Better Ways to Educate

I had a discussion today with a former teacher of mine who is trying to take students to the next level in their learning. This teacher wants to provide a higher achieving platform for students than what is available to them in the ordinary high school classroom setting. They are searching for some of the patterns that have helped students the best in the past.

This got me thinking about a video I had seen in the past of Russell Ackoff and Dr. Demming about education. The video is directly below and then I’ve extracted some of the insights from the video and some other Russell Ackoff videos. There’s also a second video from Seth Godin on modern schools and education.

Russell Ackoff distinguishes analysis and synthesis. In the western world we’ve predominantly focused on analysis when teaching. For example, we break our schools down in to parts, the English department, Math department, Science department and others.

Teaching in a lot of schools focuses less on creativity, knowledge, understanding, wisdom and focuses mainly on the lower level data and information. This is data and information that someone else has chosen, the teacher or curriculum provider. The student is expected to give the answer the teacher expects, which leaves no room for the student to exercise creativity.

How can you switch to focusing on creativity? Have the student explain in which context a certain known answer would be correct. Have the student explain what contexts are important to them.

Many modern schools are also focused on attracting everyone of a certain age for the purpose of learning, but not all attending students will be learners. No one can force a person to be a learner. So a lot of energy goes in to convincing people to learn, instead of enhancing learning.

Using the idealized redesign technique, imagine if the current system was destroyed last night and you were in charge of making the new system, how would you make it? After this ideal system is conceived as an idea, then do not focus energy on convincing the existing education system to change, but focus on connecting the learners that find the new system valuable.

Seth Godin says “Connect the committed.” Don’t spend energy trying to convince people. Create a glide path for committed learners to do their best learning. This means, as a facilitator or platform provider, remove as much friction as possible for learners. Including accessibility to tools and content and convenient times.

There is also this great Seth Godin video on the modern school.

You can also download Seth’s free e-book Stop Stealing Dreams (What is school for?).

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