Rethinking LearningJun 06, 2022
Go to school.
Do as you're told.
Open your textbook.
Listen to the teacher.
Do your homework.
Take a test.
Rinse and repeat.
Does this model of education sound familiar? I’m willing to bet it actually loosely parallels your own experience with American education.
I know this because this is the majority approach to education - and it has been for as long as formal schooling has been an option. But what we’ve found (and research and experience proves) is that it’s just not serving us well. In fact, it’s failing many. Students are showing up everyday and internalizing the idea that they receive all knowledge from one very specific authority/group of experts, that knowledge is acquired in one way, and that success is measured through testing. They are internalizing Western individualism and competition, being isolated from community and connection, and being judged on standards that, frankly, only work for a few.
One of the aspects that often is missing in our traditional educational process is making human connections, and learning prosocial behaviors. A system based upon individual achievement, and to a certain extent, grade competition, does not build moral and emotional competence. This is one of the aspects that Doug Lennick and his team at think2perform stress—, the need for building a sense of community and belonging as a way to help form true learning environments.
So what now? How do we move forward?
I (and many others) would propose that we need to shift our focus and revolutionize our mindset in order to reframe learning in a way that empowers students and values everyone’s giftings and potential.
For the sake of time, I want to focus on two major shifts we need to make societally:
- A shift towards Growth Mindset
- A shift towards Proactive Learning
What is a Growth Mindset?
Someone who has a growth mindset has mastered the art of “...yet.” What does this even mean? Instead of statements like “I can’t solve this problem” - you’ll hear that individual says “I can’t solve this problem… yet”
Or “I haven’t learned that… yet”
“I don’t know exactly how my passions align with this… yet”
They are not limited by what they don’t know - that doesn’t close doors of possibility. Instead, they are confident in their ability to grow, learn and adapt. They see obstacles as opportunities, not road blocks.
What is Proactive Learning?
A proactive learner recognizes that not all learning happens within the traditional model of education. Instead, they are proactively seeking out opportunities to learn new skills and concepts and put them into practice in ways that align with their values and aptitudes.
Students are wired with passion - they have interests, curiosities and causes they care deeply about. Rather than expecting them to push those natural interests and inclinations aside in order to make space for our traditional model, we should be encouraging them to lean into those outside of the classroom (reinforcing the idea that learning should never be limited to one building or model).
So what could it look like to learn outside the classroom?
- Look for the opportunities that surround you (Do you want to be a chef? Reach out to a local restaurant or food truck and see if they offer internships! Are you interested in construction? Reach out to Habitat for Humanity and inquire after volunteer opportunities!)
- Be open to new experiences!
- Reach out to others in your community who have the knowledge you seek
- Be honest about what you know, what you don’t know, and what you want to learn!
Every day we make decisions and react to our worlds without even realizing it. Learning with a growth mindset recognizes that reality and pushes us forward to see how we can learn more about what interests us and matters to us. Proactive learning therefore helps us make informed decisions about our lives.