Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Trouble With Outliers, Pt. 1

In his “Trouble with Geniuses, Part I” chapter, Malcolm Gladwell begins to clarify his argument that we continually have trouble understanding outliers. Too often, researchers and an array of commentators rely too heavily on conventional measures of aptitude to predict the ingredients of those who become extraordinary successes. For example, we label those who perform exceptionally well on IQ tests “geniuses,” and that designation presumes (incorrectly according to Gladwell) that they will become highly successful.

But in order to do really well, Gladwell suggests that individuals hardly need to be exceptionally intelligent or super smart. They merely need to be “smart enough.” And those who are smart enough do not need to attend the very best schools to gain the knowledge and training to win, say, the Nobel Prize in Medicine. They just have to attend a school that is “good enough.”

So what, in your mind, is a crucial element in determining whether a collegiate environment meets the good enough threshold? Why is the element or factor you identify so vital?

Or, what steps should we be taking if we want to ensure that we develop more active, "good enough" learning environments here?

28 comments:

kimCHI said...

You can add as many fancy buildings, latest techno-equipments, and fast food restaurants into any university and drive cost sky rocketing, but no university works without people and the motivation they are willing to put forth.
Individuals make the society. This includes staff members, student workers, students, and faculty. Each individual is able to put forth the motivation to do their job well in both academics and working, but many lack the drive to put their own effort into anything.
All I am trying to say is that individuals, no matter what their role in the society, is vital in the productivity of the society. If teachers do not motivate the students and take joy in their job the class can make time expand. If the student lacks the personal drive to study, read the material, and do the assignments then they are wasting money, time, and do not actually learn anything. If the staff workers are rude and some are student workers, that could make a out of state prospective student think twice about applying to a school full of jerks.

Jasmine Coleman said...

Personally, I believe the three crucial factors for making a collegiate environment "good enough" are challenge, freedom of creativity, & accountability. Regardless of whether you attend Harvard or SIUE, all three of these factors are important for your growth and personal success. An education that does not present challenge is one that fails to promote real learning. If students can get through a class without having to think critically and study in order to apply classroom knowledge to the real world, what are they really learning? I also feel that all students should be able to express their thoughts without ridicule. We are all different for a reason and some of the world's most successful and effective leaders, are those who were able to think outside of the box. Lastly, I believe all students should be held accountable at the college level. Schools should empower their students to take charge of their educational decisions. For example, advisers who make student's schedules for them. I feel that students need guidance, but they do not need some one to to spoon feed them through college. As an adult it is imperative that you learn to make decision & choices for yourself!

Unknown said...

I again really enjoyed the selection I was assigned to read. Gladwell's discussion of "genius" and the idea of a threshold when it comes to "genius" was something I had never really thought about. I've always been enthralled with the amount of intelligence a human being can be gifted with and often find myself jealous that I could never come close. But, I really liked what Gladwell said about how there is so much more than just being "smart" or having a high IQ. Imagination and creativity play just as big a part in achievement as intellect. I find this encouraging since I often question just how high my IQ really is... :)
I am not a traditional student. I am 34 years old and am working on my second degree right now. So, back yonder when I applied for college the first time around, I was frustrated. I was an honor student in high school, but I tend to not test well on standardized tests. I did not do as well on the ACT as I had hoped. Therefore, I did not get as many scholarships or into one of the schools I wanted to attend. I was devastated. I had worked hard, was on the honor roll, took college classes while in high school, and was very active socially. I felt that none of this mattered because of a standardized test.
I did get accepted into my second choice of schools and it turned out to be a great place for me. But I always wonder what life would be like had I been accepted at the first choice and chosen to stick with my original major. Would I be here now looking for a new career path?
This chapter really spoke to me about the importance of reaching beyond intellect and wanting more from students.

Ashley Jeffers said...

When it comes to schools being "prestigious" or "good", I don't think it's really fair at all to put those titles on colleges. Some colleges are misleading; they are expensive and only appear to be "good" schools because of the amount of money students are willing to pay to be a part of that school. Somewhere along the lines, the "prestigious" schools were titled as such, though, and those schools usually spit out more successful graduates mostly because hiring companies would rather have an employee who graduated from one of the "good" schools than one who just came from any old college.

I think to make our school become "good enough" to produce very successful graduates, classes that are Major-directed should be very difficult, therefore weeding out those who are dedicated and/or "smart enough" to excel in that area. After a certain amount of time allowing the word to get out that our school only let "the best" pass through, the school would then become well-known and possible "prestigious".

Anonymous said...

John Silerio,

The things that I believe meet a certain standard can only apply to my mindset
or goals that I have set forth for myself (or any other individual). So while narrowing my selections for
schools to attend, SIUE stood out to me for its location from my hometown,
campus set up, living accommodations, and classroom environment. This allowed
me to use my strengths as a tool for success and able myself to concentrate more
on studies and not social life, as so many others may get mixed up in. Some
might say I was just conforming by not applying pressure on myself with a bigger
challenge, but I just saw it as an calm environment. I believed that if I would
put more pressure on myself by facing a challenge I wasn't ready for I could be
hindering myself as a student. I don't consider a majority of my teachers as geniuses but I see them as a success and a way to structure my life for that same future success in my career.

So with all that being said I believe the "good enough" mentality depends on the goals that a person has viewed for themselves. Every situation is different and the individuals around you in each classroom, rather it be teacher or student, make up the institution as a whole seem "good enough" to meet certain standards in a collegiate environment.

justin church said...

I agree that no amount of intelligence is going to make one remarkable. Everyone has a role in the world and without everyone putting forth their skills society would crumble. Intelligence can only go so far, the real driving force to greatness is imagination. Only when one can think outside the box and put forth an idea that no has ever seen before and prove it can they truely reach greatness, but they also must rely on those below them pushing them to the top, allowing them to fulfill greatness.

Carrington Pool said...

Going to college has always been a very big deal to everyone in my family. I feel most pressured because my mom did not actually make it away from home. She actually went to SIU Carbondale for accountancy and came back after about two weeks. She could not handle the pressure of being away from home. Attending SIUe, I am 2 and a half hours away from home and love every minute of it. I think that I did not think of the right things when I was looking into coming to college. I was wanting to be by a big city, have fun, and be around new people. Upon my arrival, I have come to realize that SIUe was a good choice since I am following in my mother's footsteps and going for accounting as well. I realize how driven I am to succeed and fulfill my dream of just making something out of myself.
I believe that the "good enough" factors include communication, self-motivation, and time management. Communication not only with professors and peers, but also within organizations and places here for help, like the career center. Self-motivation is key. Once students get here it is all on them. You want to become something, you have to make it happen. And time management is another key factor. Without managing time, students will find themselves in over their heads.

mercedes pineda said...

I think one of the most crucial elements in determining whether a collegiate environment meets the good enough threshold is the professor. The professors are the main element that guides, teaches, and challenges each and every student to be the next Bill Gates. They are the ones that educate us so we can make an impact on the world.

I, personally, think where you attend school does not exactly matter but who teaches at the school matters greatly. The professors are the making the new leaders of the world. The professors are major parts to making a school qualified to be "good enough."

Elizabeth Flores said...

In regards to the first question, I believe that there are several factors that determine whether a school is "good enough." In my opinion, a "good enough" school should have a qualified staff, and dedicated students. Now-a-days there is the issue with students not showing up to class, and dropping out. This makes a school look horrible. More dedicated students would draw in more positive opinions. Having a qualified staff draws prospects in also, because they know they will be getting a good education (most of the time). Also, I believe that the success of students after they graduate can determine whether the school is "good enough" or not. If students are living successful lives with the degrees they have achieved, it definitely makes the school look good. In my opinion, this is the biggest factor, because when someone is previewing a school, they look at how former students did. If former students are successful, the previewing student would be more motivated to come to that school. I am not saying the school has to have Nobel prize winners, just students who take their degree and make something of it.

-I really enjoyed this section. I could really relate to it on a personal level. I am no genius, and I didn't do very well on my ACT, but I have a 4.0 as a college student. It felt good to know that there are exceptions to the predicted outcomes. Even though I didn't score very high, I still manage in college.

Amy Crabtree said...

I honestly believe three main factors are responsible for creating a "good enough" collegiate environment. It is not the amount of money spent, the apparel available or the name of the school. The professors, students, and relationship between them are whats most important. The only thing a student needs is to have professors who care, they need to have motivation to learn, and also beable to work with their teachers to better themselves. Those of you who are out there who think the name of your school matters or the amount it costs to go there; need to take a step back and think about how much of a "genius" you really are.

Sheleia Phillips said...

Firstly, it was interesting to read that Malcolm Gladwell's standpoint on how
you don't need to be super smart or go to the very best schools to succeed! He
said in this chapter that, "extraordinary achievement is less about talent than
it is opportunity." The crucial elements that determine whether a collegiate
enviorment is "good enough" is passionate teachers and the institution's
resources. Passionate teachers make all the difference. Teachers who have their
students best interest at heart. They want their students suceed and more
importantly, to learn and apply the material. Resources are also vital to
a "good enough" school because it aids the academic success of the student.
Many of the services offered in our SSC: Math Resource Center, Writing Center,
SOAR, etc. are all extremely helpful and FREE! I appreciate that because if I
am struggling in a course or need help with a paper, I would not want to deal
with trying to figure out how to pay for it. Tuition can already be a hassle.
Both vital elements offer the oppurtunity to have a deeper influence on future
success than a challenging curriculum.

Phillip P. Leatherman said...

I have really enjoyed the comments I’ve read. I agree with a lot that has been written already. I would only add that I would like to see more diversity. Not just cultural or racial diversity but true diversity. A university should be a microcosm of society.
I’ve been in the work force for twenty plus years (I started young, real young). That experience has led me to several conclusions about how people are selected for the positions they hold. For the most part I feel the selection process is based on prejudice. Somewhere in the process most people have developed predetermined ideals about who should do what kind of work. How many times have “you” looked at someone from a certain part of the world and figured they were good at a specific task based solely upon their nationality?
Without getting into a bunch of stereotypes, let me instead focus in on what I feel Gladwell’s point is. I feel that he was stating that once you placed qualified applicants in to a situation which enables them to learn and become proficient in a certain discipline, what matters is that individual’s willingness to succeed. When the majority of the student body is young and white then those that do not fit that description become the outliers. Unfortunately, those that do not fit that description also become the outliers in highly skilled and professional endeavors.
True diversity in a university setting may allow future decision makers to have a different predisposition about who can do what or more specifically who is suppose to do what.

Megan D said...

What makes a school good enough is that it must be a full package. The heart and soul of a college is the obviously the education it provides. If a student is not continually intellectually challenged in the classroom and is simply spoon feeding you from freshman to senior year, then that school is not fulfilling its requirements as an institution. But what about the environment? When you decide to attend your college of choice, you are attending the institution as a whole. Yes, there are the select few who simply go to campus everyday just to study and attend class and go home. These people thrive just fine without caring about things such as the teaching style of a given professor or if there are any social groups to become a part of. But for the majority of people, the environment is crucial to how good the school is. Are there social activities that fill downtime between studying that either challenge the student intellectually, or allow him or her to make new friends? Do the teachers care about the students well being? Are there programs available to help students succeed in areas they might not be as strong in? Does the student feel safe at all times? Do the classes not only teach the basics of the subject matter but also prepare them for their future career? Are the other students who attend the school motivated to learn or just there to party? These are just a sampling of concerns that students must have in determining if a given school will help them become well-rounded mentally, socially, spirtiually, emotionally, and physically - things that will help make a well-rounded member of society.

Yes, a student's main focus is grades, but if the school can not only provide a great education, but cater to the other parts of being a person in a healthy way, that is what will set them apart from other institutions. Each person must look at their school of choice, decide what is truly important in their success as a student, then determine if that school is a good fit for them. All in all, it falls on the student to apply him or herself in the end. But it definitely helps to have an environment primed to allow the student to succeed.

Kimber Barrett said...

To me, one vital “good enough” element in college is the ability for our professors to be able to relate to their students and help them in ways that go above and beyond. I do agree with Kimberly that the individual must be motivated and driven to do work, but at the same time a professor needs to be a friend and mentor. Students interested in math, need a professor to guide them into those math competitions to give them that extra confidence to persevere in the real world. Students that are interested in medicine or pharmacy should have an opportunity to have a professor as their mentor to do research and get experience in their field of interest. These professors should lead their students to conferences and symposiums. This idea can be applied to all students of all majors; a little guidance from someone that cares about student success goes a long way in future endeavors.

Christine V said...

Professors represent the leaders of the world for what they are taught, they teach others. Not only that, but they provide insight on their opinions of how they want to teach the subject they bear. From this springs a relationship between student and professor. I think motivation stems from the desire and confidence to do something they want to do. I think motivation is also something that is vital towards someone being a perfectionist, which will push the effort of being just "good enough." To be better than being "good enough," these professors should be able to give a meaningful lecture as to give a student perspective and drive.

Mitchell Martineau said...

Its true that as growing up, the whole cliche of "getting into Harvard" was a term for anybody who was going to do instantly well, and if you wanted to be successful, you have to go to that level of school. Even with schools of that caliber, even "lesser schools" can still produce the same graduates that will do just as well and possibly better with their education. I believe the crucial element for colleges to achieve is the quality of the education they offer, and the environment they provide. Universities such as Harvard or MIT offer good programs, but so does University of Illinois and Purdue. It takes good professors, good programs, and a good school atmosphere to allow a college to be "good enough"

Sherrie Jayne said...

I think the word being "smart enough" is an interesting concept in itself. I do believe everyone holds intelligence in a different way and who is to say which is better or 'right' to have. But I do agree it doesn't take someone becoming extremely intelligent to excel in life necessarily, sometimes the best thing to do is to take what you have and know how to use and make the most out of it.
I believe a 'good enough' college environment depends on the person. Depending on what is given, no matter how fancy the technology, or nice the building is, it's the student's drive to make the most out of their college experience. Your attitude is everything.

Anonymous said...

Dino Anagbogu

I think school especially in the collegiate environment is not for everyone. It takes a great deal of time management and concentration to make it through each day. The ones who succeed are the ones who understand that concept before anything else. With that being said like other people have said people do have their own roles in society, so just because they don't go to school does not mean they still don't have an opportunity to succeed. Like Gladwell said it there is more to life than just being smart of having a High IQ, I feel like that is something that I can live by because people can still succeed and do well in their place of a community.
To me being good enough is more of a phrase that I don't think should be applied to our everyday life. Everyone is good at somethings and bad at others, so in all reality everyone in my eyes is "good enough".

Anonymous said...

Gladwell does an outstanding job in putting intellegent people and "smart enough" people in prespective. I agree you don't have to be a genius to be part of the smart enough "threshold". Expense schools just have the resources to better educate their students to be far more superior.
One way we can change and make "our" learning enviornment good enough is go away from lecture style teaching in the class to more student teaches teacher style. This would make students good enough because students will have to know the material to teach it, interact with each other(like the real world), be motivated because we would not just be told to memorize boring material and then circle answers. So the point is we need to engage our students more, then the amount of knowledge will be "good enough"

Sydney Nulsen said...

In this chapter, Malcom Gladwell highlights the differences between "practical" and "tactical" knowledge. A good quote I heard once illustrates this point perfectly, "Intelligence is knowing that a tomato is really a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad."
However, once again I will have to disagree with the author that the way we are raised by our parents determines how outspoken we are or how much "tactical" knowledge we posess. I'm sure that there are very eloquent and outspoken individuals who come from poor backgrounds and some very timid people that come from rich backgrounds. I think the individual decides how much tacitical knowledge he or she will display and is not dependent on his/her background or environmental factors.
To me, this book shows that anyone these days with a novel perspective on something who can string two sentences together with some big words thrown in is themselves taken as a "genius" when really, it is purely there speculation and postulating carrying the book.

Sydney Nulsen said...

I suppose I didn't actually answer the question posed in my previous post. What is a "good enough" college environment? I'm not sure, I'll let you know when I see one. I honestly believe I could have gone to any school in the country and they would be happy to have me. My first choice back in high school? Stanford. But, life happens and found the love of my life and ended up staying close to home. Being so self motivated and creative as I, I find most if not all college classes boring and trivial. For my Eng 102 papers I turned in stuff that was not even up to my high school's standards and got over a 100% in that class. I know teacher's are trying to include everyone in the class to make sure they "get it" but doing so excludes those "outliers" such as myself. Creativity in assignments and teaching style is key. Lecture style has its uses, but I don't think it should be the bulk of your college experience.

Anonymous said...

Just being "good enough" never gets anyone anywhere in life. "Good enough," to me, does not ensure a happy, satisfying life.
I agree with Ashley. In order to have students that excede the "good enough" expectation, classes need to be difficult. That way, only the most dedicated students will excede that threshold. The students who just want to be "good enough" in school will have to learn to be more active and strive for more. Without this, we will live in a mediocre world, full of average people just going through the motions of life.

-Jes Swim

Tyann Senaldi said...

I believe a college that meets the "good enough" element is all about student involvement. I think there should be multiple chances for students to earn leadership experience. I think that maybe universities should have a project mandatory per semester for that leadership experience so that introverted students can also gain knowledge and power towards their job efforts in the future. Things like leadership can really create an outlier effect on the students who are "smart enough" but don't have many opportunities before.

N.L.W. said...

I agree somewhat with Ashley Jeffers, when she said schools shouldn't be categorized in such a way as being a "good" school just because many people choose to go there and pay the amount.

I believe what ensures a college to be "good" is what they have to offer and how it will benefit you in the end. I think experience/opportunity are some of the key factors when it comes to choosing schools. Sitting in a class and listening to a lecture is not enough. A school should provide opportunities for students to experience what it is that they are studying. I believe this gives the student a chance to come to a decision of whether they like the idea of what they want to do or if they really like what they are doing. Providing ways to get experience will also give the professors a chance to see who has it and who doesn't. That way to best vs. weak can be determined along the way. And for the ones that don't have what it takes need to simply work harder at what they want until it is achieved.


Nia Williams

Unknown said...

A crucial element in determining whether a collegiate environment meets the good enough threshold is having high admissions standards. That doesn't mean they should only accept geniuses, but they should only accept students who excelled in high school. Although teachers are an important part of making a school good enough, a good teacher doesn't matter if half the class can't keep up with the basics or doesn't have the work ethic to be prepared for class discussion.
Going to school with other high quality students pushes you to work harder not just "get by." A smart student in classes with average to below average classmates could make mediocre work look very good compared to the work of others in the class. On the other hand, a student in a class full of exceptional students will have to work their hardest just to keep up and will get much more out of their education.

Lawandria said...

In order to develop a more active, "good enough" learning environment at SIUE, there needs to be more options for students. By that, I mean that students need to have the opportunity to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-world situations. SIUE could increase this opportunity in the following ways: having more research opportunities and programs for undergraduates either through SIUE or a collaborative program with other universities; creating agreements with more companies to have them recruit from SIUE for co-ops, internships, and full-time positions; for senior design projects, SIUE could make arrangements with companies so that students work for the company in order to complete the project and graduate.

These three elements would display to the student that the skills we're learning in the classroom will be used in our profession which will make us work harder to excel in developing those skills. This in turn will show other universities and companies that SIUE produces excellent students for their graduate programs or top tier professionals in their careers. This will then lead to SIUE being in the "better than good enough" threshold to students, companies, etc.

Kim Lee said...

I think success at any college is hugely impacted by the environment. A place that is newer and equipped with the best technology will be more likely to produce successful students than an out of date, falling apart campus. The environment reflects the school's expectations and also reflects the importance of receiving higher education at that particular establishment. This isn't the only important factor, but it makes a big difference.

Chico Weber said...

In my mind the crucial element is whether or not the school opens up opportunities for you. An education is only worth it because the degree gives you a chance for a better job. If we want to develop a more active learning environment then we should give students more chances to actually perform in the field of their major. No amount of education can compare to real hands on experience. In the long run companies would like to hire those whom they don't need to train and so it would seem reasonable to provide them with students that meet their standards.