Brief Thoughts on the Reasoning and Debate Skills of People Who Post Rants on Facebook

It is always amusing that people post illogical rants on Facebook and expect an echo chamber in the comments section while pretending to be unbiased. On the other hand, Facebook is so full of annoying and unoriginal memes with words pasted on images that I usually visit with News Feed Eradicator (Chrome add-on) enabled. However, when I engage the illogical ranter, I always lose an alleged friend who proceeds to make ad-hominem attacks without addressing any contentious issues, and concludes by telling me to “fuck off” while simultaneously claiming to have the moral high ground. I cannot help but wonder whether this audacious level of hypocrisy is a Central Florida phenomenon.

Facebook does not offer a way to disable comments on posts. If you want a way to post contradictory and illogical rants without dissent, I would suggest a personal website or a blog with comments disabled.

Early Explorations of Threshold Concepts and the Doctoral Process

I am two months into my Education Ph.D., Instructional Technology track at University of Central Florida. For one of my first-semester courses, IDS 7501: Issues and Research in Education, I’ve selected Meyer and Land’s threshold concept model as a research interest, as applied to doctoral students in Ph.D., Ed.D., or other research-oriented degree programs. Below is my early draft of the purpose of this investigation, a concept map, and an annotated bibliography of the existing literature. There are thousands of articles on threshold concepts (a term introduced by Meyer and Land in 2003), but I only found 23 so far that apply to doctoral student researchers. Most existing research is qualitative; I may seek to add a quantitative contribution to the field.

Threshold Concepts and the Doctoral Process: A Concept Map and
Annotated Bibliography Based on an Initial Literature Review
Richard Thripp
University of Central Florida
October 20, 2016


This concept map and annotated bibliography helps guide exploration of how threshold concepts apply to doctoral students and candidates, with a primary focus on research doctorates such as the Ph.D. and Ed.D. Threshold concepts are skills that may be difficult to acquire, but their acquisition is transformative—much like learning to ride a bicycle. Potential threshold concepts for the doctoral student include tasks at the create level of Krathwohl’s (2002) revised Bloom’s taxonomy, such as designing a research study, writing a research report, and conducting a literature review. Frequently, these skills are not explicitly taught to doctoral students—in fact, academics may not even consciously consider them, or may be dismissive toward students who have not yet acquired them. The purpose of this paper is to gather and draw insights from the literature to guide the design of a research study that measures threshold concepts in doctoral students. Ultimately, this will contribute to our understanding of the doctoral process, and perhaps suggest practices and policies that scaffold threshold concepts for doctoral students and candidates, thus minimizing periods of uncertainty (liminality) in the doctoral process and reducing attrition, including the “all but dissertation” (ABD) phenomenon.

Keywords: threshold concepts, conceptual threshold, doctoral studies, scholarly research, Bloom’s taxonomy, higher education, higher-order thinking skills, cognitive strategies, doctoral attrition

Threshold Concepts and the Doctoral Process: A Concept Map and
Annotated Bibliography Based on an Initial Literature Review

Gaining a threshold concept is a transformative and somewhat dichotomous experience. Learning to ride a bicycle is a prime example, because one cannot generally go back to not knowing, nor acquire only part of this skill. In the doctoral student’s journey, he or she is expected to cross or have already crossed many thresholds—for example, the ability to effectively organize strands of evidence and weave them into a special type of written prose distinctive to academia (Kiley, 2009). While many professors and academic departments view this skill and others as prerequisites for the doctoral journey, closer examination reveals that many doctoral students lack—and struggle to acquire—these skills (Kiley, 2015; Johnson, 2015). Threshold concepts (Meyer & Land, 2005), augmented by Bloom’s taxonomy, may be a viable way to explain the struggles and triumphs of the doctoral journey, and to inform the practices of professors and other academic staff, particularly regarding their attitudes and approaches to instruction, supervision, and advisement of doctoral students and candidates who may spend long periods in limbo (dubbed doctoral liminality by Keefer, 2015). Bloom’s taxonomy—specifically, including Krathwohl’s (2002) revisions—is especially relevant to the doctoral process because its pinnacle, create, is specifically related to the ultimate purpose of the research doctorate: making a significant contribution to the research base. Although threshold concepts are supported by a large corpus of research, as of 2016, only a handful of researchers have examined them in a doctoral-studies context. Therefore, while threshold concepts may ultimately have explanatory power for why some doctoral students excel while others never complete their dissertations, this literature review and the resulting research prospectus will seek only to examine and extend the modest amount of research that has been done.

Concept Map

Concept Map for Threshold Concepts for Doctoral Students

Concept Map Hierarchy

Guided by: Krathwohl’s (2002) Overview of a Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy

I. Skills and Strategies

A. Information Literacy (Hofer, Townsend, & Brunetti, 2012; Townsend, Brunetti, & Hofer; 2011)
1. Writing Ability (Humphrey & Simpson, 2012; Johnson, 2015
2. Literature Reviews (Wisker, 2015; Wisker & Robinson; 2009

B. Research Skills (e.g., Rowe & Martin, 2014)
1. Understanding a Scientific Theory (Kiley, 2015)
2. Research Design (Exner, 2014)
a. Doctorateness (Trafford & Leshem, 2009)

II. Self-Beliefs and Epistemology (Meyer & Land, 2005)

A. Growth Mindset (Boyd, 2014)

B. Personal Conceptual Frameworks (Berman & Smith, 2015)

C. Meta-Awareness (Harlow & Peter, 2014)
1. Threshold Awareness by Students (Harlow & Peter, 2014; Kiley, 2009)

III. External Influencers

A. Doctoral Supervisory Practices (Johnson, 2014)
1. Liminality and the Doctoral Transition (Keefer, 2015; Kelly, Russell, & Wallace, 2012; Adorno, Cronley, & Smith, 2015)
2. Threshold Awareness by Supervisors (Kiley & Wisker, 2009)

B. Supervisory Attrition (Wisker & Robinson, 2013)
1. Conflicts and Lack of Involvement (Ismail, Majid, & Ismail, 2013)

Annotated Bibliography

Adorno, G., Cronley, C., & Smith, K. S. (2015). A different kind of animal: Liminal experiences of social work doctoral students. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 52, 632–641.

Continue reading Early Explorations of Threshold Concepts and the Doctoral Process

Avoiding Unexpected Change Cost with Strategic Procrastination

Unexpected change cost is a term coined by author Rory Vaden in his 2015 book, Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time. This is the idea that performing tasks long before their deadlines is not always ideal—unexpected changes may arise that reduce or eliminate the value of working ahead. I prefer referring to “procrastinating on purpose” as strategic procrastination.

When you work ahead on your to-do list, you run the risk that expectations and other variables may change or be clarified. You also run the risk that you work may become completely nullified. For example, say you are buying uniforms for a new job that starts next Monday. If you buy them today, Tuesday, and then get a call on Thursday saying your employer no longer wants to hire you, you’ve just encountered unexpected change cost. Not only did you go through the hassle of buying the uniforms—you also must now waste more time returning them. If you would have instead procrastinated until Friday to buy the uniforms, you wouldn’t have needed to buy them at all. Of course, there is a balance—putting the task off until Sunday may be dangerous because of unforeseen issues—you may not be able to find the correct uniforms quickly, for example. Vaden dubs this the continuum between worry warts and gun slingers. Worry warts often pay unexpected change cost, while gun slingers often miss deadlines or opportunities due to waiting too long. Finding a happy medium is important, and is often not intuitive.

People are often surprised by my unerring punctuality: if I have a meeting at 1:00 p.m., I tend to show up at 12:59 p.m.—not 12:50 p.m. or 1:05 p.m. Of course, unexpected traffic delays or other variables can make me late, but these risks must be counterbalanced against the risk of wasting my time by arriving too early. The importance of the meeting in question, cultural expectations, and personal expectations of the person(s) I am meeting with must also be considered. If I am meeting with someone who typically shows up 10 minutes late, even arriving at 12:59 p.m. may be suboptimal. However, if this person is usually early, I may waste less of her time if I show up at 12:50 rather than 12:59 p.m. On the other hand, if this is an important job interview, planning to arrive at 12:59 p.m. is foolhardy.

An example of unexpected change cost is completing a bid or proposal early, and then being blind-sided by clarifications released by the requestor. For example, professors who complete a grant proposal a month early might have to re-do work, or find they have done unnecessary work, after the funding agency releases addendums or responses to questions weeks or even days before the deadline. Strategic procrastination might mean the proposal is turned in hours before the deadline, but heaps of unnecessary work may be avoided since the work was completed after all the clarifications came in.

Similarly, I recall several times when I have worked ahead in a college course, only to find that other students complained or found an assignment too difficult, resulting in the professor scaling back the difficulty level for the assignment. Though doing extra work can be a learning experience, my time is very limited and I would have preferred to spend it elsewhere. Working ahead can easily make one a victim of unexpected change cost.

Strategic procrastination is a powerful tool to minimize unexpected change cost. As the 2015–16 President of Port Orange Toastmasters, club officers, members, and visitors from other clubs often emailed me requests and questions that I had already answered elsewhere, or could easily be found by Google search. Replying quickly to these emails would often beget more requests and waste even more of my time. However, sitting on these emails for 12–24 hours often allowed the problem to resolve itself—Toastmasters would look elsewhere for the information, find it, and send a second email saying they no longer needed help.

The change from “needing” help to no longer needing it is a state change that exemplifies unexpected change cost. While this state change can be brought about by answering the question or request, this not only wastes your time—it also discourages self-reliance. Who do you think the person-in-need is going to go to next time—Richard Thripp or Google search? Richard Thripp, of course! If I answer questions for the person-in-need several times before directing them to Let Me Google that For You, they will then be surprised, annoyed, and perhaps even angry when I refuse to continue being their gopher. The best solution is prevention. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Refuse to be a gopher on the first request, not the nth request. Because I have a car, people without cars sometimes ask me for favors involving my car. “But you’re going to Orlando already!” Yes, but do I really want to have to leave a half-hour early to carpool, to arrive at your house and find you are not ready, to delay or suppress other plans or avenues, and to have these favors become an entitlement that is expected on an ongoing basis? Oh, what a low opinion you have of me!

Many college professors, particularly in the Psychology department at University of Central Florida, have a “3-before-me” policy, meaning they expect students to try three approaches to answering a question before contacting the professor. These professors won’t help the student unless he or she lists the three things he or she did in the email—for example, searching Google, searching the course modules on Webcourses (UCF’s LMS—learning management system), and consulting the index of the course textbook. While such policies may seem cruel, they accomplish two functions: encouraging self-reliance and preventing the professor’s time from being wasted on frivolities.

Approaching email with anything but strategic procrastination is a recipe for wasting tremendous amounts of time. If you don’t reply to emails, they often take care of themselves. Please look for a Dilbert comic about this. They are hilarious.

Working ahead of the pack often yields high unexpected change costs. Completing work after 50% of your peers complete it might be ideal. Then, the bugs are worked out. Questions are answered. Procedures are clarified. Is “the early bird gets the worm” true? Perhaps “the early bird gets screwed over” is more accurate? For example, many people who upgraded to Windows 10 in summer 2015, shortly after its release, got screwed over by an endless cycle of rebooting that made their PC completely unusable. This caused them to waste many hours and perhaps miss deadlines. Early adoption can lead to unexpected change cost. Strategic procrastination is the antidote.

Working ahead has its place. Delaying starting an exercise regimen or other beneficial habit until January 1 is folly—why not start now? However, when external factors are prominent, such as the whims and vicissitudes of individuals, teams, institutions, and chance, the risk of unexpected changes may be high. Working ahead might be the worst thing you could do. Put it off! Procrastinate strategically. Have patience. The problem might just take care if itself.

Presenting on Mindsets at Association of Teacher Educators Conference, Louisville, KY, 7/31/2016

I’ll be presenting the following poster at the Summer 2016 conference of the Association of Teacher Educators in Louisville, KY on Sunday, July 31, 2016, based on my April 2016 literature review.

Mindsets poster

I am looking forward to presenting at my first conference! I will post photos and thoughts about the conference next week. I will only be attending on Saturday and Sunday. My presentation is at 10:50–11:50 AM on Sunday, July 31, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Louisville in the Kentucky Suite. I’ve included the poster’s content below. I’ve also set up a Mindsets Page with all the information (literature review abstract, poster, and handout) in one place.

Mindsets Page:

Click here to download the poster and handout, including references.

Text and Images of the Poster

What are mindsets?
• Mindsets are a rebranding, popularized by Dr. Carol Dweck, of implicit theories of intelligence.
Growth mindset = malleable theory of intelligence
Fixed mindset = entity theory of intelligence
• Mindsets can be global or domain-specific.
Growth mindset is better. screenshot

Professional Development (pictured above; free) can help you understand and apply mindsets in your practice. Mindsets are important for educators, too. What are your mindsets for your teaching abilities? Technological abilities? Career trajectory? Fixed mindset is a limiting belief. Becoming explicitly aware of your mindsets may be the first step toward replacing fixed mindsets with growth mindsets.

What happens with fixed mindset?
• Learners believe they are stuck where they are
• Learners give up too easily
• Since abilities are fixed, learners become preoccupied with concealing their weaknesses
• Fixed mindset becomes part of their identity, e.g., “I’m not a math person.”

What happens with growth mindset?
• Learners believe they can get better
• Learners are less afraid to fail publicly
• Instead of saying to successful peers: “you’re so lucky, they ask: “how did you get there?”
• Growth mindset may promote health, well-being, good emotions, low stress, and achievement (King, 2012; Romero et al., 2014; Yeager et al., 2014).

Closed vs. open task example: area of a triangle

Giving open tasks, when feasible and with appropriate scaffolding, can help encourage growth mindset. It’s important to give students enough time to struggle. Giving answers too quickly can have dire consequences.

As an educator, how can I impart growth mindset?
Praise effort, not ability. Don’t say things like “you’re so smart” (person-oriented praise). Instead, say things like “great job—you applied yourself well” (process-oriented praise). Think about how you interact with students. Encourage students to use effective strategies.

Teachers who believe their students’ abilities are fixed:
• May have a performance-avoidance goal orientation for teaching (Shim et al., 2013)
• May be quick to make negative judgments about students’ abilities (Rattan et al., 2012)
• May give “comforting” feedback that belittles and demotivates students (Rattan et al., 2012)

Teachers who believe their students’ abilities can grow:
• Tend to give strategy-oriented feedback that motivates students (Rattan et al., 2012)
• Tend to praise hard work, promoting task persistence and enjoyment (Mueller & Dweck, 1998)
• May have and impart a mastery goal orientation for teaching and learning (Shim et al., 2013)

“The teacher should portray challenges as fun and exciting, while portraying easy tasks as boring and less useful for the brain” (Dweck, 2010; emphasis added).

“Implicit theories are indeed consequential for self-regulatory processes and goal achievement” (meta-analysis by Burnette et al., 2013; emphasis added).

Growth Mindset for Teachers When Using Technology figure by Mark Anderson:

Growth Mindset for Teachers When Using Technology figure

Mindsets are distinct from both achievement goals (De Castella & Byrne, 2015; Dinger et al., 2013) and self-efficacy (Komarraju & Nadler, 2013).

The research below attests to the veracity of mindsets and the power of mindset interventions:

Mind-Set Interventions Are a Scalable Treatment for Academic Underachievement

It's ok — Not everyone can be good at math

Parent Praise Predicts Children's Motivational Frameworks

Poster by Richard Thripp, who holds a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Applied Learning & Instruction from University of Central Florida and is starting in the Education Ph.D., Instruction Technology program in fall 2016 at the same university.

Thanks to Drs. Bobby Hoffman and Richard Hartshorne for guidance.

References available separately. You may photograph and share this poster for not-profit use. Inclusion of journal article abstracts and screenshot constitutes fair use. Thanks to Mark Anderson for releasing the “Growth Mindset for Teachers When Using Technology” figure with Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license. Closed vs. open task figure by Richard Thripp.

Thoughts on Dating and Relationships

“Deserving” someone. The concept of “deserving” a desirable romantic partner, simply due to one’s innate existence, is absurd. This seems to be something that women espouse more than men. Of course, Western society continues to vapidly value women for their appearance while men are valued for their accomplishments. However, believing that one “deserves” someone, just due to existing, seems no better. I would instead propose that no one “deserves” anything when it comes to dating.

“Just be yourself.” Don’t be yourself. Change yourself. If “yourself” is a lazy alcoholic who accomplishes far below his or her capacity, whose word is mud, and who behaves neurotically when dating, then this is not someone you should want to be. The argument that I should “be myself” is more aptly applied to not compromising—not pretending my predilections line up with my date’s in a futile attempt to curry favor. If a date professes to me her great love for hockey, I am going to “be myself” and pretend I like hockey too. However, just because my natural tendency is toward overeating does not mean I should “be myself” and allow myself to become obese.

“Let’s just be friends.” When someone continues to be “friends” with someone for the possibility of sex, he has done so willingly. We should have zero empathy nor sympathy for vultures who offer so-called friendship on a foundation of resentment for not being repaid with sex. Also, accepting gifts from someone, which by definition are supposed to require nothing in return, should not be considered “leading on.” In fact, anyone who offers a “gift” expecting repayment is a hypocrite. Their “generous” acts are completely nullified.

“Dirty” old men. No one ever refers to “dirty” young men, even though they are dirtier (have higher sex drives) than old men. The idea that men should be attracted to progressively older women as they become progressively older is egalitarian, but perhaps not realistic (shown in a somewhat-dubious study on OkCupid messaging trends). Women who date older men, particularly in the free world, usually have a choice in the matter, and thus are culpable for aiding and abetting dirty old men.

Cheating. If someone “cheats” or is “cheated” on, they could have completely avoided this violation of trust by not entering into an exclusive arrangement. There is plenty of cultural pressure and perhaps psychological pressure by the monogamy-inclined to cajole others into exclusive arrangements, but refusing this pressure, like being vegetarian or transgender, is becoming increasingly acceptable. Hopefully, this will reduce the prevalence of cheating, although people who cheat do not necessarily plan to do so from the outset of a relationship. Overall, the idea that one can claim sexual ownership over someone else for years on end, in marriage or exclusive arrangements, is contrary to the desires of the flesh and prone to violation.

Dating “advice.” People are far too eager to offer vapid and often patently false advice on dating and relationships. Even “good” advice usually has no empirical evidence behind it. Most would be better off avoiding advice from family and friends whenever possible. A common rejoinder people like to use against me is my “failure” to find a girlfriend reflects on my bitterness and arrogance. This is reminiscent of “law of attraction” pseudoscience. It is neither efficacious nor helpful. Additionally, if advice is given, it should be male–male or female–female (among cisgendered heterosexuals). The world of dating is much different for women than men. An average-looking woman will often have men ask her out even while grocery shopping, while an average-looking man can go an entire lifetime without this happening. Women have to sift through hundreds of messages on dating apps (including many misogynistic messages), while men often have to send hundreds of messages just to get a few responses. Comparing apples to oranges is like comparing dating for men to dating for women.

Neediness. I am not convinced the opposite of “neediness” is that great. Seeing a text or message from a dating prospect, not having time to respond, and then forgetting for an entire week is common for me. I used to suffer from so-called “oneitis” where I would get stuck on a particular women (it’s only “oneitis” when not reciprocated). This is not something I consciously exterminated, so much as simply grew out of, despite having no meaningful relationships in my 25 years. So-called neediness is only a problem when your crush has much less of it than you. However, if you both lack it completely, there is no relationship—you will just go weeks without noticing neither has contacted each other. Michael Jordan does not have a basketball “problem.” A successful poker player does not have a gambling “problem.” One only has a “neediness” or “clinginess” problem if rebuffed. Moreover, neediness may be more of a habit than an indicator of irreparable brokenness. While it can indicate lack of self-worth, this is not always true. One partner being “needy” might be the best way to keep communication channels flowing. Of course, due to cultural and/or biological expectations, being a needy man is far worse than being a needy woman.

Writing on education, psychology, and philosophy