Teaching & Learning

What’s The Point?


Big6Experiences.jpgHave you thought about ‘the point’ of education lately?  Not the day-to-day goings on of getting from one week to the next, reaching the final, seeing a project through, etc.  No, I mean thinking about why education even exists?  After all, we’ve supported compulsory, free education for our K-12 students for decades and today’s world leaders all tell us that a college / university degree is crucial to life success.

If you read my stuff with any regularity, you know I love lists, patterns, analogies, and frameworks.  We live through paradigms – expanding and contracting our notion of what something is and isn’t.  So, I was particularly intrigued by a new list coming out of a Gallup-Purdue study surrounding the “Big Six College Experiences”, as related to the undergraduate college experience and life success:

Together, and individually, the Gallup-Purdue Index finds these six experiences have a stronger relationship to long-term life outcomes such as employee engagement and well-being than the type of school these graduates attended (for example, public or private).

This research got me to thinking…what is the point again?  Throughout my entire career I’ve heard very well crafted and argued points regarding the ‘why’ of education.  Why Liberal Education is best – why entrepreneurial education is best – why trade education is best – etc.  From wanting students to grow, to helping young people mature, to developing a solid work force, to providing better reasoning skills so as to feel satisfied in life, and an and on, there is no shortage of reasons for schooling.  We know from a myriad of studies that the more educated an average person, the higher their income, the longer they live, the more active they are in the economy, the less sickness they experience, the more they vote, the more satisfaction they claim, etc.

But how do we help students get there?  After all, simply attending a school doesn’t make a person smarter any more than owning a car makes you a driver.  Out students need to learn how to learn and how to make learned decisions.  They need to think and act critically, creatively, and consciously.  If you’re looking for a good framework – a list of “so what,” big ideas for education, I particularly like John Taylor Gatto’s 10 things, based on a list from Harvard.  Keep in mind, Gatto would argue this is more about learning and maturing than it is about schooling.  Fair enough.  But as a person who is helping architect the learning and maturing process, it seems like a good starting place:

1) The ability to define problems without a guide.
2) The ability to ask hard questions which challenge prevailing assumptions.
GattoQuote3) The ability to work in teams without guidance.
4) The ability to work absolutely alone.
5) The ability to persuade others that your course is the right one.
6) The ability to discuss issues and techniques in public with an eye to reaching decisions about policy.
7) The ability to conceptualize and reorganize information into new patterns.
8) The ability to pull what you need quickly from masses of irrelevant data.
9) The ability to think inductively, deductively, and dialectically.
10) The ability to attack problems heuristically.

Notice the Yin & Yang nature of some of these things.  Collaboration vs individual contribution, thinking systematically while embracing innovative conceptualization, and viewing situations with an eye for detail while also seeing the big picture are all themes.  And those themes all seem pretty spot on as well.

Again, there are others.  Littky & Grabelle wrote a clever list for the ASCD which also includes newer, brain based and cognitive psychology research concepts like self-respect, tenacity, and community connectedness.

So…what are your frameworks?  What do you think of the “Big 6 Experiences” above?  What are your lists?  What is the point – to you or your organization?  How do we ensure meaning and usefulness from education for our students today?  It’s an important question to come back to over and over again, I should think.  The point of education is, at least to me, the reason we get up and do this every day…right?

Good luck and good learning.

Dr. Jeff D Borden
Chief Innovation Officer

About Jeff Borden

My title at work is ‘Chief Innovation Officer.’ So I'm trying to transform teaching and learning at scale. How do I do that? Through my "life" jobs. Primarily, I'm a dad and husband. But I'm also a professor, writer, professional speaker, comedian, researcher, lifelong learner, musician, dog-owner, and even a ranked disc golfer... I've spoken to, trained, or consulted with hundreds of thousands of educators at all levels, in numerous countries, K-20, about how to teach and learn effectively in the 21st Century.

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