perceiving others' thoughts and feelings, a multidimensional perspective

You can read this Harvard Graduate School of Education article on social-perspective taking--and even take a test yourself!

What would you teach the kids in your class, your colleagues, or the people around you about the importance of perceiving others' feelings? Are feelings an important part of the curriculum, something to manage and sublimate, or both?

From the article:
"While it is widely accepted that understanding the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of others – or social perspective taking – is crucial to successful relationships, researchers have found that it also plays an important role in the classroom. “One of the findings from my research,” explains HGSE assistant professor Hunter Gehlbach, 'is that the students who get higher grades also tend to be more motivated and more accurate in their perspective taking.'” (Gehlbach, Usuable Knowledge, Harvard Graduate School of Education)

Do you have examples about how perspective-taking can be a key element in learning? What do you think about the article--and the test?

Tags: Harvard, communication, emotions, social+perspective+taking

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"While it is widely accepted that understanding the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of others – or social perspective taking – is crucial to successful relationships, researchers have found that it also plays an important role in the classroom. “One of the findings from my research,” explains HGSE assistant professor Hunter Gehlbach, 'is that the students who get higher grades also tend to be more motivated and more accurate in their perspective taking.'” (Gehlbach, Usuable Knowledge, Harvard Graduate School of Education)

Connie, you raise an important issue in my mind. One that has ALWAYS troubled me about our education system here and all over the world. A very human thing. We seem to reward (grade) those students we like/empathize with etc...... We award grades based on our own biases as teachers no matter how much we pretend otherwise. This is really the cat that is in the bag.

What I mean is, how does Mr. Gehlback account for the bias of teachers in his study and isolate what is termed, "perspective taking"? Isn't it just the same old issue of "students who do well are those that are likeable"? I've often found myself as an educator, judge and juryier, confronted with my own prejudices when I look at the marks I've assigned students. Did I really assess knowledge or did I just assess how well the students responded to me, what I wanted?

All of education when it comes to "success" is fraught with this same demon and may I say "evil". That is why I have very much tried to twist it to my own liking as much as I can. I've often immediately and despite any rubrics, given any student that challenges and "hates" my teaching (with a rationale), high marks. I don't think we should be fooled by "social perspective" and it should be just another thing we filter out when "grading". I truly believe this. Too much of schooling is just "a kissing ask " contest in my opinion. Been there , done that myself. I truly respect thinking and it can be lazy or active but as educators we should only judge that - not quantity or "the correct response".

I know I'm off topic. But I'm passionate about this. Higher marks means "intelligence" and responding to the emotional needs of the group is only part of this. If we continue (as we have) to promote this through higher marks, we get what Valery termed, "like meeting like"....boredom. And to my mind, at the end of the day, like any genius will tell you, intelligence is not warmth but friction/heat.

I think perceiving others feelings is very important. But it shouldn't be "graded" or necessary for "success" in school. Why? Because we can never measure this - who be the one to cast the first stone?

I haven't read Gehlbach at all and will and if appropriate reKant. But I really think that we should see social perspective for what it is -- emotional intelligence but not something that really can be quantified and deemed a necessary component of "knowledge". I'll take a look at how Dr. Gehlbach quantified it in his study but I smell something......

David
http://eflclassroom.ning.com
Hi David,

I agree entirely with what you are saying about us not only finding value in ("awarding grades") to the work of students who please us and agree with us. (I could take the conversation one step further by wondering about the value of grading in general, but we can let that rest until another time).

Give it a chance, though--I think there may be something to the ability they're calling "perspective-taking."
There's an article called "Good Stories, Good Math" in Science News also holding the thesis that taking on multiple perspectives is associated with enhanced and advanced learning.

From the article:
"The scientists found that narrative ability in preschool was a good predictor of a child's later performance in mathematics. Simple measures, such as sentence length and diversity of vocabulary, had little relevance, however. The most important factor had to do with a child's ability to switch perspectives in the stories. For example, one child told the story as if the frog were the only character in the story, while another discussed the internal states of secondary characters, with comments such as, "The waiter was mad when the frog jumped in the soup."
"These aspects of storytelling are tapping an ability to think in a more flexible way," O'Neill says. "The kids are keeping track of relationships, talking about who did what to whom." This is the same kind of mental agility that is necessary for mathematics, she says. " (Italics mine.) (Rehmeyer, Science News, 11/10/07)

Hey--and how about language acquisition? Isn't that related to perspective-taking, and mathematics? And music?

(One thing I'd point out about the science news article is that correlation does not prove causation; it may be a thinking-constellation that effective learners use, that's now becoming apparent to us.)

So anyway, if we removed the issue of grading and just talked about learning, what do you think about "students who are motivated and active in their perspective-taking"? What sorts of learning applications would be associated with that?
(One thing I'd point out about the science news article is that correlation does not prove causation; it may be a thinking-constellation that effective learners use, that's now becoming apparent to us.)

I think this is what I was trying to say. I am very wary of any attempt to determine what is "intelligence" and I think it is as much a socially defined concept as anything. So too with learning.

We may value "mental agility" (though the poor penniless undervalued brainsmiths like Auden or eecummings would beg to differ that we do.....) but at the end of the day it is a value. Not intelligence per se. Do I think it is a value we should promote, being able to take on different perspectives? Yes, I do. But I don't think we should label it as a core part of "intelligence".

Koestler wrote a book that not many people read but which I find to be one of the most brilliant books of the last few hundred years. The Act of Creation. He speaks a lot about what you write and more....... Language ability is different than thought and he dwelves into the meat and potatoes of how intelligent minds think. It is not only taking others perspectives but also a very ego ridden endeavour. At its most basic level, intelligence is related to humour, the spark of humour. The ability to relate ideas in different ways. For example when we say "he saw the salad dressing" ..... a very intelligent thinker would immediately get the pun - one of the most basic forms of higher level thought/intelligence.

Hey--and how about language acquisition? Isn't that related to perspective-taking, and mathematics? And music?

I'm not convinced it is. It may be part of the overall outcome as you said but I don't think it is predominant. I do think it is very important though, as a social value. It is what makes us human and as such we should promote and educator with it in mind.....love thy neighbor it boils down to , in some crude way. Or the ecstatic religious experience of losing oneself and feeling immersed in the "other"....

There is soooo much to epistemology (what we are basically talking about) and I'm not too current on my Aristotle :) But I do think you are talking about the method of difference or hypothesizing which is one small part of knowing...... I often think of how "intelligent" we deem those who are not literate? Is the ability to read or write, a sign of intelligence or just a social value? I've met so many intelligent people who can't read or write at all so I'd have to say it is the latter. It brings to mind the story of the Egyptian king Thamus and the creator of the written word Theuth, as described by Socrates. Thamus rejects the written word as "dissociated knowledge" , falsity and vulgar impersonal knowing....He rejects it because people won't learn from themselves but rather through others which would lead to corruption of the person.....

I also think we should be very cautious when saying that some are better at "perspective taking". I think it almost impossible to measure let alone describe. I don't think it helps clarify many of the issues involved in what is learning / knowing / understanding .

Now having said all this, I'll take his test and think a little more about this....

David

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