I was invited to talk on the online panel for the Teachers Teaching Teachers video cast a few weeks back, where we talked about education, the education system, what people like my brother (Alex Pappas), Monika Hardy, Lisa Nielsen, and Kathryn von Jan are doing to alter the current system, and a few other things in between. I also got to talk about my book (a favorite topic of mine) and myself (another favorite topic of mine). Does that sound conceited? Moving on…
Something that I found very interesting was when Kathryn began talking about student archetypes. I had mentioned that I felt uninspired and bored during my scholastic career (aside from a few classes here and there), and Kathryn explained her research findings. She explained that the word “bored” was actually a symptom of the problem, and not the problem itself. People identified more with larger themes, such as not knowing why they were in school in the first place, feeling uninspired by the material that they were learning, and not having a support system (or feeling as though they were part of the community) while they were in school.
What Kathryn found was that there were essentially three archetypes of college students: the sprinter, the trooper, and the voyager. The sprinter is there to get their diploma, they want the piece of paper, and usually they have an alternative reason for being there (such as getting a promotion upon completion). The trooper is the type of student that does exactly what’s required, or what they’re are told to do. The trooper spends his/her time dotting every “i” and crossing every “t”, but they need a road map to tell them what needs doing (I’m guessing that without this map they feel kind of lost, as in, they aren’t sure exactly what needs to be done for the grade they desire). The voyager is the individual who is thirsty for knowledge, gets absorbed in a subject for a while and then gets absorbed by another subject and ends up focusing on a number of different subjects during their college career.
The interesting thing about these three archetypes is that they are not mutually exclusive for any individual at any time. That means that depending on what subject you are studying, you may be part sprinter and part voyager. The important thing that these archetypes reaffirm is that students/people are not uniform in the way that they learn across the student population, and they aren’t even uniform in the way that they learn, individually, from topic to topic. Students are complex, and any type of education that focuses on trying to teach people in a uniform way is not going to be as successful as one that can tailor its style, or adapt to the individual in question and the group as a whole.
So the question that I ask is this: if the current educational system isn’t going to adapt to the individual, then who has to adapt? That seems obvious; it’s the student who must take ownership of his or her education. If the student is encouraged to take ownership of his/her education, then what is the number one thing for them to find? There seemed to be a consensus among those present at the chat that the path to ownership of your own education was found through the forest of passion. What are you passionate about learning?
Okay, but how do students/people find what they are passionate about? Through self-reflection, unplanned experiences, and encouragement to take ownership of their education.
The need to pump high school students directly into the collegiate world is bullshit. For some, it works great, but for others it does nothing but discourage. This was one of my favorite points from the talk: people need time to figure out what they want to do and find what they’re passionate about, and they need to be encouraged to seek the answers to those questions, and then given the resources necessary to accomplish their goals once they know.
Because in the end, we need to change the idea of what success is based on. Success is currently based on money, which is wrong. There’s nothing wrong with making money, but basing success of a person/individual on how much money they have (or haven’t) made over the course of your lifetime is wrong. We need to be encouraging kids, students, individuals to find out what they are passionate about, so that happiness and satisfaction with their work becomes the prime indicator of their success.
I am learning more about the new/alternative education movement that people in our talk have been focusing on for years, and I am extremely interested in the direction this movement is heading.
Alex Pappas: Hour School
Monika Hardy: Lab Connections
Lisa Nielsen: The Innovative Educator
Kathryn von Jan: Rad Matter
Paul Allison: Teachers Teaching Teachers