Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Monday, October 31, 2011

Now These Are Real Master Classes

The second Edge 'master class' I watched, by Professor Leda Cosmides of the University of California was called 'The Architecture of Motivation.' I found what she had to say extremely interesting, to the extent that I understood it, but it was only when I recognised that it was Professor Steven Pinker in her audience that was asking her questions that I realised that, yes, this really was a master class. I was learning (something about) up-to-date psychological science from one of the foremost people in the field.

You can also watch such master classes by Pinker himself—about the topics from his recent 800-page book—and talks by various other prominent people in various branches of social and other sciences. This is a great way for career developers to broaden horizons.

PS: Cosmides asks why we are made to feel. So why is that so?

Limited Opportunities for Us to Develop

Rob Straby polled his audience of career developers at a recent conference and found that few participants have the support they need to build 'professionals skillsets on the job': see The Care & Feeding of Career Development Professionals.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to Study, II

Q: What modern institution developed from medieval institutions of the kind depicted in the image to the right?

A: If you answered 'university' then you are absolutely right. See the lecturer reading from his notes? And the students scribbling stuff down in their own notebooks?

Yes, the process is largely unchanged for quite a long time now.

Not very efficient is it either, for the students I mean. For an alternative approach, and some empirical evidence in support of it, read what Tom Stafford has to say at Make study more effective, the easy way. (The comments are interesting too.)

Image from wikimedia commons (public domain).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How to Study

People preparing for career changes will often find it necessary to do some study at some level. Here's some advice from the Wall Street Journal: Toughest Exam Question: What Is the Best Way to Study?

Thanks once again to the Barking Up the Wrong Tree blog.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Canadian Essential Skills Profiles

If you're like me then you've been resorting to the American occupational information available from O*NET, and extrapolating from it for Canadian clients. That being the case, you'll be pleased to know that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has announced its first batch of 50 "updated essential skills profiles," available online. The agency is soliciting opinions about them, and you can ask to be kept up-to-date about developments.

I think it's extremely important that HRSDC continue with this project to the point where you can search the occupation descriptions in the way that it is possible on O*NET, that is, at least by:
  • Abilities
  • Interests
  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Work Activities
  • Work Context
  • Work Values
  • Skills Search
  • Tools and Technology
Definitely a great start!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Job Listings for Career Developers: When It FAILS

For heaven's sake don't ignore it!

Please tell me. Just send me a short email at

My thanks to Andrew Bassingthwaighte for informing me this morning about the unavailability of the job listings for the past few days.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stuff We Do Must Be Based on RCTs

Let's say you know a dyed-in-the-wool, explicitly racist individual who says, "When I meet a person of race X I can be fairly sure that she will exhibit attitude AX, and when I meet a person of race Y I know he will exhibit attitude AY."

If you are like me, you'd probably cringe and put on your best anti-racist mental cloak, then say to yourself, "Goodness, this individual can see (or thinks he can see distinguishing racial attributes) and then he projects his own beliefs about race onto members of these groups. (Fortunately I am completely free of these ways of thinking.)"

Now, let me offer you what I sometimes hear during discussions. An employment advisor with views about the differing attitudes of the various generations of North Americans meets a client of generation X. Whenever the advisor does so he says to himself, "I imagine that this client will have attitude AX in the workplace. Curiously, when I meet clients from generation Y on the other hand they always seem to demonstrate attitude AY at work."

Can you spot the parallel at all?

My point is not that we should ignore individual differences in clients. Of course not. My point is that observations made in uncontrolled, unblinded situations do not constitute scientific evidence. When one meets a client all sorts of beliefs and expectations will suggest themselves on the basis of gender, social class, age and so on.

We need more good scientific exploration to guide our work.

See wikipedia, randomised controlled trials for more. I note that they were first used in psychology where life is somehow more difficult in some ways than it is in physics.

If you would like to be harangued on a regular basis about topics like this then subscribe to Ben Goldacre's Bad Science, or to Tim Harford's BBC 4 More or Less podcasts. Here's something gnarly that you can read right now: A Field, Top 5 Statistical Fax Pas.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I avoid discussing civil liberties issues on this blog. However, I believe that this one is extremely important to Canadians. Once this machinery is in place we will never be rid of it. Furthermore, it is open to wide abuse, not just by police and other security officials but by anyone who operates Internet facilities.

Please consider signing the petition. Our freedoms are important.