Waraku Education

Ideas, experiments and observations as they occur [and I have time] relating to teaching and learning in a secondary school - special focus on ICT.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Subject selection paralysis

Goto Google Video and use the search criteria 'Google TechTalks'. Most of the presentations last for around the hour mark and the ones that I have chosen to check out are very very interesting. Here is one.

The Paradox of Choice - Why More Is Less

I have blogged about the psychology of choice previously

There are two reasons that this subject is relevant to me at the moment
Firstly our DP spoke at a recent briefing lamenting that a significant proportion of students had not attended their course counselling appointments. It is like they didn't care.

I have a feeling that many of these students suffered from what Barry Schwartz described as paralysis - one of the negative effects of too much choice. Students moving into the senior school have a hard time of making selections and need to balance the following issues if they are to do a good job of it

  • their choice for SACE 1 needs to enable them to do what they need to do in SACE 2
  • what they choose in SACE 2 needs to equip them for what they want to do post school
  • many have no idea of what they want to do post school so they need to choose subject that will keep their options open
  • they need to choose subject the fit the 'SACE pattern' - so many humanities and so many maths science type subjects. Must have a certain number of maths and english. Must do Australian Studies. etc
  • teachers have made recommendation for their maths, science and english subjects. Students need to choose subject that they are likely to be successful in
So what to do - discussed at the end of the presentation

  • Design the system so that if people do nothing they almost certainly get what is in their best interests 'Libertarian Paternalism' is the concept being described.
  • Make choice trees (structure options hierarchically) where at each stage they are choosing from perhaps 5 options
  • Have people act as agents - this separates the choice from the consequences and leads to increased satisfaction.
Secondly we have been having discussions about mental health and depression. Barry Schwartz was very clear that he believed that the one of the consequences for our society of increased choice was an increase in clinical depression. The logic goes something like this. Increased choice means an increase in our expectation of perfection. As nothing is perfect we become disappointed with out choices and suppose that if we had spent more time and effort with our decision we would not have been disappointed.

The example of being able to change our bodies was brilliant and apt. In the past we had to play the cards we were given. If we were hit with the ugly stick, well that was the cards we were deal with and it was up to us to make the best of it. Now we have lots of options to do something about it and if we continue to be ugly it is our fault.

There was a lot of laughter from the audience as various cartoons where displayed. It is a shame that we did not get to see these in the video.

Access to these video's are probably filtered out in a school setting. So for school

  • Use Firefox and the Video Downloader extension - then either get a filter bypass to download the video at school or do it from home
  • Download FLV player


  • At 6:34 pm, Anonymous Plakboek said…

    Excellent, you raise some very good points. I am going to share this with my colleagues back at school.

    In addition, I rediscovered the download video button that I installed with Firefox but forgot to test out. Very cool!


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