Life at the South and Urban Slavery in Washington, D.C. John Davis” in Art Bulletin vol. 80 no. 1 (March 1998).

Like most others I have been horrified watching yesterday’s failed coup in Washington, DC. The image above however struck me as particularly poignant and as the art historian I am I decided to dig a bit deeper. Please note that this post captures only my initial findings and I hope to follow it with a more thorough analysis.

After a quick search I discovered that the portrait hanging on the wall behind the domestic terrorist carrying the Confederate flag is of Justin Smith Morrill (1810-1898), one of the founders of the Republican Party best known for his role the Morrill Land-Grant Acts that established federal funding for establishing many of the United States’ public colleges and universities. Now in the Senate collection it was painted by Jonathan Eastman Johnson (1824-1906) in 1884 (below).

For those familiar with 19th century American art, Johnson is best known for his depictions of “so-called slave life,” like Negro Life in the South (1859) later nicknamed Old Kentucky Home (below). In The Civil War in 50 Objects Harold Holzer (2013) characterizes the work as “the visual embodiment of the dangerous myth of the ‘happy slave’ – an argument that fueled pro-slavery intransigence for generations.” How fitting that an image depicting the anti-black sentiments of 21st century white supremacy would include both a confederate flag, and a painting by Johnson.

According to SmartHistory essay by Scott Mestan and Dr. Bryan Zygmont, Johnson’s second most famous work in his focus on the status of race around the time of the American Civil war is A Ride for Liberty—The Fugitive Slaves (c. 1862). For more on their analysis of this work see their article here.

Margatita Karasoulas, Assistant Curator of American Art at the Brooklyn Museum and Steven Zucker further discuss the work in this “Seeing American” video.

I debated even posting the initial image of the reprehensible acts of January 6th, 2020, but I have been so struck by the appearance of Johnson’s Portrait of Justin Morrill in the photograph that I think it needs to be addressed. This is just another example of the poignancy of visual culture and the importance of visual literacy and critical thinking in 2021, especially in topics around race and representation.

In his detailed account of “Eastman Johnson’s Negro Life at the South and Urban Slavery in Washington, D.C.,” John Davis concludes by stating: “American history, it is becoming increasingly clear, has suffered no small number of such losses of memory, particularly when the issue of race is a determining factor.” This was true when he wrote the article in 1998, and tragically it is even more apparent in this current moment.

While I think more about yesterday’s events and the significance of these images here are some additional resources to consider.

A Dangerous Escape to Freedom in the Brooklyn Museum

American Scenes of Everyday Life in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Photographs of African Americans during the Civil War at the Library of Congress

Eastman Johnson Papers in the Archives of American Art

Eastman Johnson in the Google Art Project

Looking Back, Thinking Forward

The future lies in personal learning networks and paths, learning that blends experiential and digital approaches, and free and open-source educational models.

Anya Kamenetz
DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education

Download free photo of Glow,sunset,view,pink sunset,lake - from needpix.com

Over the past six weeks I have been participating in the OERu’s Digital Literacies for Online Learning course (LiDA 101). I recently completed the final Learning Pathway, “Learning in a Digital Age.” Upon completion of this module I was able to use SimpleNote a digital, open-access note taking tool, summarize an academic publication to support my research, identify a range of academic and study skills in a mind-mapping exercise, and confidently discuss the future of higher education in a digital age with particular emphasis on the implications for academic and study skills.

Due to my other teaching commitments, administrative duties, and research responsibilities I was unable to complete this module as quickly as I had hoped. This meant that each time I started I had to review the previous material to ensure that I was able to move on. Fortunately, this allowed me to spend a bit more time thinking about the material presented and also connecting some of the ideas to the current state of higher education as impacted by the global pandemic and sudden pivot to remote delivery and online teaching.

Which brings me to the realization of how closely linked many of the ideas I have been learning about in this course, are to some of my other research interests. In her TEDx Talk “DIY U” Anya Kamenetz explained the 2010 crisis facing post-secondary institutions and the disruptions they faced. I teach at a community college so many of her comments on the need for open education to support contract academic faculty and make resources more affordable for students deeply resonated with me. We have come along way toward realizing some of Kamenetz’s visions (especially in BC where open education has been embraced), however nearly 10 years later we are not that much further from the structural challenges Kamenetz outlined. Fortunately, however, the unique circumstances of 2020 may be forcing an unprecedented disruption to how we teach and learn in a way that will provide the opportunity to more fully realize the open, tech enabled communities of practice she advocated for in her presentation.

When researching academic skills for learning success I remembered a LinkedIn post one of my colleagues recently shared (figure 1). According to the World Economic Forum’s “Top 10 skills of 2025” the jobs of tomorrow will require problem solving, self-management, working with people, and technology use and development skills. Seeing these competencies made me think about how important it is for us to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the pivot to online learning. It left me wondering more about how these skills could be further cultivated by a radical rethinking of our core beliefs about teaching and learning and need for drastic systemic change in post-secondary education.

I am grateful for the tech skills and research methods I have learned in LiDA 101. Stay tuned for my next research project!

“Land is Our First Teacher”: Teaching Indigenous Art Studio & Art History Online

A Workshop Presented by Open Art Histories


November 27th, 2020 11:00am (PST), 12:00pm MST
Facilitated by Jackson Two Bears & Devon Smither,

University of Lethbridge

As Jennifer Wemigwans argues in A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online (2018), the Internet can play a vital role in the transmission of Indigenous Knowledge, at the same time that it can pose risks, ethical questions and challenges as educators shift their teaching online. For those teaching Indigenous art or art history in remote or hybrid courses, the question of how we teach is an especially urgent one. This interactive workshop is a starting point for developing strategies for creating accessible, inclusive, and active remote classrooms that position education as the vehicle for sustaining cultural knowledges.

We ask: How do we teach Indigenous land-based knowledge online? How can online pedagogy enact Indigenous Knowledges? What specific assignments and strategies can we employ to address these concerns?The workshop will be held on Zoom and will use the chat and breakout room features. Participants will also be asked to work collaboratively on a Google Doc. If you have any questions about using these platforms, please let us know by emailing one of the addresses below.

Space is limited, please register by Friday, November 6th, 2020, email devon.smither@gmail.com or openarthistories@gmail.com
Further information will be sent upon registration.

Annotated Bibliography

Bloom, M. (2019). Assessing the Impact of “Open Pedagogy” on Student Skills Mastery in First-Year Composition. Open Praxis, 11(4), 343–353. https://doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.11.4.1025

Research Question

“Does switching to ‘open’ assignments from ‘throwaway’ assignments have a significant impact on student skills mastery?” (Bloom 2019).

Summary

Ultimately this study found, that with all factors considered, minimal shifts to open pedagogy had no impact on skill mastery.

Method

In his study Bloom compared the performance of students in five sections of English 101 where a control group was previously provided with “traditional assignments” and an experimental group was given “open assignments”.

Key findings

  1. Bloom discovered several flaws with the experiment
  2. Moderate shifts toward open pedagogy had no impact on skill mastery, and no harm was done in disposing of the “disposable assignment”

Citation

While more challenging, the renewable rhetoric assignment nonetheless provided students the opportunity to use prior knowledge and extracurricular skills in the demonstration of their rhetorical prowess, which some students found exciting and others found frustrating.

Evaluation

        Bloom’s own criticism of his study raises important points about the study of open educational practices and demonstrates a refreshing self-awareness that serves as a counterbalance to any issues with his methodology. His findings appear in a reputable publication with a peer-review process.

Gibson, D., Ifenthaler, D., & Orlic, D. (2017). 13. Open Assessment Resources for Deeper Learning. In P. Blessinger & T. Bliss (Eds.), Open Education: International Perspectives in Higher Education (pp. 257–279). Open Book. http://books.openedition.org/obp/3582 (N.d.).

Research Question

        Can an Open Assessment Resources (OAR) repository streamline and support formative assessment?

Summary
Using a six core operational services of higher education (content, interaction, assessment, credentialing, support, and technology) this essay proposes the Open Assessment Resources (OAR) model of free automated formative assessments.

Method

Gibson and Orlic propose six core services of higher education, content, interaction, assessment, credentialing, support, and technology, and two trends of scale and uniqueness to consider when providing automated and semi-automated formative assessment. The goal of this model is to support future research topics including but not limited to assessment construct validity, predictive analytics for constructive feedback, modification an adaptation of assessment modules, effects of teaching to authentic tests, and equity of treatment for subgroups.

Key findings

  1. Trends of scale and uniqueness are two interrelated components of the role of higher education. For example, the development of learning experiences that are unique to one institution but scalable to the world demonstrates quality of offerings, interactions, products, teaching excellence, and student satisfaction. Both scale and uniqueness have different impacts on the six dimensions of higher education services they define as content, interaction, assessment, credentialing, support, and technology.
  2. Their key findings are illustrated in this model:

Citation

The core idea proposed here is that an open assessment resources (OAR) approach has the potential to increase trust in and use of OER in formal educational systems by adding clarity about assessment purposes and targets in the open resources world. P. 260

Evaluation

One limitation of this study is that it does not address challenges of assessing deep learning processes. Many of the art history assignments I am considering align with higher level learning objectives related to collaboration, problem-solving, creativity, analysis, and metacognition.  This source is credible in part because it has been included in a peer reviewed publication.

Reference Management Tools

When I started my doctoral project in 2009 I did not use any sort of reference management tools. Instead I had elaborate, unwieldy Word Documents that got messier and messier with each chapter. My dissertation, “Homeliness and Worldliness: Materiality and the Making of New Netherland and New York, 1609-1750” critically investigated the intersecting topics of domestic interiors, women’s history, cultural production and global consumption to explore how Dutch colonial projects intellectually imagined and physically built homes overseas.

One of the maps cited in my dissertation, Nicolaes Visscher, Novi Belgii Novæque Angliæ: nec non partis Virginiæ tabula multis in locis emendata (1685).

Needless to say, I wish I would have known then what I know now about reference management tools. In the hour that I have been using it Zotero has proved to be a relatively easy to use, and efficient tool for helping me cite my sources.

See attached for a short paragraph I wrote and cited using my new found Zotero tools!