Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Could we stealthily help students be happier?

Do you ever wonder how we think? I do.

I've been completing the lessons from Think101x: The of Everyday Thinking from edX. I've also been reading through the suggested textbooks: How we know what isn't so by Thomas Gilovich and Thinking, fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman. I've just finished the coursework and readings for week 3. There is so much to process; it's really quite astounding in every regard.

However, three recommended additional video posts (TED talks) have got me thinking about the concept of happiness and how schools do or do not or could help students' happiness. Perhaps it sticks in my minds because my 7-year-old nephew remarked Sunday that he hated school.

Below are the Think101x recommended extra video posts:

TED Talk by Dan Gilbert on The surprising science of happiness: "66% of the students choose to be in the course in which they will ultimately be deeply dissatisfied... because they do no know the conditions under which synthetic happiness grows."

TED Talk by Daniel Kahneman on The riddle of experience: "We really should not think of happiness as a substitute for well-being; it is a completely different notion."

TED Talk by Dan Ariely who asks, "Are we in control of our own decisions?": "The option that was useless in the middle was useless in the sense that nobody wanted it, but it wasn't useless in the sense that it helped people figure out what they wanted."

I'm not sure whether it's the educator in me or sheer curiosity, but theses are some of the questions that began to come to mind as I watched these videos and as they connected with the ideas already in my mind from the readings and Think101x course content:
  1. How can students understand that getting what one wants is not a determinant of happiness?
  2. Does giving students more options and more choices actually decrease their happiness?
  3. Would students make better food choices and be happier with them if their options were reduced?
  4. Should we not allow people to change their minds? Should we make more decisions irreversible?
  5. Could lessons be rewritten or redesigned or reorganized in such a way that students remember the lesson in a more positive light and are, thus, happier with their lessons?
  6. Do we tell students to do what makes them happy or teach them to do the things that will statistically lead to greater happiness, regardless of what they believe about the future?
  7. What implications does Ariely's discussion of organ donation have on the way we design exam questions, seek volunteers, etc.?
  8. Are students and teachers (regardless of what they say they think) more comfortable when decisions are made for them?
  9. How often do policy makers and curriculum designers choose more extreme positions simply due to having too many choices?
Feel free to chime with any of your thoughts. And check out Think101x!

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