Getting to THEIR Optimum Vision

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Are you a follower of the posts of Jesse Lyn Stoner? She is a business advisor and coach – as well as a bestselling author. I am a very dedicated follower. Her business leadership posts are quite often easily (and importantly) adapted to education; and her posts and quotations (such as the one in the featured image) are very aligned with my values and those of many others.

When I encountered this image on Twitter, I was, as usual, very much in agreement with its message. In fact, I added a comment: “Even worse are the people who don’t discuss issues with ANYONE… They simply select someone’s points of view as theirs!!!”

The title of my blog, “Considerations,” relates to my strongly held beliefs. It is our responsibility to ourselves, our country, and to humankind that we gather a broad body of information believed relevant to a topic of current importance. Subsequently, we must understand, assess for relevance, and organize into a Vision associated with the topic. ‘Vision’ is my term for the interrelationships/ linkages on the topic that enable us to deal appropriately and usefully with situations associated with the topic. ‘Appropriately and usefully’ is an extremely key phrase… One important use of our vision is discussions on the topic with others. While habitual dedication to ‘Considering’ will help us become better with the process, it would be frightening (to me at least) to allow ourselves to believe that personal vision is totally, automatically useful. (It’s no more automatically useful than the visions or points of view of anyone else.) Consistent with the quotation in the featured image above, discussions with a diverse group of people will indeed provide their assessment of and feedback to your vision and introduction to their vision – both improving the visions AND thus the outcomes for situations appropriate for application of those visions.

So how do people develop the skills of Consideration leading to these visions? For sure, each of us can and likely will self-develop the skills if we in fact seek to make a difference; we will self-assess our efforts during and after the application to identify and subsequently refine those skills. And, yes, our parents and family are hopefully successful in their efforts; and if so, they are likely to provide feedback and encouragement to us to refine our skills – starting at a young age.

It is my firm belief that formal education’s most important task is to facilitate the development of those skills. The four skills most critical, I believe, are Effective Learning, problem solving, communicating, and working in groups. Effective Learning deals with the gathering, understanding, and organizing information for use in developing a vision. [Aside: This Effective Learning will also prepare students for in-school assessment including the useless (IMHO) Standardized tests.]

Problem solving starts with recognition of a problem, continues with determination of the true objective, includes the building of aligned visions, obviously involves application of those visions to develop outcomes useful to addressing the objective, and ends with reflection on and documentation of outcomes and efforts made. Application of problem solving enhances both Effective Learning and formal School assessment by the way.

Communicating is important to our improved vision building as noted earlier; it is also obviously the route to our sharing of our efforts with others. I often remarked to my students that “It would be sad if our Nobel-prize efforts never were seen by others.” Of course, the likelihood of ‘Nobel-prize efforts’ are slim. But hopefully our efforts are valuable / useful to others for their adaptation and refinement. Those efforts will be so only if our preparation of material for clear communicating occurs – the complete skill of communicating.

Finally, there is the skill of working in groups. Very often, our efforts are a part of a formalized group effort; but even ‘individuals’ work in informal groups. An artist, for example, works with their manager, agent, materials suppliers, reviewers, gallery people, … Developing the skill of working in groups is important (including for working in study and project groups in school) and must be included in education priorities.

So there is my thesis on the preparation for successful formal education, for lifelong learning so important to a successful personal life and career, and for the critical exercise of our citizen responsibilities. If we educators facilitate the development of these skills and help them to become habitually used through student-centered addressing of our carefully developed driving questions, we will help our students understand the importance of getting to their optimum visions and doing so through discussions with people having diverse views.

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The Purpose of Education

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[Aside: Yes, I’m finally back to my blog… It’s been quite a while since my last post. In the interim, my wife and I – with much help from family and friends, and our builder – have built a beautiful new home in Midlothian, Virginia; packed, given away, or thrown away our things in Connecticut; and moved into our new home in Virginia.]

I have joined IMMOOC 2 having found the original offering of great value. One feature of this course is the encouragement to blog regularly – with blog prompts listed weekly. Hence the blog title. To me, the highest priority purpose of school is facilitating the development of four skills by each student: Effective Learning, problem solving, communicating, and working in groups. That development must include the application of these skills to meaningful situations to indeed  convert the skills to habits. You might ask “What about the core knowledge associated with the appropriate standards?” My answer is that such knowledge will indeed be learned (and thus be useable) in conjunction with skills development and subsequent use on assignments.

Why these four skills? Effective Learning, to me, is deep learning associated with the development of what I call a vision (an overall organization of facts, equations, theories, links, … with appropriate connections) that enables the learner to use this learning to address the previously mentioned meaningful situations / assignments. The most critical use of the Effective Learning skill will be for the lifelong learning necessary for a successful life and career.

Problem solving will be the structure associated with the addressing of all situations encountered. It is a very nonlinear passage through steps that break down what might first seem a daunting task into smaller less complicated sub-tasks. Very important to this skill is that it is not associated only with the more technical fields such as science or engineering; all fields of interest will yield more useful outcomes more quickly through the use of an effective problem solving procedure.

Communicating is, I expect quite obvious. Whether in the course of collecting materials for Consideration during Effective Learning, the outreach to more experienced individuals during problem solving, the interaction with group members, or the presentation of objective(s), procedures, and outcomes to others for review, feedback, and use, effective communicating is never an option. One additional point important to me at least: communication skill development is not fully  dependent upon the type of situation addressed; but it is best developed in conjunction with a specific type of situation.

Finally, working in groups is such an important skill. There are the likely obvious advantages of a diversity of backgrounds and experience and the lessening of any one person’s efforts when working in groups. There is the ability to develop a richer, more useful outcome for any situation. BUT these advantages will occur only if the skill is developed. In my efforts with student groups (every class I ever facilitated), I always had the students develop a team agreement – a contract among the group listing how they were going to proceed as a group. I also reminded them that the sum total of accomplishments wasn’t great for a group over individuals until they had worked together for a while / gotten to know each other better. By, the way, all those people such as artists who often insist in conversations with me that they don’t work in groups are mistaken. They might not work in formal groups but they certainly work in informal (still very important) ones!

So there you have my thoughts upon the four skills and their importance. Developed in school – I’d suggest as early as possible, the students will assess and refine them into key habits that will serve them well in the furthering their formal education as well as in the personal lives and career. Referring to the photo at the top of this post, you will find a quote from George Couros, the author of the book “Innovator’s Mindset” and organizer of the previously mentioned IMMOOC. What better way to help our students focus on their curiosity than to have the four skills / tools in their toolbox…