How we know how we construct our map
Prior to a student entering the Sixth form, life is about their own experience of the world. Their relative lack of self-awareness is described in terms of what “I” want and need. There is a beginning to the sense that others have their own ideas and intentions, so they feel the need to fight in order to get “their share”. Others are seen as competitors, in a win/lose scenario.
Their thoughts are typically:
- It’s a jungle out there
- Me against everybody else
- My way or no way
- Get as much as you can while you can
- I win, you lose
- It’s not my fault
As students leave Year 11 and enter the Sixth Form, it becomes more important to see the world more abstractly. They could be stepping outside their comfort zone and where they would normally “fit in”.
Education is typically what schools “do” to children. Learning is what you do to yourself, and it is potentially more important to learn how you learn. We want to develop the students beyond their next stage of thinking. As a teacher, you might know this as “Abstract Operations”, so called by Piaget.
This is the first time someone can step outside of their own self and their own behaviour and gain from it another perspective. Their identity in the stage mentioned above is basically the identity of those they are with. Their identity is confused with the group to which they belong. At this stage though, they step out of the group and say, “I am special”; “I am different, and I want it recognised”.
With this recognition of oneself as a separate being, students (or teenagers) begin to recognise others as different, and begin to choose their own reference groups. People who are like them, and sharing a common experience – like being in Further Education. They look for authorities in the field, consult books and manuals, and strive for the “right way” to do things. It’s a profound disappointment to the student when they hear the teacher say that they do not have the answer.
Growth Starts Here
I have developed a course for social-emotional and cognitive growth for Further Education students that is currently being used with post-grad students at the University of Coventry (London Campus) and which is being rolled out to their under-grads right now. Even though those students are typically much older than FE students, there is no reason why we shouldn’t offer the same levels of self-awareness to younger students.
Let’s Get Them Out of Themselves
The course begins with a short Identity Compass profile and feedback session for each student. This tells them their Thinking Preferences in a given context (usually “education”) and the feedback explains it in terms they will grasp, demonstrating how and why they behave in specific ways within this context. This profile is reinforced in the second group session where each student is teamed up with those students who share certain Thinking Preferences. From here, I can demonstrate, by predicting their behaviour accurately, how they think, and how this thinking informs their behaviour.
The level of self-awareness that comes out of these sessions is built upon by a deep Critical Thinking third session, using questions designed specifically for social-emotional and cognitive growth. Those exercises and questions are not listed here, for obvious reasons.
What types of behaviours do we want sixth form students to demonstrate as a direct result of this programme? The list below will give you an idea:
- Exercise critical thinking
- Examine ourselves, our culture, and our milieu in order to understand how to separate what we feel from what we should feel, what we value from what we should value, and what we want from what we should want
- Be a self-directed learner (take initiative; set our own goals and standards; use experts, institutions and other resources to pursue these goals; take responsibility for our direction and productivity in learning)
- See ourselves as the co-creators of the culture (rather than only shaped by culture)
- Read actively (rather than only receptively) with our own purpose in mind
- Write to ourselves and bring our teachers into our self-reflection (rather than write mainly to our teachers and for our teachers)
- Take charge of the concepts and theories of a course or discipline, marshaling on behalf of our independently chosen topic its internal procedures for formulating and validating knowledge.
How are YOU doing as an educator?
As an aside to the positive output of the profile for the student, your school or college will also benefit in that the resultant profiles will collectively demonstrate how your students feel you are doing as an education source for their horizontal growth. This is then compared in a team profile such as in the image below. This will benefit the student, the faculty and the administration in each case as it graphically shows student engagement. There are a lot more data. The below is an example of one output on student engagement.
Armed with this information, not only can you better support your students, but you can take steps to actively improve your offering to them from THEIR perspective. No other system provides this level of student/educator interaction and understanding.
The final point is, if you value the thinking capabilities of your Sixth Form students, and value their cognitive complexity enough to make a difference to their education, then I will happily come and demonstrate my programme to you at a convenient time for you. I am piloting this at a number of schools right now so if you want to join the group, just get in touch today.