Sunday, August 16, 2015

Prof's gift to students: a green pen

For years now and in every course I teach, I have given each of my students a tool to help them collect the data of their experience: a green ink pen.

I recommend that students do advance preparation for their classes in writing. This becomes data that is observable to self and others. By collecting and analyzing this data, a student becomes his own coach. Data helps to counter what I call our "normal neurotic" tendencies such as confirmation bias, hindsight bias, and overconfidence. Because if you don't write it down, it doesn't exist. I tell my students to take their written analysis and their green pen to study group meetings and class. With preparation only in their heads, they can fool themselves into believing that they also thought all those really smart things that other people said during the discussion. But, with the data of their analysis in writing, any gaps in their thinking are clearer to see. Those omissions can be jotted down in the margin of their paper in green ink, collected, and analyzed over time.

This gathering of data is important because insight skills are necessary to learn the right lessons from experience. With their green pen, students can extract more value from their everyday experiences and begin to change their behavior by experimenting, practicing, collecting feedback, and reflecting. Why green? The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda said that he wrote in green ink because green is the color of esperanza—hope in Spanish. I tell my students that I give them green pens with the hope that they will use them as a tool to be wiser, younger.
Linda E. Ginzel (professor of management psychology, "In the Classroom: The Green Pen", Chicago Booth Magazine, Winter 2015

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