I first became aware of scotomas through reading Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (A book, by the way, that I consider a MUST read for anyone interested in personal improvement and professional competency.) In Covey’s book, there is a picture that may be perceived by some as a fashionable young lady, or the face of an old crone. Although the actual definition of scotoma has to do with a partial alteration in a field of vision, it can also be used metaphorically, “The common theme of all the figurative senses is of a gap not in visual function but in the mind’s perception, cognition, or world view.” (Wikipedia)
Since then I’ve run across the concept in various places and have referenced it in many presentations and sermons. It is all about perspective. The most interesting thing about this concept is how difficult it is to realize when you are locked into one way of perceiving a situation. Take the picture above for instance. When you first see the picture you immediately perceive either the young stylish woman or the old crone. There is no thought in your mind that the other possibility even exists.
I find myself pondering this from time to time when faced with challenges at work, life in general, or when I’m putting together my Collaborative Learning Strategy in preparation to teach. In those times I try to allow my mind to open to new possibilities and other perspectives. Usually with a little effort I can find a new path, often one better than the original.
I often wonder how many missed opportunities have come my way simply because I had a scotoma which kept me from seeing alternatives. I am saddened to think of the number of students I’ve taught who could have embraced the material at a deeper level if I had only taken the time to come at it from a different direction, or using a different way of presenting the information.
The lesson for me, and one that I seem especially slow to learn, is to slow down consider other perspectives. A good way to do this is to get other opinions. I have to confess when I was younger I often avoided getting other opinions because I: a) already knew it all, b) didn’t want to listen to anyone else, or c) was afraid that someone would discover a flaw in my plan. As I grown older and somewhat wiser I’ve learned to not feel as threatened by other’s ideas. Taking the time to garner this kind of input is still a weakness for me . . . I typically want to move NOW. But, the benefit is that in getting the input the decision is usually better. For Instructors, take the time to brainstorm together on ways to present a topic, I’m confident you and your students will benefit from it.