Through the Education Lens

Fires In The Mind: Youth Motivation & Mastery

CJW, October 8, 2010 8:22 PM


"There's a radical - and wonderful - new idea here: that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people's ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world." 
Deborah Meier

What Does It Take To Get Really Good At Something?

We are finding  "Fires In The Mind" - the book, curriculum and philosophy - which addresses the subject of mastery and how to spark this "community of practice" within schools (link here to a free downloadable chapter), a valuable resource.  One of the take-aways is how we -  educators and parents - can create the environment conducive to  having kids discover what it takes to become good at something on their own, rather than having "us" - the authority figures  - telling them how.  Huge difference.

The website, What Kids Can Do brings the message, "What does it take to get really good at something?" to a level where it becomes real to students.  We recommend checking it out along with the entire Fires In The Mind book series, by Kathleen Cushman.  An excerpt: 

"In Chapter 7, "Bringing Practice into the Classroom," students did not suggest making direct links between their interests and school subjects. Instead, they reminded teachers of the meaning and value they found in outside-school commitments, and asked them to look for that in school subjects, too. Micah, in San Antonio, explained:"

"You want to delve into the reason why you are doing something, instead of just blindly following what the teacher tells you to do. If you are getting the answer without really realizing why it's important, it's empty. You are not really learning. You are going to drop that later, because it has no importance to you in your life."

                                    - Micah

"They go too much by the book. They worry about the perfect answer, rather than worrying about if we've learned something."
                                          - Samantha

When we talk about why students have short attention spans and are lacking desire for long-term goals, we blame it on video games or pop culture.  Have we ever looked at how schools are actually contributing?  With the emphasis of "covering the material" at the expense of real, deep and rich exploration, are not schools inadvertently creating the very multi-tasking drones we are lamenting?  No wonder why students are losing the spark to learn.

 We've taken cues from bestsellers such as Geoff Colvin's  "Talent Is Overrated" where practice and intrinsic motivation are what matters, to Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" where the famous 10,000 hours of practice are required for mastery.  And, of course, edu-icon Howard Gardner so brilliantly presents the "Five Minds of the Future" which include the disciplined mind, the synthesizing mind and the creative mind.  Yet, "Fires In The Mind" brings these theories into practice at the school level with practical steps.

Here's great polarity of thought in action:  watch the 2 min. video below and then watch another vid from the documentary "Race To Nowhere",  ( Related Story in The Daily Riff here.)

Tell us what you think  . . .


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