Arming yourself with BS detection skills to improve learning

August 22, 2007

bull.jpgBack in grade school when the teacher told us to pick a topic (from a list), find information, and write a report about it, I got excited. Jump up and down EXCITED. I would go to the public library, search through the card catalog and admire the books I found and, I would read a lot. This is where my love of research began. It continued through high school, college, work, and life.

Before the Internet, the library was one of my favorite places to do research. Actually, I still enjoy going to the library but primarily use my computer there now. I guess I love the library today because books surround me and that conjures up good memories. Plus, there’s a lot more to do there.

I research just about everything – sometimes obsessively – and never find that I’m done researching something. Research is never supposed to be done right? I enjoy the process, the internal challenge of questioning what you find, and the sense of discovery. The aahhh! What a research dork, huh?

I researched blogging before becoming a blogger. I researched motherhood before becoming a mother. I researched Brandon Hall Research before becoming a researcher there. I researched the coach at the lacrosse camp I sent my daughter to two weeks ago. I need to know the good, the bad, the ugly. I ask people. I search. I read. I digest and form conclusions.

A blog helps me document what I am learning. I find value in public sharing of this learning. But I believe some of what we read has elements of BS (intentional or not) that should be questioned so that WE WILL KNOW. How do we know what we know?

Did you ever attend a training session and feel (or know) the instructor was lying (BS-ing)? Did you ever suspect your kid was lying to you (track practice is running late…) or even your dog (the shifty eye ‘I did not dig that hole!’ look)? When we question we learn.

Scott Berkun lists three reasons people lie:

  • To protect or prevent something
  • Sometimes it works
  • We want to be seen as better than we see ourselves

His advice for detecting BS:

  • Ask: how do you now what you know?
  • Ask:what is the counter argument?
  • Use time and pressure against the suspected BS’er

When you read or hear something that you suspect is BS do you question it, believe it, ignore it? Do you challenge BS – even mild BS?

Whomever at Wikipedia, one of the last stops of mine when doing research, defined research as, “a human activity based on intellectual investigation and aimed at discovering, interpreting, and revising human knowledge on different aspects of the world….”

I think  the activity of research via blogs but could probably do with a little more BS detection. I think we’d learn a lot more. And I don’t mean that in a negative sense. I’m sure as we work our way through a topic, concept, or idea we make conflicting statements that are not necessarily BS – we are trying to learn. How do I know?

© Photographer: Pontus Edenberg | Agency: Dreamstime.com”


© Photographer:Pontus Edenberg | Agency: Dreamstime.com

  • http://eduspaces.net/vinall/weblog/ Joan Vinall-Cox

    Hey Janet,
    I think BS detection is THE learning tool, par excellence. It is the first and final required research, IMHO.

  • http://eduspaces.net/vinall/weblog/ Joan Vinall-Cox

    Hey Janet,
    I think BS detection is THE learning tool, par excellence. It is the first and final required research, IMHO.

  • http://www.daveswhiteboard.com Dave Ferguson

    The fuel on which science runs is ignorance. Science is like a hungry furnace that must be fed logs from the forest of ignorance that surround us. In the process, the clearing we call knowledge expands, but the more it expands, the longer its perimeter and the more ignorance comes into view.

    — Matt Ridley, Genome

  • http://www.daveswhiteboard.com/ Dave Ferguson

    The fuel on which science runs is ignorance. Science is like a hungry furnace that must be fed logs from the forest of ignorance that surround us. In the process, the clearing we call knowledge expands, but the more it expands, the longer its perimeter and the more ignorance comes into view.

    — Matt Ridley, Genome

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