Scholars are archetypal knowledge workers. They are amongst the brightest members of society. They process enormous amounts of intellectually challenging materials. They use this information to define, understand and resolve problems. They are in the business of creating knowledge for the benefit of society.
However, like everyone else, they have limited mental resources, such as working memory capacity. They struggle with information technology that is always changing yet not specifically designed to meet their exacting cognitive needs. Their work loads are forever taxing. They are not immune to cognitive aging.
Therefore, scholars must perpetually strive for cognitive productivity. They must use ways of processing information and learning that are compatible with principles of cognition. They must use technology as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Expertise in any discipline involves reviewing skills and assumptions that are constitutive of the discipline. Performance psychologist Mark Guadagnoli noted that Tiger Woods, already a world champion, regularly revisits aspects of his swing. Woods is never content with his level of performance. He always seeks to improve. This principle, that revisiting the fundamentals is essential for improvement, is equally true for developing scholars—whether or not they are at the top of the pack.
CogZest offers the following workshops, designed specifically for scholarly researchers:
- From building knowledge to developing ourselves with knowledge
- Research information management
- Evaluating, rejecting and selecting knowledge resources
- Analyzing documents and other knowledge resources
- What are the aims of science?
- Conceptual analysis
They are described below.
These workshops are appropriate for scholars at every level of experience:
- New scholars
- Experienced instructors recently appointed to professorial positions
- Experienced scholars
Participants will learn from author and professor, Luc P. Beaudoin, and from each other.
Cognitive productivity for scholars workshop: From building knowledge to developing ourselves with knowledge
This workshop introduces scholars to the problems and opportunities of cognitive productivity. It describes the core uses of knowledge. It explains how knowledge building differs from personal learning. It explains why it is useful to think of scholarly learning as mental development. It explains some of the facts about the human mind that are crucial to its ongoing development.
Cognitive productivity for scholars workshop: Research information management
Researchers gather many diverse knowledge resources (documents, videos, etc.). In order to benefit from the most useful information you process, you need to be able to access it quickly in the future. Moreover, difficult, complex information normally should not simply be read without annotation. You need to make a note of the most pertinent information, your knowledge gaps, opinions and tasks. Often you need to draw diagrams, extract tables and write summaries, that is to create “meta-documents”. You need to be able to access your meta-documents quickly.
This workshop presents powerful yet simple ways of managing your meta-information, that is information about the knowledge resources you processes. This will enable you to make much better use of the information you encounter and process.
Cognitive productivity for scholars workshop: Evaluating, rejecting and selecting knowledge resources
The literature contains much more information than any one scholar can process. Finding information is relatively easy now. Knowing which papers to reject and which ones to select, and how much effort to put into particular papers is much more difficult. Yet this is a critical task. For your time is limited. Reading papers is demanding and tiring. The quality of the knowledge you produce is in large part a function of the quality and pertinence of the papers you choose as inputs to your own knowledge building.
Evaluating content involves complex cognitive skills that are critical to any domain of expertise. A professional baseball player can assess the swing of a bat much better than amateur. An architect can assess a building in a much richer way than others. A scholar knows how to assess knowledge resources. Like most complex cognitive skills, abilities to assess content can improve with time; or they can plateau and even deteriorate through disuse. It depends largely on whether one is deliberate and informed about assessment.
In this workshop, you will learn:
- powerful concepts for assessing knowledge resources.
- systematic strategies to apply these concepts
- how to use technology and cognitive science to filter and focus on the most appropriate knowledge at your disposal.
By selecting knowledge gems you will be poised to build even better knowledge than your inputs.
Cognitive productivity for scholars workshop: Analyzing documents and other knowledge resources
There comes a time, of course, where having inspected a document, a scholar decides to analyze it in detail. To be sure, everyone has their own idiosyncratic ways of doing this. But research on expert reading has also uncovered some patterns. Underlying those patterns are large scale strategies and myriads of fine-grained heuristics, ways of perceiving information, motivational processes and emotional responses.
By discussing, reflecting upon and analyzing what we, scholars, do when we analyze documents, we can improve how we analyze documents.
Information technology has been a mixed blessing. It has increased our ability to access many documents. But it also promotes superficial processing. Technology can in principle be used to analyze documents in detail. However, even experts struggle to apply technology, such as PDF readers and web browsers, productively. Why? It is partly because software is designed for the masses. Most people are not particularly interested in analyzing documents. They are content to try to get the gist of a document, maybe solve a current problem, and then move on to something else. As a result, no PDF reader is current designed, for example, to allow its users to extract key ideas and their knowledge gaps. Yet tracking concepts and knowledge gaps is what distinguishes the best readers from the rest.
By understanding what we do with documents, what we should do with documents, and why technology makes it difficult, we can build new strategies and workflows to productively analyze documents.
In this workshop, you will learn to use a very powerful (free) PDF reader in a very productive fashion. You will be surprised how much more you can get out of documents, and more easily, once you complete this workshop.
Cognitive productivity for scholars workshop: What are the aims of science?
The strange thing about science is that many people who practice it are not very clear on what it’s about. The textbook definitions of science are inadequate. Research methods textbooks across disciplines almost invariably fail to adequately characterize what researchers do and can do. The most highly read books on the philosophy of science do contain several knowledge gems; however, they almost invariably grossly oversimplify science.
This is a very significant problem because scholars miss big opportunities when they fail to realize what they could be doing. Narrow tunnels of science are burrowed and traversed over and over again by generations of students, who become scholars, and perpetuate the culture they have inherited. This can limit the creative output of, and ultimately the value of the knowledge produced by, even the most potentially brilliant scientists.
Cognitive productivity for scholars workshop: Conceptual analysis
The English language has the richest lexicon of all languages. To paraphrase Simon Winchester, it is a vacuum for terms and concepts. We all have access to deep seams of tacit knowledge in our ability to use our native language.
Conceptual analysis is a collection of techniques that enable people to tap into their tacit knowledge. Often, when there is confusion in the literature, a debate or discussion, a bit of conceptual analysis can go a long way to clarifying matters. Albert Einstein’s theory, for example, was not merely based on scientific experiments and thought experiments, it was, more generally, based on conceptual analysis. He analyzed the concepts of space and time.
In this workshop you will learn how about conceptual analysis and how to use it in your research. You will learn to tap into your tacit knowledge to better assess papers and build new knowledge.
To find out more about these workshops, please contact CogZest.