What’s up with education these days?
Everyone has been saying it for months now, education has changed, and needed to change. Covid highlighted the gaps and cracks that exist in education, and yet, teachers have never worked harder than they have in the past year. Overnight they had to shift gear and try keep education and learning going, all from behind a screen. No mean feat, and they were visibly exhausted.
Now that schools are slowly getting back to face-to-face learning, what will education look like going forward? Will it simply go back to how it was before, or have the changes set education on a new course?
Obviously the goal of every education institution remains the same, and that is to get the best out of every student – academically, socially, emotionally. But what does that mean?
Ultimately, education facilities want their learners to develop academic independence, emotional and social maturity, and eventual self-regulation and accountability. These are life skills all adults should master to be contributing members of society.
These are the skills that they need to take with them into their futures.
While these are the goals, the reality is that not all learners achieve this, and not all learners are successful. Some people are built for the school environment, and others just aren’t. Some are effective and find school easy, while others struggle to engage and perform consistently. So what do we do?
How do we make school a place that sets learners up to succeed?
Teachers work hard, but sometimes the fit just doesn’t work. What if we could find a way to align learning styles with teaching styles. A way that sets teachers up to succeed by engaging alllearners. A way that sets learners up to succeed because they can’t help but be engaged?
Imagine how the world of education could shift, how learners could be more successful. Imagine what that would mean for their self-esteem and future success.
Think about what it would be like to start off from an early age, knowing what energises you and where you can make your biggest impact. Think about what it means for educators to know how to engage all learners.
The world needs conscious leaders, people who know that no matter how small they are, their impact can be significant. And even more than that, people who know how to harness that energy and use it to make their most meaningful and greatest impact.
The first eighteen years of a person’s life is crucially formative. Brain development during this time is the essential coxswain that navigates future behaviour. Bandura argued way back that there is no better way to start believing in one’s ability to succeed, than to set a goal, persist through challenges along the way to that goal, and enjoy the satisfying results.
So how can we change education to help with self-efficacy which affects every area of a human’s existence.
What if we know how to influence our own beliefs regarding our own ability to impact situations? This would strongly influence both the power a person actually has to face challenges competently, and the choices a person is most likely to make for their future. Even our default way of existing can actually be changed by focusing on actions that can change our brain chemistry.
Our brains are wired by the physical and emotional environment. Some experiences strengthen the connections between neurons, and others weaken (prune) them in a ‘use it or lose it’ strategy.
If we relate that to education, no matter what the challenge may be, ‘something’ can be done to influence the ultimate outcome. If a person believes that their actions impact their experience and the environment, they are more prone to an optimistic view. They will no longer feel like a victim of circumstance.
Now what if we add to that the notion that our brains predict and prepare our actions based on past experiences. It is not possible to change your past, but you can, with effort, change the way your brain will predict and prepare in future. If you think about tying shoelaces… or learning to drive a car… it required serious concentration and effort in the beginning, but once you mastered it, it required no thought because it became an automatic action. This is because your brain has geared itself to make predictions that cause certain actions.
Back to education again. Learning takes place in a social context. It happens through beliefs and our social environment.
What if we could create a social environment that enhances learning. An attitude of creativity and innovation that acknowledges, even sanctions, failing repeatedly, but having the tenacity to keep trying. In one of her talks, Carol Dweck mentions a school system where there are no fail marks, only “not yet”.
The psychological implications of ‘you’re almost there’ vs ‘you have failed’ are so significant that it means that our social reality can become the superpower that enables us to chart our own paths and successes.
We are aligning learning and teaching styles and changing education through this progressive system. An environment (social reality) where we create engagement, as well as encourage belief in the value of motivation to influence any outcome. This attitude will enable learners to overcome failures, or ‘not yets’, with resilience and optimism. We are creating energised environments that best facilitate engagement through deliberate actions. We are changing the game.
If we extend this to beyond education, consider the implications for the future. A generation, and future generations, that can effect changes to some of the most challenging world issues that exist, simply because from young, they have been engaged, they know their impact, and they acknowledge that they have more control over their own lives.
“Human potential is the only limitless resource we have in this world” (Fiornina), it is time to create environments that foster that.