Webpage of Jan Claes | Well said

Open offices are bad for people and organizations

"The evidence is clear: open offices are bad for people and organizations."

  • 27% more sick days
  • 14% lower cognitive performance
  • 70% less face-to-face interaction

"For the sake of health, productivity, and collaboration, let's design spaces with doors."

The immortal awfulness of open plan workplaces, September 8, 2022

More nature surrounding agriculture land, what are we waiting for?

"Scientists spent a decade intensively monitoring the impacts of a large government-funded experiment at (...) a 1,000-hectare commercial arable farm in Buckinghamshire. Beginning in 2005, this involved creating several wildlife habitats, including seed-bearing plants for birds, wildflowers for pollinators and tussocky grass margins to support a range of birds, insects and small mammals."

The researchers found that yields "were maintained – and enhanced for some crops – despite the loss of agricultural land for habitat creation. The areas taken out of production were difficult and unproductive to farm, and the other areas benefited from boosted pollinator numbers and pest-eating birds and insects."

Nature-friendly farming does not reduce productivity, study finds, www.theguardian.com, August 3, 2022

The teacher should not be a coach, but an expert

"'How you teach a child to cross the street, that's a good example,' says Tim Surma. 'Everyone who has ever done that knows how to do that. You stand on the street and activate your child's prior knowledge: it knows that cars can be dangerous, and that at any moment a car can pass by. Then you will show how to cross the street safely. You are the expert who shows the novice how to do it. Then you cross the street together, and you are going to support the child. The goal is to make yourself superfluous, because you don't want to have to cross the street with your child all your life.'

'But after that first time, you don't say, 'Now you do it yourself.' No, you help again the second time, by first testing the child's knowledge: 'Do you remember what you have to do to cross the street safely?' That test, so to speak, is of great value. If it doesn't work the second time, do it again. Until the child is independent. The bar is high. And you are the expert, the kid is the novice. That's how good didactics work.'"

The teacher should not be a coach, but an expert, demorgen.be, June 17, 2022

Group assignments are (only) useful for complex assignments

"We find that interacting groups are as fast as the fastest individual and more efficient than the most efficient individual for complex tasks but not for simpler ones."

"Finally, we find that interacting groups generate more solutions more rapidly and explore the solution space more broadly than independent problem solvers, finding higher-quality solutions than all but the highest-scoring individuals."

Task complexity moderates group synergy, PNAS, September 7, 2021

Smartphones can hinder your cognitive functioning

The article reports on the results of two experiments where participants' performance on attention tasks were assessed when their smartphone was on the desk, in their pocket/bag, or in another room. Significant differences were found, indicating that the closer the smartphone, the worse their task results were. The researchers explain these observations by stating that the physical presence of the smartphone is enough to reduce the available cognitive capacity for attention allocation.

I do not completely agree with the offered explanation, because I believe that you can train your brain to not spend (unconscious) attention to your phone by better regulating which notifications can when disturb you. In other words, when your brain knows there are situations that the phone may draw your attention, and other situations where it cannot, the described effects will only play in the former situations. Nevertheless, the paper is still a very interesting read!

Brain drain: The mere presence of one’s own smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity, Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, April, 2017 (full text)

Empirical proof that motivation is driven by autonomy, relatedness, and competence

This paper finds 60% of meaningfulness at work comes from non-economic factors: autonomy (that one has choices & authority over tasks), competence (a feeling of mastery), and relatedness (connection to others).

This works for employees, students, and so on. Give them a certain freedom in the interpretation of their job/tasks and increase their motivation (e.g. fewer mandatory tasks in higher education). Be involved (e.g. during COVID-19 we switched to online teaching and the need of students for an engaged teacher came up strongly, the school is not only an educational institution, but also a social network). Competence also increases motivation: both the ability to work with competent people and the feeling that you are good at what you do yourself (e.g. concentrating on what students do well and what growth they are making is more motivating than a focus on problems).

What makes work meaningful and why economists should care about it, Labour Economics, August 2020 (full text)

Volunteering makes you happy!

Volunteering makes people more happy. In fact it is estimated to have a similar effect on wellbeing as receiving a bonus of £911 per year (about €1065 or $1250)

Does Volunteering make us happier, or are happier people more likely to volunteer?, Journal of Happiness Studies, March 17, 2020

Trees neutralize CO2 and retain water

I have been saying this for years now: plant trees in and around meadows and solve a large part of the CO2 problem of meat production quickly and cheaply! And it offers many other benefits... 😁

"Planting trees around fields is the simplest and most important thing you can do to store CO2 in the soil without losing income."

"It's not about ideology, it's about smart farming. Reserving twenty percent of your land for trees will yield you twenty to forty percent extra yield in the long run. In addition, you improve your soil, contribute to nature restoration and save you on all kinds of products that you no longer need."

"There must be disadvantages, right? Worms shakes his head. 'Not much.' He thinks. 'Or at least: one. The main thing.' The reason why he never heard about it until ten years ago. 'No money. There is a business model for selling agricultural poisons, but not for agroforestry. On the contrary. Agroforestry makes a farmer independent.'"

Smart farmers plant trees, mo.be, March 9, 2020

Noise reduces cognition and productivity

"An increase of 10 dB inhibits cognitive function and this results in a decrease in productivity of approximately 5%"

This article confirms one of my long-lasting believes: noise (e.g. of computers, ventilators, vending machines) hinders cognition and productivity. To give you an idea, 10 dB is about "from the noise level of a dishwasher to that of a vacuum".

So can we please get rid of gasoline vehicles and equipment? Switch to electric (garden) tools, select silent (household) appliances, avoid unnecessary noise making. It will improve our cognitive functioning (and productivity).

Noise, cognitive function, and worker productivity, joshuatdean.com, February 25, 2020

The teacher risk list

"Angry and sad he is sitting opposite me. He has been sent out for the umpteenth time and there he is sitting with 'the teacher who is not a teacher'. (...) Oh bah I am his punishment."

"I print his timetable and get a red and green marker. 'Let's go make a teacher risk list.' I'll make it up on the spot. (...) 'Let's find out what makes a teacher a good teacher for you.' He relaxes, his face goes from thundercloud to sunbeam. It's not about him for a while and yet it is."

"The fact that 'the teacher who is not a teacher' makes a teacher risk list goes like wildfire through the school and the teachers' room. (...) The first teacher reports: 'Uhhhhm Katrín, I am on the list?' he asks a little shyly with a half smile. He insists. (...) Two weeks later Ramon, the teacher, comes flying in like a happy bird: 'Katrín, Katrín' he exclaims enthusiastically 'Where am I?!?! I'm sure I've been paying attention!' he continues. (...) His red was, as with most teachers, unconscious and unintentional. You cannot be aware of everything and everyone as a teacher, for that too, together is better than alone."

We are going to make a teacher risk list, omdenken.nl, February 7, 2020

Nature or nurture

Could it be that much of our personality is not innate, but learned? That question has puzzled me for a while. The article below is about the difference between men's and women's brains and seems to suggest that the difference is mainly learned. Food for thought ... 🤔

"It turns out that individual brains can differ greatly from each other, perhaps because our brains are so plastic. Throughout our lives they change under the influence of what we experience, experience, do and lack. This new insight makes the discussion about nature versus culture obsolete. Both are strongly intertwined. We are biology, but our environment changes it in many ways."

"Nor do we know whether a brain difference is congenital, or the result of what someone has already experienced or learned."

"But even with them [newborns] we don't see any consistent differences."

"Sometimes the research is sloppy, sometimes scientists look for confirmation of their own prejudices and interpret data in that sense. Or they only publish studies that show differences because journals mainly want to publish papers that indicate differences. But the number of studies showing no differences is many times greater, except that it barely gets published. "

Brains are neither female or male, demorgen.be, February 7, 2020

Talking about guilt does not help solve the climate problem

"Yes, our daily lives are undoubtedly contributing to climate change. But that’s because the rich and powerful have constructed systems that make it nearly impossible to live lightly on the earth."

"As long as we are competing for the title of “greener than thou,” or are paralyzed by shame, we aren’t fighting the powerful companies and governments that are the real problem. And that’s exactly the way they like it."

How to stop freaking out and tackle climate change, nytimes.com, January 10, 2020

Why educators will continue to exist

"Unfortunately, otherwise it usually doesn't work. Much was expected from the massive open online courses (MOOCs). After a few years, it turns out that even the excellent edX online learning platform from Harvard, among others, turned out to be a flop. never even the content of a course. Only one in ten registers again after a year. Those who do take lessons online appear to learn less than in traditional education. Learning is a social event, and classes with real lessons still work best."

"Yes, the education of today is still very similar to that of the past. And that will (should) be the case tomorrow too. That is no coincidence: this education is working. The world has changed, but our brain has not. The way in which learning is best done has not changed, so it is not a problem, but a necessity that education changes less quickly than the world."

The education of tomorrow is that of yesterday, standaard.be, February 18, 2019

Give teachers more pedagogical freedom

"It sometimes seems that teachers are no longer regarded as respected figures but rather as patented sloths who work only 20 hours a week and have five months of vacation a year, from notables they have fallen into the madness of society."

"In other words, we must ensure that teachers can fully focus again on their actual core task: transferring knowledge and the skills to put this knowledge into practice, so with the actual teaching. the teacher must be given full autonomy, responsibility and above all absolute pedagogical freedom within the learning process.The way in which a teacher shapes the learning process is thus completely in his or her hands in order to achieve the objectives with the students on the basis of personal authenticity It is essential to take the pedagogical process away from the hassle of the many fringe figures and the pedagogical fashions that change every few years."

When teachers do get around to teaching, their pedagogical freedom is curtailed from all sides, knack.be, May 30, 2018

Intuition beats analytic thinking in matters where you have enough experience

"Intuition is the result of information processing in the brain that results in prediction based on previous experience"

"It is time to stop the witch hunt on intuition, and see it for what it is: a fast, automatic, subconscious processing style that can provide us with very useful information that deliberate analysing can’t. We need to accept that intuitive and analytic thinking should occur together, and be weighed up against each other in difficult decision-making situations."

Is It Rational to Trust Your Gut Feelings?, neurosciencenews.com, May 18, 2018

Extrinsic motivation kills intrinsic motivation

About how rules, obligations, and rewards often work contra-productive. For long now I advocate to have less mandatory tasks and classes in higher education.

"Researchers found 'overwhelming evidence' that bonuses can dull employees' intrinsic motivation and moral compass."

"All in all, it is amazing to see how many of our biggest problems are caused by the dictatorship of the carrot and the stick. The list is endless."

"Don't get me wrong: Right now, countless teachers, psychologists and entrepreneurs are motivated to the bone to help others. But they have that motivation more in spite of than thanks to the carrot and the stick."

Get rid of control. Long live the intrinsically motivated man, decorrespondent.nl, October 18, 2016

While you are sleeping, the brain is pruning irrelevant connections

"For years this has been the focus for learning new things. But as it turns out, the ability to learn is about more than building and strengthening neural connections. Even more important is our ability to break down the old ones. It’s called “synaptic pruning.” Here’s how it works."

"When you learn lots of new things, your brain builds connections, but they’re inefficient, ad hoc connections. Your brain needs to prune a lot of those connections away and build more streamlined, efficient pathways. It does that when we sleep. Your brain cleans itself out when you sleep–your brain cells shrinking by up to 60% to create space for your glial gardeners to come in take away the waste and prune the synapses."

"To take advantage of your brain’s natural gardening system, simply think about the things that are important to you. Your gardeners will strengthen those connections and prune the ones that you care about less. It’s how you help the garden of your brain flower."

Your brain has a “delete” button – Here’s how to use it, fastcompany.com, May 11, 2016

Overprotecting children is not a good idea

"Today's youngsters were raised too protected. Their parents took away all possible obstacles, making them not resilient enough. One screech and they got ice. Once they reach adulthood, this avenges itself in the form of depression, chronic fatigue and burnouts."

The diaper generation: spoiled, cherished and therefore very unhappy, hpdetijd.nl, March 8, 2016

Using long words does not make you look smart

"A majority of undergraduates admit to deliberately increasing the complexity of their vocabulary so as to give the impression of intelligence."

"All in all, the effect is extremely robust: needless complexity leads to negative evaluations."

Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity: Problems with using long words needlessly, Applied Cognitive Psychology journal, October 31, 2005 (full text)