Education by Design

by our Education and Talent Lead, Margo Purcell (September 2020)

We are born curious.

What does it look like to foster that?

It looks like asking questions, digging in deeply, creating the conditions for people to explore, discover, engage in a way that is purposeful for them.

It is meaningful, not mechanical.

So much of how we have been conditioned to learn involves being told what we need to know. To be able to do that, you need to know this. There are types of tasks where that can be efficient and where knowledge acquisition allows us to make shortcuts to deeper learning. There is a risk though that it does not lead to true understanding.

I am about to date myself – when I was in grade 13, I took calculus. I had been a relatively capable math student. I LOVED Algebra/Geometry. I couldn’t “get” calculus. I asked teachers and friends who were strong in the subject to help me understand why I was using one formula instead of the other. They would just tell me to just use it. I would say that if I don’t understand why I am using one instead of the other, that as soon as the question looked different, I would simply be guessing. For them, it made such sense that they could not explain how they chose which formula to use.

I dropped calculus.

The world is evolving at such speed that we need to Rethink Education. Education is not a separate time in our lives where we learn and then we’re done – go apply it. It is ongoing.

We need to build Essential Competencies where people learn how to learn so that no matter what is put in front of them, even if they’ve never seen it before, they know that they know how to figure it out. We need to build the competencies of Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Systems Thinking, Computational Thinking, Communication, Collaboration. We need to foster the mindset of Design.

Humanity and the planet are facing significant challenges. They will not be solved by people waiting to be told what to do. They will not be solved by engaging in best practices. They will be solved by doing deep problem setting before we do problem solving. They will be solved by understanding the consequences and implications of possible courses of action BEFORE we take action. They will be solved by anticipating greatly and preventing where possible. They will be solved by observing, listening, experimenting, iterating and building BEST FIT solutions. They will be solved by actively seeking and integrating ongoing feedback after implementation. They will be solved KNOWING that there are things that will emerge that we could not possibly have anticipated or prevented ahead of time. They will be solved by remaining curious and open. They will be solved through a collective commitment to lifelong learning.

We need to reignite the curiosity we were all born with.

Let’s get started!