Student Agency for Success

I’m sharing here one of the best education articles I’ve read in a long time.

I have written on earlier occasions about the work of Dr Carol Dweck of Stanford University on Mindset – the difference between a fixed or a growth mindset (I still thoroughly recommend her book of the same name for all educators and parents who want to support children effectively to fulfil their potential).

In this article Eduardo Briceno brings together the aspects related to learner Mindset together with learning strategies and Habits (on which I’ve also written extensively here in the blog) under the umbrella of a Hierarchy of Learner Needs;

Mindsets and Student Agency for School and Life Success

I share the writer’s opinions strongly, especially regarding the need for;
a) The adults in schools to learn about Mindset and learning strategies and model them themselves,
b) The need to teach these things consciously (not to just hope that pupils will acquire these habits and skills),
c) That the adults must have a mindset that is about empowering pupils to have agency, not to turn them in to passive recipients of gobbets of knowledge that we deliver to them, have them memorise and regurgitate in exams.

In short, it’s time to really show we care about learning way more than we care about teaching!

School for Boys

I believe our schools today were predominantly shaped by women and therefore serve girls better than they serve boys.

Now, immediately I know that I may have raised the hackles of a fair proportion of those who read this blog on a regular basis. However, the world over there’s a lot of data that suggests, somewhere, schools are failing boys. In many developed countries now over 50% of the universities’ intake for undergraduate studies is girls (maybe women educators want to believe that this somehow evens out anomalies of the past. However, we live today, not in the past.

In China there has been serious consideration of solving gender disparity issues by having boys start school a year later than girls (so that they go through the whole system being one year older than their female peers). Figures for exclusions and expulsions from schools are massively skewed towards boys. In short, school is set up so in favour of the girls that people are having to search around for ways to even things out a bit. However, I’d rather see a more open an honest debate about what’s wrong, about why schools are switching boys off and what might be done to change school cultures to ensure that ‘fostering all potential’ really becomes more than a pipedream for schools.

As a result, I was delighted to come across two articles addressing this issue – one published just last month and one from April this year.

Looking at the first article by Michael Kimmel in Huffington Post I think he makes a key point – succeeding in school is not seen as masculine or cool for boys. His simple response is that we need to challenge those voices that are convincing our sons that opting out, wasting time are way cooler than learning and succeeding. Whilst i agree that this is part of the solution, it’s only part.

Huffington Post – Michael Kimmel – Solving the Boy Crisis in Schools

I believe there are many other aspects we have to look at regarding how school is organised, how children are expected to spend their time and the balances regarding control and discipline that permeate the culture of most schools. We also need to look at the communication and dialogue between teachers and pupils of different genders. Too often the expectations of educators are setting the agenda that is then followed by both boys and girls.

The second article shares a lot more data, especially from the US. I believe that in Indian schools (in India and overseas) things are at least as bad, if not worse. Whilst the writer for the Atlantic article quite rightly highlights the gender nazism that condemns those who dare to highlight differences in the ways male and female minds work, most teachers and educators will acknowledge that the differences exist.

The Atlantic – How to make School Better for Boys

Who figures out what is ‘just enough’ to do to pass the exams that determine promotion prospects in schools and who gets so disillusioned with school that they can’t find the motivation to do even that? Who responds by buckling under when the system demands repetitive, endless rote learning and who rebels against it? Who bursts out like coiled springs when the teachers ‘leave the field’ and head for the staffroom after a few hours of suppression in the classroom? Who reacts most negatively to not getting to actually DO experiments in science labs (as opposed to watching a teacher demonstration)?

We need to be open about these issues and we need to start addressing them.

Our People Are Our Most Important Asset …..

………….. so let’s handle them atrociously!!

I couldn’t resist sharing this ‘Fast Company’ article that I came across today;

Fast Company – 10 Ways to Lose Your Best Employees

If you’re anything like me, as you read through this list you’ll remember a time when you’ve seen evidence of every single one of the bad habits in practice. However, when i look at the school education scenario in India and UAE (way more similarities than some people care to acknowledge!) then numbers 2, 5, 8 and 9 appear as glaring examples.

On number 2 particularly I see vast numbers of schools where the writing and crafting of a Vision, Mission and Values was a 5 minute job required to complete a brochure and/ or website. If you were to ask most members of the school community to discuss them or explain them, they’d be mortified. In other words – everyone REALLY knows what we’re here for – don’t they? Why should we waste time over these things? They’re just part of the marketing, to convince parents that we are different from all the other schools. Staff and employees of course know – it’s a big sham.

Which ones stand out for you?

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