Understanding Active Thinking 


Thor May
Adelaide, 2015





Preface: This is a discussion paper, not a researched academic document. The reading list at the end is mostly a collection of contemporary links from the Internet and pretty accidental, not edited for quality. Where a topic is of broad general interest comes up with friends, I have adopted the practice of posting discussion starters like the present one on Academia.edu in the hope that others might also find them worth thinking about.  








1. Emergent thinking on a topic


The author runs a meetup discussion group called Adelaide Active Thinking in Australia. This essay will use the meetup activity as a template for reviewing concepts of active thinking in general. The idea behind Adelaide Active Thinking is to spend some time examining a chosen topic, firstly by finding what easily accessible writing has been done on the topic, then by taking a couple of hours to talk it over with a group of mentally alert folk who have shown an interest. Often the greatest value to come out of this process is not so much a "solution", but rather some insight into the thinking processes of these other individuals.

Active Thinking preparation for a discussion meetup takes me about two weeks. That is, after a discussion topic is chosen it enters the realm of my conscious attention. Over the following fortnight certain online articles and news stories will spark more in my attention as I turn to them with the current topic in mind. I read them purposefully rather than passively. Then I will do active Google searches for more depth, and over time more productive search words or phrases will occur to me (this is very important). In addition I have an offline database of thousands of articles in many categories collected over years. So all of this raw material feeds into my subconscious thought processes.

Yet it is not until I sit down with a mixture of determination and desperation as a deadline threatens that content coalesces from my fingertips onto the screen. Subsections in the writing will begin to appear, not necessarily in any final order, gaps will become apparent, I’ll think of new things to add at odd moments. Re-reading and editing will gradually draw it all together until I finally “know what I think”.

The undertaking just described is definitely an active process, but I have no real clue as to how my mental machine actually does all this, in spite of a major research interest in cognitive linguistics. In other words, describing a broad process does not really explain a mechanism like thinking, “active” or otherwise. Note that cognitive linguistics involves one kind of such attempted explanation using various models, just as physics does in another realm. One of my own more off-the-wall attempts was some aborted PhD research called “Generative Oscillation” (see May 1995 in the reading list for a link).

There is certainly more to active thinking than those adult colouring-in books which seem to be the latest innovation (?) to satisfy mentally inert members of the species.  I do have a strong sense that the whole which comes out of my discussion topic research process forms more than the original parts, and that the emergent ideas are usually more substantial and personally satisfying than those of a person who turns up to a meeting without preparation and gives an opinion off the top of their head.


2. Emergent processes


Emergence is a process of things developing by influencing each other in a mutually cyclical process. A child growing up in family will be influenced by family members, but probably also modify the character and behaviour of other family members over time. Weather cycles turn on temperature shifts between the land, the ocean and the atmosphere but these three broad elements influence each other reciprocally too. These are examples on unconscious emergence. Airlines and supermarket chains run computer algorithms to time-shift the prices of their products on “specials”, according to who will buy the most when, but customers shift their buying behaviours to game the system, which in turn influences the algorithms again … and so the contest goes on. The emergent system is an output of conscious inputs in this case. In the field of educational studies, the processes of emergent thinking are actively exploited through “action research” where practice and reflection are alternated in a deliberate cycle.

Conscious attention to the input process of thinking is probably a good definition of “active thinking” for everyday use. The subconscious processes of cognition where most thinking actually comes to fruition may be initiated by a conscious act (such my decision to research a discussion topic). My subsequent conscious acts are in an emergent relationship with my subconscious thought processes. However the subconscious thought processes themselves remain as much a mystery to my conscious persona as they do to current science, though speculation about such stuff, experiments and theoretical models proliferate:

Many neuroscience experiments have indicated that the brain processes information much faster than conscious awareness can keep track of it, so that countless mental operations run, in the neuroscientist David Eagleman’s phrase, “under the hood” – unseen by the conscious mind in the driving-seat  (Kenyon 2015).

Thus our brains are quite different to the algorithm which modifies prices in Coles supermarket. That algorithm is well understood and regularly tweaked by programmers.


3. Selective areas of active thinking


People are apt to think actively about some parts of their lives, while letting other issues muddle along more or less unhindered unless major problems arise. For example, many Australians are focused from early adulthood on acquiring property. This will form a part of their life plans, and they think quite actively about it. Real estate is a favourite topic of conversation. Over the years experience may lead them to modify their ideas, form opinions and accept input from reputed experts in their peer group.

The same people, for all kinds of psychological reasons, may be quite fatalistic about the immensely complicated and changing mechanism which is their own body. They may rarely think actively, systematically or sensibly about the maintenance of this mechanism, and let it fall apart over the years. If something goes wrong, they pay a doctor to “fix it” rather than actively investigating, researching and experimenting to modify whatever caused the problem. Typically of course doctors only apply a temporary patch to the degrading mechanism.


4. Social change as a validator for active thinking


Many iterations of earlier cultures worked on the assumption that everything worth discovering had already been discovered. Sometimes this was implicit in daily routine. Life in a traditional farming village followed the seasons. Local soil conditions and methods of farming were known. Local rituals and celebrations followed tradition. Anyone attempting to innovate was a threat to the established order of life, and perhaps risked invoking the wrath of whatever god was overseeing the scene. The innovator submitted or was silenced or was banished.

In recent generations people everywhere have been thrust into a vortex of technological change unimagined by their ancestors. Mobile phones are now found in even the remotest tribal groups. Suddenly there is a premium on adaptation to new circumstances, not only affecting local conditions but with planetary implications. Under such conditions survival requires the most sophisticated kind of active thinking and experiment.

Logically it would seem that innovators in this milieu should be the most valued and rewarded members of society. In fact, this is only occasionally the case. Old habits, rituals and beliefs persist, often supported by legal sanction. Qualities of opportunism, ruthlessness, and predatory behaviour which favoured the ambitious in earlier stable societies carry over into new conditions, pausing only to parasitically exploit innovation wherever it offers political advantage.


5. Education and vocation as preservators of passive thinking


Education of the young has historically been about passing on those canons of the culture which will allow novices to absorb and participate in the full adult requirements of that culture. This has been as true for the initiation of young hunter-gatherers as it has been for preparing workers for a life on motor car assembly lines. The complexity of new knowledge to be internalized and its sheer quantity has multiplied over time, and these extra requirements have separated learners into streams, some destined to become medical doctors and many to pack washing powder into boxes. However, there are very few medical doctors who think actively in original ways, and they are apt to be sanctioned by their peers if they try. Equally there are very few process workers who think actively about their daily routines, and few are encouraged to do so. Change when it comes to medical practice or assembly work remains overwhelmingly a consequence of external technological and political forces, often quite inappropriate to the local environment, not local active thinking.

Mass public education in formal settings is a relatively new phenomenon, although selective institutes have existed for many centuries. When I went through teachers college there was a suggestion that learning could be seen as “filling jugs” (a metaphor of the human brain as an empty vessel) or “lighting candles” (a metaphor of the human brain stimulated to seek fresh insights). The implication was that public education was now an enlightened process of “discovery learning”, where students were drawn to learn and understand things with all the excitement of personal discovery, then go on to improve what they had understood. The primitive concept of “filling jugs” had no place in this educational utopia.

After decades working in various teaching environments across numerous cultures, and including stints as a teacher trainer, I have to say that the bulk of teaching and learning which goes on in institutions everywhere is uninspired. That is putting it kindly. Without discounting the pockets of vibrant teaching and learning which can indeed be found here and there, the largest number of teachers and learners, day to day, are going through weary, fixed routines which involve anything but active thinking. They are tested and rewarded according to rules of “compliance” whose essential forms would have been recognized a millennium ago in Chinese imperial examinations for the mastery – regurgitation - of Confucian ritual (or 21st Century PRC examinations for the regurgitation of “scientific Marxism”).


6. The institutionalization of active thinking


Regardless of institutional stagnation, and the reluctance of people everywhere to move out of their comfort zones, the sheer momentum of scientific discovery and technological innovation has created a vortex of change and complexity of ever increasing velocity. This vortex drags social change and belief systems in its wake, however imperfectly. The leaders of nation states, dimly recognizing that their own survival turns on keeping ahead of these civilization-altering currents, sanction the establishment of various kinds of research institutes.

The best known kinds of institutionalized research is that expected of university academics. An academic is formally required on the one hand to pass on to large numbers of (hopefully) bright students a coherent account of the latest consensus in his or her field of specialization. On the other hand he is expected to not only master but extend the existing paradigm with innovative ideas, then prove their viability.

Meeting the formal academic ideal for active thinking just outlined is a physical and mental impossibility for most people in most institutions. An acceptable curriculum is a politically sensitive issue at many levels, even in hard sciences. Universities now are foremost marketing organizations. Their diplomas are claims that graduates have internalized a quota of knowledge that is broadly accepted and understood by employers and politicians. The text book knowledge taught is almost inevitably a generation out of date (hence the public consensus).

A research academic’s real job, qua research, is not just filling in the dots to an existing knowledge paradigm – traditional scholarship – but probing weaknesses and exceptions to the entire paradigm in physics, linguistics or wherever. Typically there are a number of competing paradigms, and adherence to one or the other strongly influences career prospects or employment of any kind (this becomes difficult in countries with smallish numbers of potential employers, like Australia). Each competing school of thought might have dozens of devoted academic journals and produce thousands of papers annually. Under these conditions, active thinking which is not deeply compromised by confirmation bias is relatively rare (e.g. see Kitching 2016). One of the first people to describe this whole process systematically was Thomas Kuhn in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” (Kuhn 1962, 1970) whose insights not surprisingly caused a good deal of discomfort amongst some researchers.

For those not on the academic merry-go-round, a brief account of how the teaching process actually occurs might be helpful. In practice, a university lecturer like everyone else has 24 hours in a day. His early life in an institution is likely to be a somewhat frantic process of assembling a body of content suitable to present to students. Humans mostly talk at around 5,000 to 6,000 words per hour, so even a single 50 minute lecture given at a leisurely pace for public speech amounts to a fairly significant “essay”, and this is not coffee table chatter. After the first year he will update content as necessary, but the basic canon might not shift much. Many lecturers become rather complacent about their prepared pitch, and may resist change. If the overall set of lectures hangs together nicely with a coherent storyline, it is easy to become attached to its internal logic. Active thinking is no longer part of the game.

A short anecdote: shortly after obtaining my PhD, my Australian home university was asked to fill a guest place in a Chinese institution. The invitation was pushed my way as a natural candidate, and the relevant Australian lecturer generously sent me a full set of prepared notes, so I would be off to a running start. I looked over the material. It was in Applied Linguistics, notably about foreign language teaching and acquisition. The material presented nicely, with a thread that hung together within a popular paradigm. Something was missing though. I wrote back to the lecturer, perhaps with less diplomacy than I should have. “Um, this course seems to have a gaping hole. It says absolutely nothing about how memory works in language acquisition”. The reply came promptly and hotly: “Memory has nothing to do with language acquisition!”. Yeah, right. The job offer mysteriously disappeared. Active thinking not required.


7. Innovate! Innovate! Innovate!


For a foreigner, one of the more droll scenes in East Asia is the morning staff line up outside all kinds of places from hair dressing salons to factories. This is pep talk time, and it is not unusual to hear the chant of company ideals or even a company song. I met a Australian lawyer in South Korea who regaled me with the story of his visit to a research wing of the Samsung chaebol at just such a moment. The research staff stood solemnly in a line, just like the girls from the hair dressing salon down the road. Together they punched their fists into the air and shouted "Innovate! Innovate! Innovate!". Well to be fair, Samsung has not done so badly at innovating, but you have to wonder how much shouting Innovate! stoked the active thinking of these research staff.

Metaphorical shouting has been part of the Silicon Valley myth for a few years now. When I was a kid, the American Dream was captured nicely by the brave little girl, Dorothy setting out on the Yellow Brick Road with the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion in search of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The qualities which won through were imagination, initiative and grit.

Now everyone grows up knowing that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both dropped out of college before going on to make their billions. The extra magical ingredient for them was a BIG IDEA, even if it was someone else’s big idea, which you needed imagination and grit to turn into a commercial money machine. Active thinking of some kind was definitely involved. The big idea in these cases happened to revolve around computing  and communications revolutions which gave a ticket to virtual worlds – electronic landscapes that shrank the inconvenient geographical world to instant contact with everybody from Timbuktu to Paris to Tokyo.

Success has many imitators. There is hardly a city in the world now where politicians don’t talk bravely about their bailiwick’s future as a computing software innovation hub. The hot places to hang out are so-called software incubators, often subsidised, where local geniuses are coaxed to come forth with those killer applications which will finally put Dodge City on the map, and in some unspecified way solve the terrifying problem of rioting unemployed car assembly line workers who have had their futures destroyed by automated industrial robots.

So what is the knock-down reality of all this active thinking on the virtual Yellow Brick Road of boundless innovation? There is no doubt that some clever stuff has come to pass. On the other hand, of the 1.6 million apps (computer programs) in the Android App Store, and the 1.5 million apps in the Apple App Store, only a miniscule percentage of them have much real utility or level of popularity.

Choose your own area of expertise and go hunting. I happen to know a bit about learning, especially language learning, and teaching. So what do I find in those app stores about language? I find thousands and thousands of copycat “language learning” apps, thrown together by people with some basic programming skills and zero understanding of human learning psychology. There is a drought of imagination or commitment to creating something genuinely innovative and educationally viable. Active, creative thinking is in desperately short supply.  It is no different really from the mandated “research” which comes out of official research institutions: mountains of dross and a few specks of gold. Maybe that is the human way.

As for the teacher or leader or thinker who wants to get more relaxed souls beyond their daily prejudices and assumptions, sermons about active thinking seem unlikely to do it. With enough monetary incentive or fear, these folk can sometimes be induced to exercise new skills in routine ways. The skills can be quite complex, but don’t expect much adaptation to different situations or clients. One tool which does seem to work quite well where dry instruction fails is narrative. Human brains think by analogy, and narrative is a kind of extended analogy to personal lives. In pre-literate worlds, narrative – myth cycles especially (including religious tales) – was what carried the knowledge of the culture across human generations. Traditional children’s stories, fairy tales, were another rich avenue of knowledge transfer. Sometimes iconic figures, like Hodja Nasreddin (Wikipedia (2016), embodied the ideal and value of crafty thinking.

8. Assisted Thinking


At the beginning of this essay I suggested that the conscious initiation of a thinking process was one way to define active thinking, even though any output which followed was inevitably a product also of much subconscious cogitation, generally in an emergent cycle with the conscious level of thought. 

Of course the point at which we use “thinking” as a term worth mentioning beyond the normal background buzz of daily life is quite arbitrary. In principle, you can “think actively” about going down the street to buy an ice cream, and that might be closer to a normal usage of “thinking” than solving quadratic equations. Just as large numbers of people will do almost anything to avoid even a minimum of physical exertion, there is always a swelling crowd heading for the exits when thinking of any complexity is demanded (though they are never shy about opinions).

However, there is a life cycle to certain categories of “thinking” activity. For example, in the earlier years of their adulthood, casting around for a career of maximum passivity, many feel the necessity to pass through educational courses where a special new challenge for effort evasion confronts them: the cycle of essays and assignments to be submitted. Enterprise steps in to support even this when plagiarism fails: the growing popularity of online “essay farming companies” who will write your masterpiece for a fee (Belot 2016).

Putting aside the slothful crowd just mentioned, this particular essay has  paid more attention to situations which require a somewhat sophisticated level of attention, persistence and ingenuity in a world where complex problems are constantly arising. Yet even where energetic thinking is needed, only a few outcasts of philosophical bent actually go looking for trouble.

For the rest, it is common to be ambushed by worldly situations arising from an occupation, a relationship, or life’s many other tribulations. Facing such challenges, many turn for assistance in their thinking to colleagues, friends or partners. Shared problem solving has been around as long as the species, and can be exceptionally helpful. On the other hand, there are many, many people for whom thoughtful discussion partners are rarely if ever available. (This has certainly been the case in my own life).

Well, as the 21st Century idiom goes, there is an app’ for everything. More formally, there are ever expanding categories of software to assist with, or leave space for, active thinking. Just as writing and the spread of literacy multiplied the human scope for complex and extended thinking by orders of magnitude, machine computing and the Internet have given another enormous boost to the fly-wheel of our civilizations. As the velocity of these phenomena threaten to spin out of control, software designers have tried to provide electronic assistance. It turns out that whole classes of the population are allergic to much of this assistance, even at a basic level such as using e-books as opposed to paper books.

Nevertheless, virtual assistance and virtual assistants are there and growing. For example, see the Capterra website for a list of dozens of programs claiming to help with corporate innovation and the organization of ideas. On your smart phone you can probably find “Siri” or “Cortana” silently watching your habits and pretending (rather uselessly at present) to be your personal secretary and helper.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s I watched the masses do their utmost to avoid entanglement with electronic computing. Most women, to my disappointment, seemed to have a special aversion for this stuff and would complain bitterly of being “computer widows” if their husbands tip-toed off to muck around with an Atari game console, or BBC Basic program. At some point the human interfaces of the operating systems passed a tipping point and became more or less idiot proof. By the time I left China in 2011, the nursing students in my classes, 18-22 year old girls, were claiming to each send 300 bits of SMS chatter from phones to their friends each month.

Just as with the rise of smart phones, I suspect that as Siri and Cortana and their successors become more sophisticated, and collect ever more intimate details about human lives, then their users will become more and more lazy, ultimately turning over much decision making, active thinking, to their electronic assistants. That certainly is the human way. We are always the authors of our own destruction. Now shall we go down the street to buy that ice cream?



Reading List



Bailyn, Evan (January 19th, 2012) "The Value Of Active Thinking". Early Writings of Evan Bailyn website online @ http://evanbailyn.net/thoughts-on-life/the-value-of-active-thinking/#sthash.sPb4fRv3.dpuf

Belot, Henry (January 13, 2016) "Australian National University investigate essay farm targeting Chinese students". Canberra Times online @ http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/australian-national-university-investigate-essay-farm-targeting-chinese-students-20160113-gm4r2m.html

Belsie, Laurent (September 16, 1992) "Computer-Assisted Creative Thinking". Christian Science Monitor online @ http://www.csmonitor.com/1992/0916/16131.html  

Burkeman, Oliver (7 January 2016) "Therapy wars: the revenge of Freud". The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/jan/07/therapy-wars-revenge-of-freud-cognitive-behavioural-therapy?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits  

Capterra - "Top idea management software products". [lists dozens of programs claiming to assist with innovation and the organization of ideas]. Capterra website online @ http://www.capterra.com/idea-management-software /

Ellerton, Peter{January 7, 2016) "What does it mean to think and could a machine ever do it?". The Conversation website online @ https://theconversation.com/what-does-it-mean-to-think-and-could-a-machine-ever-do-it-51316?

Garrison, Webb "Active and Passive Thought, Thinking of Thoughts/The Training of Trains". Southwest College & New Earth Institute, Part 1 online @ https://www.swc.edu/blogs/top-news/active-and-passive-thought-part-i-the-journey-to-the-station/#.Vo-WNk  ; Part2 online @ https://www.swc.edu/blogs/top-news/active-and-passive-thought-part-ii-thinking-of-thoughtsthe-training-of-trains/#.Vo8VsU_Nlxp  

Halla, Antti (October 17, 2014) "Computer assisted thinking with mind maps". Mind on Maps blog, online @ http://mindonmaps.com/2014/10/computer-assisted-thinking-with-mind-maps/  

Irving Wladawsky-Berger (8 November 2013) "Get ready for computer assisted thinking". Wall Street Journal online @ http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2013/11/08/get-ready-for-computer-assisted-thinking/  

Kenyon, Georgina (6 January 2016) "The man who studies the spread of ignorance". BBC (UK) online @ http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160105-the-man-who-studies-the-spread-of-ignorance?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits  

Kitching, Thomas (Jan 09, 2016) "Cosmology Is in Crisis — But Not for the Reason You May Think". Huffington Post online @ http://singularityhub.com/2016/01/09/cosmology-is-in-crisis-but-not-for-the-reason-you-may-think/

Kuhn, Thomas (1962, 1970) "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". Available on Amazon @ http://www.amazon.com/The-Structure-Scientific-Revolutions-Anniversary/dp/0226458121

Liu Cixin (2015) “The Three Body Problem”. [ A riveting SF novel which in the best science fiction tradition, draws you to think actively about earthly conditions. Much greater resonance for those with a knowledge of Chinese history and culture, but still a good read for all] Available from Amazon @ http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Three-Body-Problem-Cixin-Liu/dp/1784971553

Lubos Pastor, Lubos (May, 2011) "Active Thinking - "The popularity of active funds need not be puzzling". © 2016 The University of Chicago Booth School of Business online @ http://www.chicagobooth.edu/capideas/may-2012/pastor.aspx#sthash.u4RTpLAq.dpuf

May, Thor (1987) "Super-Culture And The Ghost In The Machine". Academia.edu online @ https://www.academia.edu/3653431/Super-Culture_And_The_Ghost_In_The_Machine

May, Thor (1995, 2004) "Generative Oscillation - A Cognitive Model for the Emergence of Language". Academia.edu online @ https://www.academia.edu/1588339/Generative_Oscillation_-_A_Cognitive_Model_for_the_Emergence_of_Language  

May, Thor (2001) "Unseen Grammar - Suspecting the God of Cracks Between the Floorboards". Academia.edu online @ https://www.academia.edu/2312782/Unseen_Grammar_-_Suspecting_the_God_of_Cracks_Between_the_Floorboards   

May, Thor (2006) "Reading versus Active Experience - The Doctor's Dilemma". Academia.edu online @ https://www.academia.edu/20128188/Reading_versus_Active_Experience_-_The_Doctors_Dilemma

May, Thor (2007) "Standing Room Only - Posture, Space and the Learning Process in ESL Classes". Academia.edu online @ https://www.academia.edu/1554821/Standing_Room_Only_-_Posture_Space_and_the_Learning_Process_in_ESL_Classes     

May, Thor (2010) “The Journey of a Passionate Skeptic”. [A speech to graduating students in China. Video]. Online @ http://thormay.net/lxesl/ZZESL_Holmes/zrvtcgraduation2010.htm

Oremus, Will (Jan. 3 2016)"Who Controls Your Facebook Feed?" Slate online @ http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/cover_story/2016/01/how_facebook_s_news_feed_algorithm_works.single.html?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits

Oxford Learning (2011) "Active Thinking - Turning the brain on for better grades". [basic schema by a commercial tutoring organization]. Oxford Learning online @ http://www.oxfordlearning.com/active-thinking-turning-the-brain-on-for-better-grades/

Personal Productivity (2014) "How to get over passive thinking". [Q&A forum, good quality]. Personal Productivity website online @ http://productivity.stackexchange.com/questions/7048/how-to-get-over-passive-thinking  

Radin, Dean (2009) Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality [Kindle Edition]. Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc (AU). Amazon reviews online @ http://www.amazon.com.au/Entangled-Minds-Extrasensory-Experiences-Quantum-ebook/dp/B002XQAAYK  

Thought Office - "Idea innovation software". [claims to systematically prompt the development of ideas with open-ended questions and links]. Available online @ http://www.thoughtrod.com/idea-software/  

Vance, Arlo (2006) “Active vs Passive Thinking”. [The process and philosophy of design] Arlovance.com website online @ http://arlovance.com/assets/dwnld/activepassive.pdf

Wikidot (n.d.) "Active Thinking Passive Thinking". Wikidot website online @ http://destiny.wikidot.com/mental:06-active-thinking-passive-thinking  

Wikidot (n.d.) "Active Thinking". Wikidot website online @ http://destiny.wikidot.com/op:13-active-thinking

Wikipedia (2015) "Dean Radin". Wikipedia online @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dean_Radin  

Wikipedia(2015) "Noetics". Wikipedia online @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noetics

Wikipedia (2015) “Mozi”. [Mozi, 470-391 BC, was a very interesting exponent of active thinking. If Chinese tradition had followed his views, the human world would have been a far different place much sooner]. Wikipedia online @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozi 

Wikipedia (2016) “Hodja Nasreddin”. Wikipedia online @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasreddin  

Wikipedia (2016) “Action Research”. Wikipedia online @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_research

Professional bio: Thor May has a core professional interest in cognitive linguistics, at which he has rarely succeeded in making a living. He has also, perhaps fatally in a career sense, cultivated an interest in how things work – people, brains, systems, countries, machines, whatever… In the world of daily employment he has mostly taught English as a foreign language, a stimulating activity though rarely regarded as a profession by the world at large. His PhD dissertation, Language Tangle, dealt with language teaching productivity. Thor has been teaching English to non-native speakers, training teachers and lecturing linguistics, since 1976. This work has taken him to seven countries in Oceania and East Asia, mostly with tertiary students, but with a couple of detours to teach secondary students and young children. He has trained teachers in Australia, Fiji and South Korea. In an earlier life, prior to becoming a teacher, he had a decade of finding his way out of working class origins, through unskilled jobs in Australia, New Zealand and finally England (after backpacking across Asia to England in 1972).


Understanding Active Thinking ŠThor May Noevember 2015