Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Stupid people... spatial reasoning and imagination

I am currently marking a 2nd year design test. I just gave someone a total mark of 6 out of 45. I don't feel good about this, but I cannot justly give him any more... I was even generous. So, as I walked to get lunch I thought about this. This is an interruption of my series of posts on the fruits of the spirit.

I decided that if people are not metacognitive, they really are in trouble at university. The vast majority at uni probably have this skill, but some clearly do not. I realised that if you can't look at a problem and think things like, "where do I start?" and "what is this asking me to do?" and "what is the relevant information connected to this problem?", you really have a problem - it's not a small problem either. I think this would lead to the person quite literally staring at a problem with no thoughts at all... if they can't realise what they're thinking, how can they think at all? If you can't ask yourself in your head, "what does this problem require me to do?" you have nothing at all to hang an answer on - you won't even think of an answer if you don't even know there IS a question!

So, evidently, such people just sit and stare... in this case - they draw a few lines on a page that look like the drawing on the question sheet. It's not what was asked for - but it's something. Of course, technical drawing requires powers of spatial reasoning - which, incidentally, is significantly improved by playing music - the link has more info. Spatial-temporal reasoning involves transforming and relating mental images in space and time. Spatial-temporal reasoning differs to language-analytic reasoning; generally, the sciences typically involve spatial-temporal reasoning, while arts and more language-analytic reasoning.

Some people evidently have not developed spatial reasoning and/or language-analytic reasoning. My heart really goes out to such people - especially knowing what they're going to get on this test. I wish I could help them. It is a passion of mine to help people in their minds. Unfortunately, minds are complex things.

Sometimes, I think that's why I really should write a book about this. It would require lots of research and revelation from God, but I would love to get down some things that could actually help people think better. Sadly, the people who would need to read the book probably wouldn't be the type of people who read, and even if they did they probably wouldn't understand it. Makes me think the speech-and-language-theory people have the right approach - one on one helping people.

Sadly, it is difficult for me to explain things to people who don't think metacognitively - because my thoughts and explainations are based on metacognitive processes. So, it is a sad irony - the people who might be able to help can't explain it to the people that they're trying to help.

That's why I wrote on an earlier post that it is crucial that people get taught well growing up - because once their brain is wired into thinking a certain way, they are closed to new ways of thinking. They literally cannot imagine thinking that way, and therefore they cannot.

Creative imagination is more that a nice daydream, it is the essence of developing new mental processes.

I only thought of that then, but it seems most smart people are creative, so perhaps it's right. Imagination is in essence the skill of creating something that did not exist before in your mind... it is the process that builds mental constructs onto which new ideas can be hung. Imagination builds the framework of our intelligence.

When I was young, I imagined heaps of stuff... I lived in an exciting world where I imagined stuff that made life always an adventure. I think it's more than just being 'a cute kid' to play such games, for they are crucial to development. What's more - I think it's important that we continue to imagine. Maybe we aren't going to imagine that we're King Arthur while waving a small stick around anymore, but the things we imagine are more advanced. Imagination is not limited to visual images, but can involve a whole lot of things.

It is a fact that you can learn to do something better if you imagine yourself doing it well, take sport for example. I think this is because imagining doing it well builds new mental framework onto which you can actually learn to do it well. If you can't imagine doing it better, there is nothing to build on - and maybe you won't be able to get better.

All this is very interesting, and far more deep than I had anticipated as I vented on stupid people. I hope you have found this interesting also.


Jessi said...

wow 6 out of 45... how did this person get into university, let alone second year? :P

Very interesting post, I'd have to agree with you on that one. I've been thinking along similar lines over the past week, though on a bit of a tangent... about how one is taught during their childhood. It's amazing how much influence family really does have- I've been ranting to various people about how if I have kids they won't be allowed to listen to the hideous musical (if you can call them that) mutations that are Barney and Bob the Builder etc etc. :P :P :P :P I will blast their ears with Jazz and Beethoven thankyou very much *grins*

Well, a little bit extreme lol, but it just got me thinking about how people have different ideas with regards to raising children, and their subsequent mental development...
See, I can't imagine bringing up children without the creative element of music or art- one of the first things I *would* be teaching them is the importance of imagination! The ability to create and think for themselves...

"Creative imagination is more that a nice daydream, it is the essence of developing new mental processes."

So true Reubz!

That is all, I'm meant to be practising the piano. Good day! :D

Kelly said...

Haha, the reason I am online checking out your post is because I'm marking some dead boring first year development studies assignments. I must say, I totally agree with everything you are saying, except I don't actually know what metacognitive thinking actually means. But I can guess.
To me, there are two key problems here. Firstly, all first years have studied under NCEA. They basically can't fail, and have been taught to spit back information. They have not been taught to think. THis was often done through English when I was at school -- having to reflect on poetry or write an essay on King Lear or something. Yet the students I've been marking over the past three years have been getting worse and worse. I'm sure. In NZ, we can get into university on 3 C passes at bursary level. Just think about that for a minute. Basically that means you only have to get a total percentage of 30 (3 c's= 3x50, 150/500 (5 subjects)). And why is this acceptable? Because it is no longer acceptable to leave school at 15 and get a job (except in the Wairarapa where my brother and sister have both done very well out of this -- one is now and electrician at 19 and one is a bar manager at 22). It seems like these days you have to have a qualification -- even to be a secretary! So all these people have to go to uni, spend money, increase the country's GDP then get a job. For example Massey's Business Studies programme. In the old days, you had business sense or you didn't.

Secondly, some people just can't structure thoughts. You know: if point a, therefore point b, therefore point c: conclude d. This is different from design, but the basic idea is there is a problem, come up with a solution that's backed up by fact. Instead I get a whole 1500 words of unrelated sentences. Arggh.

Anyway, thanks for the gripe opportunity

incognito said...

Cheers as always for the comments... much appreciated. Kai, I agree - I think school these days teaches kids NOT to think. =)

The type of logically reasoning you give in your second point is language-analytic type thinking. I explained metacognition in the post that the word links to.

Mike said...

"They could still actually use their brains, which was a sure sign that they hadn't yet completed a formal education" - Michael Crichton (The Lost World)

Heh - I have that quote written on my first year lecture book. I think the more education I get the more I agree with it.

University (well Engineering at least) is designed for one specific purpose - to get you to think in one particular way. A + b = C, form follows function, ad nauseum.

I managed to stumble on to a little cache of emails I had sent out in the beginning of first year. It was amazing to look into my mind as it was four years ago - and I was quite shocked to see how much my creativity has diminished. On the other hand - my thoughts are much more structured now, but is that really a good thing?

As for NCEA - I think it is one of the biggest mistakes this country has made with its education system. Though - in saying that, all I know is academia, so maybe the real world IS more like NCEA than I give it credit for.

Matt said...

I think, just maybe, some people are wired like that, or at least choose to be like that. I know a number of people who just have no particular desire to be great thinkers -- they're quite happy just doing, and letting other people do the thinking. It's kinda sad, but hey, people make their choices...

Kelly said...

Good point Argenbar... all of us at Uni -- lecturers and postgrad markers -- complain about the ridiculous NCEA grads and how useless they are at being academics... but all we know is academia really, so who knows if its useful in the real world. HOwever, all the teachers I know hate it because of all the extra marking and form-filling out. Actually I have a friend who brings around all his marking and makes a whole gang of us do it before we go out in the weekend!

Katherine said...

Hey Mike - to escape from the conspiracy, and relearn how to think outside the square, I recommend PHIL223: the Philosophy of Science - a class for snobby arts students who like to laugh at scientists, and scientists who like to laugh at themselves. You'll never trust the formulae They teach you again! On the downside, you may end up like me, thinking too much and getting nothing done...

michelle said...

hmm... dont want to sound too critical... but its not that easy to get awesome marks at uni. After coming through a school system where you regularly get A+ in internals, and then getting C+ for your first uni essay is a bit of a shock!
I think i am one of those people who has never done well in tests or exams, and stare blankly at the paper.. not understanding the question, or what is required to answer it. Yes, Reubz, it would be really nice to have someone work one on one with you and help you know what is required... but you're still gonna get those questions that are written by academics and make no sense to those of us who are 'normal'.
But yeah, there are definately people at uni who just struggle so much, and dont seem to understand whats being asked of them. Sometimes i think Uni is made out to be a place for every type of person, where all people are encouraged to go. A lot of the time thats not true - you've gotta be motivated and highly intelligent to truly make it there...

Oh well, none of that really flows at all... heh heh! Hope you know what im getting at :)

EONsim said...

First years NCEA student's is next year by the way, unless they managed to skip 7th form some how :)

There was an article in the apper noting that thing's are expected to be a bit odd next year in Uni's with all the first year student's who've just finished NCEA.

I'd also agree that NCEA is one of the more stuffed up things any governments managed to do to the Education system.

The new system's especially hard on people who aren't so good in one of the so called core areas of a subject eg. You can fail NCEA English at 6th form level if your spelling is bad even if your brilliant in all other fields.

So say you fail writing not because you can't write but because you can't spell thats it your stuffed in that field. You will be able to do 7th form english "if" you can get enough extra "credits" to make up for the ones you lost in Writing but you'll have problems with uni entrance because you failed writting.

As for you people who say spellings and failing writtings fair enough if you can't spell tell me how many of your leacture's (PHD's and all) have brillient spelling in the Biology and Chemistry departments I can tell you it's not very high!

Also Dyslexia is a disorder which can cause major problems with reading and writing yet is associated with above average intelligence and creativity (churchill and Einstein being two of many examples with the problem). The afore mentioned problem with NCEA would quite likely make it quite hard for such individuals to get into uni.