“Showcasing great examples of the best in education, Five Things I’ve Learned is a collection of personal reflections from education leaders devoted to improving the fortunes of others through learning.”
These are great insights from some smart people. Have a look. You’ll be glad you did.
Anyone who knows me will not be surprised by the heading of this post. I’m good at finding problems! But Problem Finding isn’t about complaining.
Ewan McIntosh spoke at TEDx London in September about re-framing the way learners engage with problems.
Currently, the world’s education systems are crazy about problem-based learning, but they’re obsessed with the wrong bit of it. While everyone looks at how we could help young people become better problem-solvers, we’re not thinking how we could create a generation of problem finders.
Learning doesn’t only happen in school. Young people learn in many contexts and it seems to me that Problem Finding seems to me to be at the heart of informal education. It’s Friere’s ‘conscientization’, naming your world and taking action to change it.
Problem Finding changes the focus. Using the ‘design process’ Ewan shows that ‘teachers’ traditionally do all the hard work at the start of the process in the ‘understand’ and ‘observe’ phases.
Answering a question no one is asking is a charge that has been levelled at the church for too long. That’s because we do the first two stages of the ‘design process’ for people. The church ‘understands’ and ‘observes’ the world and then frames a worldview and presents it to people rather than enabling people to ‘name’ their world and then engage with them, bringing the rich resources of two thousand years of thought to support that exploration.
In worship we (and I’m talking about me too) deliver lectures to people every Sunday about things they have no input into, and probably little interest in!
In youth work we too often assume that drugs and sex are the most important things in a 15 year old’s life. They well might be for some but our response is too often to tell them what they should think about that.
How about something different?
In the classrooms in which I work, students explore the twenty or so themes upon which our planet really depends, immerse themselves in the ideas and information their teachers, peers and whole communities can impart, find the problems they feel are worth solving, theorise which ones will work and then try them out in a prototype. In their world, we don’t just write an essay or create yet another wiki or blog to describe what our idea is, but we actually build the solution to the problem with our own hands
Problem Finding means letting go of our agendas, of our issues and our priorities and engaging young people in exploring and engaging with their world by naming their problems and working to find their solutions.
Youth work has to be about resourcing that journey. Church has to be about resourcing that journey.
I’m really interested in applying ‘Problem Finding’ and ‘design thinking’ to youth work. What do you think?
Often we don’t even know we are making them. We think that the world is a certain way and that things are as they are. We have been taught things. We have absorbed other things.
Yesterday in class we watched a couple of TED talks from a few years ago. They both address some of the assumptions we make about how the world is.
Hans Rosling talks about what we think versus what the data actually tells us.
Rosling’s exposure of what the data really tells us has all kinds of implications for how we address some of the huge problems of poverty and disease and drought and famine. I wonder if policy makers have noticed?
One thing I noticed the other day was Rob Bell talking about Galileo.
Picture Galileo, standing there on top of the Tower of Pisa, about to drop two
weights off the top. The weights are the same shape, but one is heavier than
the other. Which will land first?
Obviously the heavier one, because that’s what people had been taught
for 2000 years. How could it be any other way?
And so Galileo drops them, and they land at the same time, because that’s
how the world actually works. This kind of thinking was, of course, radical and
revolutionary and it got Galileo into all sorts of trouble.
The mind blowing part? No one before Galileo had bothered to actually
do the experiment. They just believed what they’d been taught…
Rob gets a lot of stick for asking uncomfortable questions and not always giving answers. I like that about him. I like that he says things and leaves you to think about it. He doesn’t assume that his answer will be your answer.
Which brings us to the next TED talks… Sir Ken Robinson talking about schools and creativity and finding the thing you are passionate about. He also talks about how we are educating children for a world that doesn’t exist anymore.
Knowledge is provisional. Until Galileo dropped the weights off the tower of Pisa everyone ‘knew’ he was wrong. He also proved that the Earth orbits the Sun. He got in bigger trouble for that.
This week scientists have discovered that ‘dark matter’ isn’t what they thought it might be because a new telescope has helped them see the formation of galaxies and it doesn’t work like they thought it would.
Today (23 Sep) scientists are reporting that they have measured neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light, something thought to be impossible. If it is true then our whole understanding of the universe is pretty much wrong… Again.
How do you live in a world like that? A world where nothing is certain?
It’s odd because that is the world we live in but we are happy to believe that things are certain and fixed and unchanging, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
I wonder how many assumptions we make about our lives, our faith, our church, our relationships, our understanding of how things are and why?
They say that ‘assume’ makes an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me’.
I think they (whoever that is) might be right.
But that might be an assumption… because everything you know is wrong.
Last night I was at an open evening at my kid’s primary school. Their work was on display and I was finding out what the ‘not much’ and ‘nothing’ they do all day is.
Two things struck me. The first that there seems to be little room for initiative. I mean real initiative beyond using a different colour for something. Castles, islands, knights, maps… all slightly different but essentially the same.
Sir Ken Robinson talks about his new book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything in the film of a talk at the RSA below.The book dropped onto my doormat yesterday morning and I’m really looking forward to reading it. But for now have a look at a man who has clearly found his passion talking about how others can be helped to find theirs, and why that matters.
For further and probably much more informed thought than you will get here have a read at Ewan’s great post on the issues raised in the book.
Patrick Awuah makes a passionate case for why a liberal arts education is vital to help educate leaders in Ghana.
I think his idea is transferable. Here in Scotland there are now far too many courses around these days that teach you how to do one thing in one way. They don’t teach you how to think, to problem solve or to create. That works if the thing you are trained to do never changes. But that’s not life as we know it.
The opinions expressed in this website are those of the author, Stewart Cutler. They do not necessarily represent the views of his employer, the United Reformed Church, or any of the agencies he works with.