29 October, 2013

The Doncaster Choice

Bobby was the Doncaster decision-making champion 2024. In independent assessments run by

Direct Line, his purchasing, holidaymaking, hiring of staff and critically, not claiming on his pet

insurance has led to the calculation that he made the best decisions in the whole city. Now he was

going head to head for the Direct Line Choice of the North title and had a week to be as astute as

practicable. Now he found himself at the top of a flight of steps pushing a piano. Toward the drop.

The dilemma was twofold:

a) Winning would gain him W-List celebrity status straight off. He would be broadcast

throughout, meet U and even V-List celebs and, critically, have his less-pertinent affairs de-
listed from the Public Register, meaning he could block them on his profile.

b) Winning doubtlessly would ruin his life. He didn’t need a Life Consultant to tell him that.

So his only solution was to make some bad decisions. He had already got drunk and poisoned the

cat, but the likelihood that his receipts would be mis-read as an act of financial acumen followed

by an effective and healthy degree of drunken solace (records weren’t always great at showing the

order of unrecorded events).

So. This upright Piano. For a moment he hesitated. He weighed up his options using various systems:

1) Loss Aversion People are more averse to loss than they are for

making gains. Clearly, fucking up a piano was a bold move, would this be

seen straight through?

2) Framing After any change people tend to see how they are better off.

Could this be re-framed by Direct Line with their ├╝ber-meta-data as

somehow cathartic. It was true that he never really played the piano and

had endured years of nagging from his mother about lessons with plenty of


3) Rationality Breaking things is rarely as irrational as it would seem. When

the red mist descends somehow it is always the cheapest or ugliest vase that

whizzes past the heart-breaker’s head.

Bobby took a deep breath. He scratched a little. Turning, he leant for a moment, his sweaty back

arch against the cool pinewood of the piano’s end. Maybe this was a little obvious, still the exercise

had surely done him good – he’d skip the gym in the morning. He turned, bent his knees and

trundled back into his apartment.

20 October, 2012

Networking for a job

I have been fascinated with this subject for some time, by which I mean that I am on LinkedIn and I encourage the unemployed people I work with to apply speculatively for work, but it wasn't really until an article in TES gave me a name, Julia Hobsbawm, that I started getting hooked.

So to find a job what have I learned?
  • Your approach has to relate to where you are aiming to go. There is no point searching for a job at a particular company by reading  the paper every week and hoping they have advertised. Broadcast search for more general positions (job search engines, trade press or agencies) and
  • Identify people you know who are well connected. For example, using touchgraph.net to analyse your Facebook friends.
  • The people who are most likely to help you find a job are not the one's who know you best, make sure all your contacts are working on your behalf.
  • Ask to try a shift in a job sector you're interested in, just to see if you like it!
  • Ask for advice from people who you know are knowledgeable or successful in their field.
  • Try mixing in new social circles, try a different walk to the shops, a hobby or an evening class. You never know who you could meet by steeping a little out of your comfort zone!
  • You need to get ahead of everyone else and in the back door, if possible, by getting to know the key people. Even if they are moral people who believe in fair recruitment processes to give everyone a chance, they will make their minds up about their opinion of potential recruits within moments of meeting them. You can get ahead of this by making contact when they are not in a recruitment context.

Julia Hobsbawm is a professor of Networking (daughter of Eric Hobsbawm, the eminent British Marxist Historian, who passed away in the last few months). She may be the only professor of Networking, as it did seem to cause a stir in the media, though, this may simply be due to her also being a professional in the world of PR. I downloaded an mp3 of her inaugural speech, which named dropped a few further leads: Mark Granovetter and Angelo Barabasi amongst others.

Julia Hobsbawm's inaugural speech in full: http://traffic.libsyn.com/ei/julia_hobsbawm_lecture.mp3

Malcolm Gladwell writes in a highly accessible style on a range of topics from, to the benefits of coffee and tea. He uses a lot of anecdotes to provide context tot he theories he is promoting.
There are loads of fascinating articles on his website, and his books are easy to find.

After Gladwell's book Outliers was published about the attributes of highly successful people, Bill Gates apparently disagreed that his success was as attributable to the 10,000+ hours of work he'd put in to get Microsoft up and running, as to the setbacks he'd overcome in his career.

23 November, 2011


Coming to the close of my PGCE at long last, it has been a long slog and I am just brimming at the seams waiting to find the perfect teaching job and actually get on with the job of coming up with exciting lessons and having a class to teach. One of the last things to do is some reflective writing about teaching.
I heard yesterday on Brain Culture (Radio 4) about how children do not respond well to being congratulated on how intelligent they are. The studies they feature showed that children performed better when being rewarded with the old carrot for how hard they are working. If congratulated for being intelligent, when children are struggling with something the displeasure of this not meeting their identity as someone who can do things causes them to dispair, whereas those who think of themselves as hard-working are more likely to work hard ata problem. The programme then continued withthe presenter giving a very leading interview with some advanced maths students, but we'll gloss over that.
There is no reason that these theories shouldn't work with adults, too, we may just take a bit more prodding as we are somewhat stuck in our ways.

Anyway I've been thinking a lot about influence and persuasion and how they matter as a teacher. I read Freakonomics last Christmas and read Superfreakonomics cover to cover whilst I was ill the other week, which starts in its' introduction that the authors' writing had a unifying theme; "people respond to incentives". An interesting point in both of these books were what incentives people respond to. Self-image was very important; Acting in accordance with our self-perceptioon of our identity to re-inforce who we think we are was a strong imperative in many cases. Another book I read whilst ill was Yes!: 50 secrets from the science of persuasion which had an excellent example of how social pressure (what others are doing, using the hook of keeping up with the Joneses) can be even more persuasive. Customers staying in a hotel were more likely to re-use their towels if told how many others had done so than if they were told of the environmental benefits.

Persuasion can be broken down into 6 , "universal principles of social influence." says Robert Cialdini:
  1. reciprocation
  2. authority
  3. commitment/consistency
  4. scarcity
  5. liking
  6. social proof

The final book I wanted to mention, unlike my usual selection is a little older: The Brain Book is almost as old as myself, but the theory in it is still strong. It shows how the brain sets about remembering things through association. In Brain Culture(2011) the plasticity of the brain was discussed and children who visualised this idea of neurons making connections said they were better at remebering other topics. This may be less to do with self-aware neurons and more to do with consciously forming patterns of images and associations. The stronger your images and associations, the more bizarre and multi-sensory the more imprinted upon your brain they become (Brown, 2007; Russell, 1979).
So, for example I've (tried to) memorise Cialdini's list above by imagining teaching someone to cook from a recipe (reciprocation). The person being taught is particularly objectionable and needs persuading in a forceful manner, so the recipe is barked out like a Seargant Major (authority), which transforms the learner froma  nobody into the lowest in the kitchen (comi chef= commitment), magically putting a  chef's hat on their chavvy smelly unwashed greasy hair and forcing them into the servitude of stirring treacle (consistency).  However the learner runs off with a girlish whimper when a spider (audibly) plops down onto a pool of treacle (scare-city) and starts licking (liking) it. The spider than invites all it's friends to eat treacle and they all get drunk (social) and  have a spider party because the mixture is alcoholic (proof). It's not a the best example but you get the idea. To improve it I would make the images more personal and more rude/offensive/sexy (this emotional context would make it more memorable). The more layers of meaning and multi-sensory you make your images the better. Similarly in teaching there are many ways that youshould show subject in a variety of ways (PLTS, Domains of Learning and Bloom's Taxonomy all being examples). Not only can techniques be described to learners so that they can remember well, but but bringing a subject to life in - and to some extent out of- context, it can add layers of meaning to the learning and make it more memorable. This not only means you are doing what you have a basic responsibility to do as a teacher, enabling learning in those who struggle with a subject by presenting in a way accessible to them but also that you are making different associations for other learners and engraining this knowledge in their neuron patterns.

Brain Culture: Neuroscience and Society [Radio broadcast] BBC, BBC Radio 4, 22 November 2011 16.00 [online] Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b017cfkq [Accessed 23 November 2011]
Brown, D., (2007) Tricks of the Mind London: Random House
Goldstein, N., Martin, S. & Cialdini, R.B. (2007) Yes!: 50 secrets from the science of persuasion London: Profile Books
Levitt, S.D. (2006) Freakonomics London: Penguin
Levitt, S.D. (2009) Super Freakonomics London: Penguin
Russell, P. (1979) The Brain Book London: Routledge
Personal, Learning and Thinking Skills - Skills - Key Stage 3 and 4 - National Curriculum [online] http://curriculum.qcda.gov.uk/key-stages-3-and-4/skills/personal-learning-and-thinking-skills/index.aspx [Accessed 24 November 2011]

02 October, 2011

Survey into part-time work amongst Higher Education students

The last big project I have for my PGCE si to carry out a research project.

I have put together a quick survey to collect some data about university students doing part-time work. If you have ever been to university or know someone who has, could you take 2 minutes (or pass it on) :



23 July, 2009

Samantha Erin Richards Sadler

Hey there,

I've realised for those sensible friends of ours who haven't joined the hordes on Facebook that there are no photos of my beautiful month old (month tomorrow, anyway) daughter.

View a slideshow here

15 September, 2008

Warm-up for Reebok Bristol Half Marathon

For the last month I've been working on the Bristol Half Marathon. On the day I was responsible for College Green, which meant that this was about as close to the race as I got. It was a great day and I got some really good feedback from the runners. Maybe next year I'll run.

10 February, 2008

All flued out.

It's been a really beautiful February day here. Out the window, the drunks haven't been the only one's in the park for once, people from all over have been out picnicing and reading papers. My favourite park regular, the old Chinese lady who does evening Thai Chi on her own each night, has just left as the sun disappears and the day starts to cool. And us? We've all been indoors all day feeling rotten. I caught Amon's cold that he picked up at nursery - he's now started 2 days a week, and seems to be on course for picking up every bug one by one - and Rosa's got a hyperactive thyroid. According to Wikipedia and her, this sucks. It means at night when she should by all rights be asleep she's lying there with her heart going like the clappers trying to sleep. She's really exhausted now, and can't even sleep in the moments she should be able to. This coincides badly with her return to work after maternity leave and now Amon's had to move onto formula milk for fear of getting her medication through her milk.
We even failed to make it out to the back yard to start the gardening off afresh. I failed to get a job in the Council's allotments team recently, which only served to remind me that I should have been taking care of the garden over winter.
Feeling truly sorry for ourselves, I shall leave you with some good news: babies. Our friends Viv & Ali and Emily & Will have both had babies since I last wrote.