There are 3 principal means of acquiring knowledge… observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observations collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination. Denis Diderot; French philosopher, art critic and writer; 1713-1784.
I’m pretty content with my ability to observe and act on those observations. This ability serves me well as a researcher but also as a teacher. I’ve learned to tune in and pay attention to new things. This has taken years of practice. And I realize I will never stop learning. Our brains aren’t meant to see everything. We have learned to focus on specific things and then filter out everything else. I like to challenge myself to pay attention to new things. Expand my skillset. It is important to realize, to expand your skillset; you need to retrain your brain to pay attention to what’s important at that moment.
When observing you have to realize that your memory is lousy. You really can’t rely on your memory. So when you need to really pay attention, you need to take all sorts of notes and keep careful track of the things that are likely to matter. So you have to decide what you want to look for to retrain your eye. Actually you need to sometimes be aware that you need to retrain all your senses. Your brain can play funny tricks on you. Keeping a logbook all of a sudden seems a very handy tool. But making a photo of film clip is just as effective to improve your observation skills.
Challenging yourself by training your observational skills is easy. Just take field notes. Pick a place, sit down, and write out everything you see. This trains your brain to pay more attention and observe more.
I would love to be a profiler. I love observing people. Trying to understand why people act as they do is another area of interest. But first I need to understand why I do things as I do them. I’m really better at observing others, than I am about understanding myself. Why is that, I ask?
Reading body language and expressions is a great pastime. I’m not so good in detecting lies. I always look for the good and expect that the ‘others‘ have good intentions too. As you may realize I get disappointed often. People aren’t as nice as I want to believe.
Observing is great but it becomes useful once you learn how to pick out the patterns. Detecting those patterns is a great intellectual endeavor. At the moment I’m trying to teach ‘others‘ to detect those patterns. The more you observe, the more you ask why. The more you ask why, the more you learn. The critical thinking that follows is what can help you come up with new ideas, new insights. It is amazing when you see this happen. I make a happy dance, when I realize I’ve enabled others to experience the wonders of observation.
HMB Endeavor (replica of Captain Cook's ship)
the British Royal Navy Vessel that Captain Cook commanded
on his first voyage of discovery of Australia & New Zealand
Combining the observed patterns with your own experience allows you to predict what happens next. Predicting the effect of my teaching makes me glad. A sense of joy arises.
I’m trying to slow down and stop to pay attention a little more than usual on Sundays. Sunday is my slow day. I try to focus on one thing. Today I’m focusing on observing. My observations turn into new ideas by critically analyzing what I observe. It is important to ask yourself lots of questions. This improves your deduction skills. You will be amazed how many questions pop into my head every moment. It is tiring sometimes. To question everything! I’m training my brain to make connections between things and build a greater body of knowledge. Inductive reasoning is my preferred approach. But using top-down logic (deductive reasoning) comes just as easy to me. This really comes in handy when you are a teacher, who teaches about research methods.
All of a sudden I’m pondering about abductive reasoning. Need to understand this a little more than I do at this moment.
As a quiltmaker observation is a very important skill. I first need to study how the technique is done before I can do it myself. Actually, to be truthful, I just copy and before I know it I’ve become a practitioner.
A practitioner is a person who regularly does an activity that requires skill or practice. As a quiltmaker, I can say making quilts by hand requires skill and practice. Synonym for practitioner is interpreter. To understand something, you first need to observe.
The start of my own Cathedral Window quilt
Hopefully it will look like something like this, one day!