Futureproofing student lifelong employability

The Elephant in the Middle of the Room of Education Reform

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Give a person a fish, you feed them for a day;
Teach a person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime;
But teach a person to learn, you feed them for a lifetime…
And they don’t have to just eat fish
-Tim Gallwey, Creator of Inner Game

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in education or educational reform. I do know something about how the mind works and learns and how that translates into action.

What will determine a student’s lifelong employability is not what they learn, but how they learn.

In a highly specialized world they will need to do a deep dive into whatever they learn and it’s true that to become a true expert at
anything will require what Stephen Covey explained was 10,000 hours.

Here’s the snag. If you become a true specialist and expert at something and the need or demand for it goes away, the need and demand for you goes away unless you can adapt to change.

However. if you’re a hammer, the world looks like a nail and if you’re that specialist, your world can look like whatever your skill produces. And you will often resist being pulled even slightly away from it, because the more specialized you are, the more rapidly you can feel incompetent, doubting and out of control when you are required to stray from it.

Adaptive Learning

To adapt, much less survive in a rapidly changing world, requires the ability to be excellent or at least very good at what you do, but also the ability to pivot when what the world needs from you changes.

Adaptive learning follows the acronym – QDA3

QDA3 stand for:

  1. Quick
  2. Deep
  3. Accurate
  4. Actionable
  5. Agile

QDA3 explained:

  1. Quick means quick to not only get up to speed in learning something, but to become proficient enough at it that you can do it reliably.
  2. Deep means not merely imitating and learning a tactic, but also understanding how and why something works in addition to what it is.
  3. Accurate means not being sloppy even though you’re moving quickly. John Wooden, famed UCLA coach had a famous quote, “Be quick, but don’t hurry,” which meant to be deliberate in your action vs. too hasty.
  4. Actionable means when and where the “rubber hits the road” because until an idea or learning turns into an action, it really doesn’t matter.
  5. Agile means that as committed as you are to a course of action and have a head of steam and momentum in what you’re doing, that when the landscape and target suddenly changes, you can be momentarily surprised or stunned, but you need to pivot instead of remaining transfixed like a “deer in the headlights.”

Hmmm… looks like it’s time for me to pivot because I have used one too many clichés.

When I was medical intern in my training there was a process that we engaged in to help us get up to speed learning a new skill such as doing a lumbar puncture or putting in a chest tube that was referred to as: See one, do one, teach one. That involved watching someone more skilled than us do a procedure explaining it to us, then doing one, and finally doing one teaching it to the next person below us.

It wasn’t until we could teach what we learned and did that we truly began to “own” it as a skill.

Becoming an Agile Learner – Learn, Do, Teach

To improve the chances for our children and current students
to have lifelong employability, they need to be trained in QDA3.

One way to do that is to institute timed learning, doing and teaching early – so they get used to it – in a student’s education in learning skills and especially STEM related skills. For instance, if the standard during early education were to learn, do and teach a new skill in one week and then repeat that monthly with other educational activities during the subsequent three weeks, we would help students become agile learners.

Extending it further I could foresee programs that graduate student to be a Certified Agile Learner after they have done this procedure for a full academic year.

Furthermore, this might also spawn students who want to become teachers in this methodology and go on to become Certified Agile Teachers.

Without a process of creating agile learners, students run
the risk of becoming highly specialized, but not able to adapt to a changing world which will limit their lifelong employability.

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