Montana Catholic Schools Weekly

September 21, 2015

Thinking, Fast and Slow

I read the fascinating Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman this past summer. The book is ostensibly about decision-making but is has wide-reaching implications for school leaders. The book challenges Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink by pointing out the ways that our intuitive decision-making system (championed by Gladwell) leads us astray. He advocates slowing down and challenging our assumptions for important decisions, utilizing our analytical thought processes.

Kahneman challenges the “group think” which dominates our committee and faculty meetings. He believes the best process is gathering feedback first (usually via writing) before we begin discussing an important issue. He recommends a “premortem” when making an important decision. People should be asked, “How might this project/decision fail?”

He also challenges traditional job interviews, advocating for a more scientific approach which would award points in certain categories. Far too often, he argues, we base our decisions on intuition based on false premises and “heuristics” (defined as a problem-solving approach). Examples include:

· Availability heuristic: what immediately comes to mind

· Affect heuristic: how you’re feeling

· Halo effect: because you like a person, you believe everything about him/her is true

· Overconfidence: little correlation to the actual facts, often linked with “competition neglect” meaning that we ignore competing claims to our explanations

· Framing: The context of the problem affects your thinking

· Anchoring effect: Where you start determines where you “end”

· Representative heuristic: familiarity & experience influence your thinking

· Conjunctive fallacy: two simultaneous events are linked

· Narrative fallacy: our stories of our past affect our interpretation

· Endowment effect: we put more value on things we desire

· Possibility effect: highly unlikely events weighted proportionately (e.g. we take hope in a 1% chance to win the lotter)

· Certainty effect: less weight given to events which are nearly certain (e.g. if told we had a 99% chance to win, we would fret over the 1% chance we’d lose)

One of the most interesting ideas which I though had relevance to school was the “peak end rule.” Kahneman argues that unpleasant experiences are more bearable if they end well. In an experiment, people plunged their hands into ice water for 60 or 90 seconds. In the second situation, however, the temperature of the ice water was slightly raised for the last 30 seconds. When people were subjected to both experiments, they overwhelmingly chose the second experiment because they had a fonder memory of it.

People tend to show “duration neglect” by ignoring the length of an unpleasant experience because our “remembering self” ignores the reality of time. I thought of graduations and end of the year experiences. Could the experiences and rituals we provide our graduates (8th grade or high school) influence our school memories?

I recommend the book. You’ll find yourself enmeshed with math & gambling “problems” as well as challenges to your assumptions and new ways to think about decision-making.

Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent

The Week Ahead

Monday: Office (Helena)

Tuesday: St. Jude School WCEA faculty training (Havre)

Wednesday: St. Paul Mission Grade School WCEA faculty training (Hays)

Thursday: Office (Helena)

Friday: Marian make-up 10 am; WCEA team training 2 pm (Helena)

This Week: 645 miles

Last Week: 220 driving miles/ 1,173 air miles

2015-16: 3,320 driving miles/ 2,346 air miles

Montana Catholic Schools

Serving 3800+ students in 24 Catholic Schools across the Treasure State

For Principals

  1. Jean will be emailing you this week for a signup form for October's Marian class ("Themes of the New Testament"). Please make sure to check the upcoming tasks an events:
  2. The WCEA visiting team training will be held on Friday, Sep 25th at 2:00 pm (and should last approx 90 minutes). The training will also be available virtually. The following teachers & principals need to attend in person or virtually: Julanne Gauger, Nora Crossen, Ruth Ficaro, Bambi Van Dyke, Tim Lowe, Julia Lynch, Bart Freese, Jake Gion, Trish Coronado, Kim O'Leary, Mary Byrne, Kris Warren, Sarah Stevens, Mike O'Brien, Eric Vincent, Bianca Rock Above, Michelle Charlesworth, Jim Stanton, Catherine Kirchner, Anne Anderson, Garla Williamson, Michael Hairsine, Mary Lague, Lindsay DePuydt, and Sarah Zook.
  3. The Diocese of Helena is conducting healing services in each region. School administrators are asked to attend and to publicize this event so that teachers, staff members, students, and parents are all invited.
    1. Oct 1st: 7:00 pm at St. Pat's in Butte
    2. Oct 4th: 3:00 pm at the Cathedral in Helena
    3. Oct 5th: 7:00 in Cut Bank
    4. Oct 6th: 7:00 in Columbia Falls
    5. Oct 8th: St. Francis Xavier in Missoula
  4. Take a look at next year's schedule. We're now looking at August 15th and 16th for the New Teacher Retreat.
  5. 5. Do you have an employee who’d you’d like to nominate for special recognition? Simply send me a photo, his/her position, his/her history and affiliation with your school, and the reason for special recognition.
  6. 6. Marian Old Testament Class: Fri, Sep 25, 2015 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM Mountain Daylight Time. Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone. You can also dial in using your phone. (657) 220-3412 Access Code: 113-934-813
  7. 7. WCEA Team Training: Fri, Sep 25, 2015 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM Mountain Daylight Time. Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone. You can also dial in using your phone. (872) 240-3212 Access Code: 721-707-957

The Papal Schedule (all times MST)

Tues: Washington, DC--arrival from Cuba

Wed: DC--White House, meeting with Bishops, canonization Mass at 2:15 pm

Thurs: 7:20 am address to joint session of Congress; evening prayer at St. Patrick's (NY)

Fri: 6:30 am United Nations Address; 9:30 am 9/11 Memorial prayer service

Sat: travel to Philly; visit to Festival of Families

Sun: World Meeting of Families; depart for Rome at 6:00 pm

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