Thursday, September 22, 2011

SELF-EFFICACY, The Little Red Engine That Could & Personal Empowerment

Dawn Balloon Ride Over Albuquerque

As we enter this second decade of the 21st century, we face the facts of lives lived in a struggling economy under the constant shadow of terrorism in a world where many nations are engaged in war.  It is hard to keep on trying, and it is difficult to have a positive view of the world and a positive attitude about our personal lives.

I work at not surrendering to negativity.  I think of how I can help myself, and what story I could tell you that might give a glimmer of light in a dark world.

Others think as I think.  CNN is recognizing some unsung heroes, nominated and voted upon by the internet public as individuals who are making a difference in their immediate world.  Until this Unsung Heroes Project began, we would never have the opportunity to know the individuals involved.  They would quietly and anonymously go on with their generous acts.  These unsung heroes are good role models for us all.  We can find people who are in better and in worse circumstances than ourselves.  What is important is to learn from one another.  It is beneficial to know about individuals who Think They Can Achieve their goals and who make a difference in the quality of life of others.
In the U.S., there is a very popular children's story, The Little Red Engine That Could.  You may have read this story or have had someone read it to you.  You might have forgotten this popular story.  I have read the story to my children and others in my reading specialist career.  As many children's stories do, the story is applicable to the adult world.  I would recommend your re-reading this story, or reading it for the first time - for yourself.  It is found in most public libraries and bookstores.  If you are in a bookstore, you can read it in the bookstore.  It is a quck read with a long impact on the psyche. You might like to share this story.  Pass it on to a child, because children are always open to learning from stories.  You could tell the story as well as read it.  Pass it on to an adult, because adults need to be reminded of the benefits of storytelling - their stories and other people's stories.

The plot of  The Little Red Engine That Could goes like this.  There is a small, red train engine that has to go up a steep, steep hill.  The little engine wonders, if he can make it up the steep incline.  He keeps himself going by repeating the phrase, "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.  I can"  Because he believes in his abilities, he does make it up the incline - he conquers the hill.  This story could be a parable for all of us.  We need to believe that we have the capacity to accomplish what needs to be done.  That is not so easy in 2010.  It takes constant 'self-talk" based on what we believe about ourselves.  This belief in our personal capability is called SELF EFFICACY.

Self efficacy is quite different from self-confidence.  Don't confuse the two.

Self-efficacy is the internal belief system that we are capable of achieving our goals and objectives.

Self-confidence is the feeling we have about ourselves as the result of the messages the external world, people, and organizations, gives us. The optimal situation is for an individual to have both self-efficacy and self-confidence but in reality that does not always happen.  A person who has been laid off of  her/his job and has been actively looking for a job for two years could have a basis for losing self-confidence after many job interviews that were unsuccessful.  Some people who share this experience can handle "interview trauma" better than some others because they have a strong sense of self-efficacy.  We have all heard the adage, "Nothing succeeds like success."  A person who can experience success in some area of her/his life is more likely to have self-efficacy.

In these hard times, belief in one's capabilities is essential.  It is an avenue to personal empowerment.  Empowerment does not always imply riches or a high standard of living.  For me, empowerment means I have the right to make my own decisions and the responsibility to live with the outcomes of my decisions.  I live in a democracy and I can determine my attitude towards life's pluses and minuses.

What stories can you tell to help yourself and/or some one else to believe that what needs to be done can be done?

I frequently quote Cesar Chavez' statement, Si, su puede! Yes, it can be done!  I don't know, if Cesar ever heard or read the story of the Little Red Engine That Could.  Cesar is just one example of a person who believed he could make a difference -- and he did.  Just ask anyone in the United Farmworkers of America.

What are your stories? How do you develop your self-efficacy?

Mantras (chants) can make a difference.  Echo the Little Red Engine and say to yourself, "I think I can. I think I can.  I can....
How powerful are you feeling?  What are You Doing About your personal empowerment?

Dr. CW

WORLD VIEW - What is Your World View? Does World View Evolve?

Etching by Escher

World View can be considered from many perspectives: philosophical, historical, political, and psychological.  It can can be both personal and societal; often the world view of a society cannot help but be part of an individual's personal world view.  The concept of world view first arose in Gernan philosophy, the German word,weltanschauung has been translated into the English word, world view.

Definition.  Many definitions of world view can be found on the internet. I found an excellent discussion of the concept at this URL:

The website posted above provides these two understandings of the concept.

1)  The over-all perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
2)  A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or group.

It is important to note that worldview does NOT have to be connected to a specific religion, but it could be. Angelenos (citizens of Los Angeles) do not all share the same religion, butr many of them share a love of the Lakers, the Pacific Ocean, skill and acceptance of the inevitability of freeway driving, sophistication about celebrities, appreciation and patronage of 'dining out', etc.

New Yorkers, Chicagoans, San Franciscans, residents of Washington, D.C., Miami, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth all share an urban world view.  But, the geography, socio-economic, and ethnic characteristics of each of these cities creates a specific and unique world view.  Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists all have distinct world views.  Democrats, Republicans, Green Party, Tea Party, Independent voters all have distinct world views.

For a person committed to READING, it is important that she/he know what world view he/she is bringing to the content of the reading material.  Part of following Socrates's admonition about knowing oneself, is to reflect on one's own world view.  I took a world view survey on line, and got my personal world view profile.  I agree with the profile.  You might like to take this questionnaire for your own self-knowledge.  Or, you might want to have someone you met on a social network take the survey, to see, if your profiles are compatible.

The URL for the world view survey and personal profile is cited here.


As a former college history professor, I need to make this final reference to WeltanschauungThe Nazi party came to power because of a shared world view of many people in Germany. This world view did not originate in the twentieth century, the seeds for this political point of view pervaded Germanic culture long before Germany was even a nation.  As horrific as the Nazi party was, it was an example of an idea whose time had finally come in a specific nation, but the ideas can be found in prior centuries in the music, art and mythology of what would become 20th century Germany.

What do you think about the concept of World View?  How many world views do you have, religious, political, philosophical, social???  If you have the time and the inclination, take the World View Survey and analyze the profile it gives you.  What do you think??  Does individual WORLD VIEW evolve in the maturing adult??

Share your thoughts

Dr. CW

What is your Metacognitive Profile?

Integrating Intellectual Activity into your every day Life

Metacognition is a concept closely linked to the professions of reading education and literacy training.  Too often, the public uses a simplistic definition of metacognition.  Such a definition is just what the adjective simplistic implies - incomplete and inadequate.  If committed readers are to engage in developing their metacognitive abilities, it is essential tha they have a correct and thorough understanding of what metacognition is.

METACOGNITION involves TWO distinct processes.

The first component of metacognition is that an individual needs to be aware of her/his THINKING processes.It is important to remember that THINKING is a distinctly separate aspect of Learning.  There are many surveys, questionnaires/inventories on How People THINK, and also on How People Learn.  For this discussion, it is important for the reader to know that thinking and learning are two different intellectual activities.If you are interested in discovering more about your learning and thinking, there are many measures available for free on the internet.  Most of these measures provide some sort of personal profile based on your answers.

How People LEARN is a popular subject.  People may be auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learners.They might be right brain lobe/left brain lobe dominant. Anyone who is able to open the browser on the internet can create a profile of herself/himself as a THINKER and as a LEARNER.  In about one and a half hours we can get enough information from the internet to classify our learning styles and thinking skills in a rudimentary way.  Of course, cognitive psychologists and neurologists specializing in the brain can develop a deeper and  more accurate profile.  But, many internet profiling inventories have some value, if only to initiate thinking about a topic.

By the time an individual is fifteen years of age, she/he has enough self-knowledge to self-identify how they learn best, and what kind of learning is a challenge for them.  Socrates said, "Know yourself."  It is a complex, continual process to recognize and understand one's own individual and unique THINKING patterns.  Using internet assesment measures can help in this research of the self.

The second component of metacognition is to regulate one's own cognitive processes.

Once you are aware of your own personal thinking processes, you need to actively govern HOW you think and WHAT you think.  You need to question yourself., "Is this the most effective thinking approach for thisspecific task?"  I know HOW I think, "Does my personal thought pattern need to be changed or adjusted for this specific intellectual task?"

Regulating one's own cognitive processes is a skill to be learned and practiced continually.  Cognitive thinking manuals, hard copy and e-books contain metacogntive training tasks.  A manual that I recommend is Taking Control of Your College Reading & Learning by E. Byrd et al, published by Harcourt College Publishers.  There are many other tools you can find in an internet search.

Integrating Intellectual Activity into Everyday Thinking is no longer a voluntary commitment.

In this 21st century, we all need to THINK on a higher level, if we are to realize our personal goals and succeed in our jobs and personal relationships.  If an intellectual activity is robotic, then, robots are already being manufactured and used for these activities.  Robotic thinking is demeaning for humans, in my opinion.  Lower Level Thinking (see Benjamin Bloom's Hierarchy) is not going to get us very far in the 21st century.  If a task requires intellectual activity, then, we need to know our own cognitive processes and styles.

Follow Socrates' advice.  Know yourself and USE what you know to enhance your quality of life and your appreciation of your world.  What have you found out about yourself as you created your THINKING PROFILE?
Share your learning/thinking self.  What we think contributes to who we are.  Who are you?

Dr. CW

SPEED READING - The Pros & Cons

           Velocity in Reading = WORDS per minute
                                           =  Difficulty of WORDS
                                           =  Practice
                                           =  Strategies
                                           =  Practice
                                           =  Challenging Content
                                           =  Practice


Knowing yourself as a learner/thinker.

Being AWARE of your learning/thinking

Skimming =  Moving your eyes over the material to get the

Scanning =  Moving your eyes over the material to look for
something SPECIFIC, eg. looking for a 3 bdr. apt. with w/d, yard.

Speedreading  -  An Authentic Strategy or a Commercial Enterprise???

A Google search reports 14,600,000 postings for the key word: SPEED READING.  That is right, more than half-way to 15 million postings – a popular subject. 

We are fascinated with speed, whether it is a fantasy of racing down the Autobahn, or the possibility of reading an entire book in a few hours.  We are enchanted by the idea of the instant remedy. Realities are often different.  Speeding at certain hours on either a crowded freeway or a bumper-to-bumper main city street is impossible.  Reading, digesting, and comprehending a thousand pages of reports in 48 hours is only a fantasy, an empty promise of a photographic memory.  Few of us have photographic memories.

Proponents of speed reading define it in two different ways, depending upon the perspective of the individual or organization involved.  One explanation is that speed reading silences subvocalization and insures rapid reading. Another perspective is of the opinion that speedreading is a highly developed form of skimming.  Skimming means quickly reading material to get the main points.  Skimming proponents admit that comprehension is not complete with skimming.

I used to teach speed reading as a college course.  There ARE techniques that enable a person to read faster.  There maybe be twenty different techniques to achieve speedreading. The ordinary reader usually reads at about 200-300 words per minute (wpm).  Rigorous practice of speedreading techniques can raise a person’s reading rate as high as 800 wpm. But……that does not indicate how much comprehension occurs, and how lasting that comprehension is.

Also, just like going to the gym, speed reading exercises must be maintained permanently, or there will be a slideback in the rate of wpm.  However, the regression usually does not go back to the starting point.  Someone who started a program with a 200 wpm reading speed and got up to 750 wpm, will not maintain that rate unless she/he regularly (daily) practices the speed reading techniques.  They will not go back to 200 wpm; depending upon the individual, a speedreader with a beginning rate of 200 wpm who does not keep doing daily exercises will level out at 350-400 wpm.  That is still an improvement.
For me as, a Reading Specialist and Professor of Reading, speed is unimportant and potentially detrimental, if comprehension is sacrificed.  Understanding is what we want from reading, not rapidity in decoding pages. It has been said that, “Reading without meaning is not reading.” (E. H. Byrd et al, Taking Control of Your College Reading and Learning.).  I support this perspective.

I believe speed reading has value for short-term specific situations. The population that benefits most from speed reading exercises are those people who read so slowly that they miss the point that is being made, and therefore, have low comprehension. This group of  readers will benefit most from a speedreading program.

In my Google search, I found a speed reading program on the web.  It appears very simple; but a reader could get results from this.  The URL is  , check it out. Check out others in your web search.

A final variable in speed reading is the content of the material.  Is it material that can be read independently? Is the material frustrating? Or, is it challenging? What is the purpose of the reading?

I am not a proponent of speedreading; I am interested in critical thinking and higher order thinking.  Speedreading is a low priority for me.  Also, as a lifelong reader, I read fairly rapidly anyway.  My own personal speedreading program would be to simply increase both the times spent reading and the degree of challenge in the reading material.  That is my personal approach to reading faster, and retaining MEANING.

What do you think?  Use your browser; read at least ten items of the almost 15 million.  Be able to identify commercial speedreading programs.  Check out some free speedreading programs. Remember, for all programs, the techniques are there, but your faithfulness to the techniques is the crucial element.

Personally, I like to “stop and smell the roses”.  Reading something rapidly is not my first priority.  If I have to read rapidly, I can.  I prefer to savor the moment.

What are your thoughts about speedreading?  Share them with us.

Dr, CW