Have you ever had a transformative experience? I’m not referring to an occurrence in which you made external changes that you hoped would produce internal benefits. I mean a period in which key factors aligned in such a way that produced powerful self-understandings. Such self-revelatory moments don’t just inspire us to change at some later time; they produce immediate and lasting change.
Transformation doesn’t change our situation. Our perspective and perceptions of the circumstances change. We see something of value in ourselves that is deeply and immensely empowering.
Education should be transformative. If more students were transformed in their educational experience, educators and education would hold greater value in the public’s eye.
Transformation can’t be forced, but the conditions can be set to make it more likely.
Below are steps that I’ve found very useful in promoting these defining learning experiences.
- The student experience is often cast from a negative perspective. A common narrative among educators is, “Today’s students are ________ (You fill in the pejorative of choice: generationally flawed, cheaters, apathetic, coddled, . . . It’s a seemingly endless list.)
Rather than deconstruct students’ past academic experiences, educators attempt to demolish them. The demolition approach leaves students in ruins, while deconstructing methods allow them to build anew.
- Having vision is typically viewed as an essential ability of an executive. A person with a cogent vision can marshal the needed people from various areas to work together.
Similarly, students need academic vision to marshal the cognitive resources needed to achieve their academic outcomes. Educators serve themselves and students well when they help them establish academic vision.
- Humans think continuously throughout their lives. We can be certain that students know how to think. However, they don’t know how to think to learn.
Typically, we think for our own purposes. However, in school students must use their minds to achieve the educator’s goals.
This type of learning requires interpretation, precision, monitoring and evaluation. It requires a framework! The ThinkWell-LearnWell Diagram and Learning Sufficiency Diagram have been useful frameworks for thousands of students throughout the U.S. and beyond.
- Knowledge work is different from all other forms of work. The major challenges involve cognitive overload, where students try to do too many things at once, and cognitive confusion, where students are uncertain about which skills and processes to use for respective tasks.
This makes studying grossly inefficient, leading to stagnation and frustration.
- All students have a learning routine. This consists of the actions and resources they rely on to learn content and prepare for tasks. There are numerous flaws in students’ learning routines, leaving them directionless in their studies.
Helping students adapt their learning routines to the environment will pay tremendous dividends.
- Grades are lagging indicators. It takes a while for those results to come in. Students need leading indicators, internal metrics that students can confidently and consistently rely on well before their tests or tasks. Our interventions must include short-term successes.
- Success is never a straight line. Students who have been genuinely transformed will revert back to previously unsuccessful approaches at some point.
Use these as lessons to propel them forward rather than evidences of failure. Expect a reversion of practice. However, these setbacks can be short-lived if we help students recognize what is occurring and redirect them back to what works.
When properly sequenced, these seven steps can transform individual students, entire cohorts, and even institutions. I’m curious to learn which of the steps is most applicable to you.
Now, it’s time for you to share. Use the comment feature below to share which of the steps you find most applicable and valuable.