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What is the Answer for Education Now?

This blog is a personal reflection on the hour I spent listening to an online discussion between Sir Ken Robinson and Dr Peter Senge; two ‘thought leaders’ in the world of learning and development.

About Ken

Sir Ken Robinson works with governments, education systems, international agencies, global corporations and some of the world’s leading cultural organisations to unlock the creative energy of people and organisations. His book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything (Penguin/Viking, 2009) is a New York Times bestseller.

About Peter

Dr. Peter Senge is a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he has lectured extensively throughout the world, translating the abstract ideas of systems theory into tools for better understanding economic and organisational change. He is the author of the widely acclaimed book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of The Learning Organization (1990, revised edition published 2006).

What follows are some soundbites from this online discussion, which may be of interest to those trying to #helplearninghappen in coaching.  

Starting Question: If schools were the answer to education in the past, what is the answer for education now?

In response to this question both these ‘thought leaders’ stated that schools are still the answer, we just need to re-envisage what the school does and how it does it. No longer should it be a production line where we learn ‘in groups’ but it should move to learners working ‘as groups’, shifting from ‘competition’ to ‘collaboration’.

We should see school as a community of learners and work with their real needs, not perceived needs and assumptions from historical models. Where possible we should personalise the experience rather than simply order it.

True learning is not just about the answer, ‘guessing what’s in the teacher’s head’ but something more co-created. Learning is a profound process that is “deeply personal and inherently collective,” so schools should focus on the social elements of learning, such as:

  • Doing things together
  • Thinking together
  • Acting together

Perhaps schools should focus on social and emotional learning through the practice of working together – normalising small team learning (and peer teaching).

Teachers should set problems that even the brightest children cannot do, so they need to collaborate with others. We should see the teacher as an observer and a provoker of good thought not a disrupter of learning through interruptions of teacher led direction.

Also note: sometimes the best learning happens when the teacher is not in the room.

Maybe the role of the teacher is now to set challenges, guide and give comfort when learning requires considerable effort and isn’t (always) joyful.

To policy makers:

Does the professional development of educators need to be re-thought, allowing itself to be vulnerable and make mistakes as we get to the ‘new’ answers (which may not already be known/reside in the teachers head).

Learning should mimic organic agriculture and shrift from its obsession with output and yield (qualifications, metrics and pass rates), which has to some degree destroyed the learning culture we wanted to create. Something evolving, morphing, changing as it is nurtured over time.

Consider the soil as the priority not the plant. The soil is the ongoing life giver in learning and the plant is simply the output.

We need to revive and revitalise the culture of learning and understand the natural processes we are trying to create. Move from command and control to climate control and with this educate the policy makers to help them make this happen.

So what?

I believe we can take formal institutions like sports and wider partners; still key in the successful education of coaches, and make some subtle and not so subtle changes to how we do things, in order to make the most of learning. Some examples of this are given below.

Create learning situations where:

  • We learn ‘as groups’ not simply ‘in groups’;
  • We are ‘collaborators’ not ‘competitors’ in finding solutions;
  • Learning is ‘personalised’ rather than simply ordered;
  • We focus on the social elements; connecting people through a topic, doing, thinking and acting together;
  • The teacher is an observer and a provoker of good thought whom sets challenges, guides and gives reassurance when learning is effortful.

You can watch the full clip here.

NB: The Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF) is an online, open access event that invites thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, businesses, makers and learners to explore the question: “The economy is changing - what do I need to know, experience and do?”. And was founded by Ellen Macarthur (the world record holder for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe).

Kurt Ewald Lindley (Development Lead Officer – Coach Developer)

Follow: @CoachDeveloper

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