3 Important Trends That We Should Focus On in Schools


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Esparta

In our world, parents and students now have access to the same information that educators do, and the hope is that this would improve the learning that happens in school.  The reality of this is though, that educators have access to information outside of schools and we should be looking towards different organizations and industries, and what they are focusing on and improving their practice.  Many educators are doing this now, and you will see things like Google’s “2o% Time” implemented at both the classroom and organizational level with great success.  As educators, I really believe we need to look both inside and outside of schools to create the best opportunities for our students.

Here are a few focus areas outside of education, that we should be looking at in schools and make more explicit in our practice.

1.  Research and Development

Having a conversation at a recent meeting, the presenter continuously talked about “R & D”, while many sat in the room curious to what the initials stood for.  Why is that?  Why do we put such little emphasis on “Research and Development” in schools, while others organizations put a much larger emphasis in this area:

Anthony S. Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, has estimated that other fields spend 5 percent to 15 percent of their budgets on research and development, while in education, it is around 0.25 percent. Education-school researchers publish for fellow academics; teachers develop practical knowledge but do not evaluate or share it; commercial curriculum designers make what districts and states will buy, with little regard for quality. We most likely will need the creation of new institutions — an educational equivalent of the National Institutes of Health, the main funder of biomedical research in America — if we are to make serious headway.”  (From “Teachers: Will We Ever Learn“)

Obviously, research is a component of what we do in our classrooms, but are we creating from that process or are we simply reporting?  Teachers should be continuous learners and active research should be a component of this (obviously administrators should be finding time to ensure that this happens), and we are more likely to create this experience for students if we experience this ourselves.  Actively researching best, new and innovative practices, would only improve our schools.

We spend a lot of time having our students look back at the past, but how much time do we give them to create the future?

2.  Entrepreneurial Spirt

The term “entrepreneurial spirit” is something that has been a focus for Alberta Education:

“Entrepreneurial Spirit: who creates opportunities and achieves  goals through hard work, perseverance and discipline; who  strives for excellence and earns success; who explores ideas and challenges the status quo; who is competitive, adaptable and resilient; and who has the confidence to take risks and make bold decisions in the face of adversity.”

Or their simple definition for students:

“I create new opportunities.”

I have seen many amazing things that have been created in schools only because I happened to be in the school.  If students are able to develop an “app”, should they not also have some understanding of how to market it as well?  This just not go for the “business minds” in school, but in any and every aspect.  A student can be the most amazing artist, but if no one ever sees their work, could they ever end up doing this for a living?  I am a firm believer that we should try to give opportunities for students to follow their passions and hopefully make a living from what they love.

Dan Pink shares his belief that all people are in some capacity need the ability to be able to “sell”:

“Physicians sell patients on a remedy. Lawyers sell juries on a verdict. Teachers sell students on the value of paying attention in class. Entrepreneurs woo funders, writers sweet-talk producers, coaches cajole players.”

If you think back to your own post-secondary experience in becoming an educator, were you ever actually taught on how to get a job?  This is more important than ever with “digital footprints” becoming a large factor in how people in all areas are getting jobs.

We want our students to be able to create amazing things; how do we help them share those creations?

(Check out SCH Academy’s “Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership” to see a very innovative program that is really trying to push the envelope in this areas.)

3.  Leadership Development

This is probably a no-brainer for many, but still something that schools need to focus on for their entire community.  When I talk about “leadership”, I am not thinking of “being the boss”, but the ability to empower others and be a part in creating a positive culture.  I also believe that leadership has to do with ownership, and things that we do in isolation also help us in this pursuit (Sir Ken Robinson is considered a “leader” in education but how many of you know of any affiliations that he has with any single organization?).

Developing leaders should be something that we continue to focus on, or the first two areas that I have discussed will end up being moot.

Although there are “electives” in schools in the above areas, should there not be elements of each in the work that we do everyday?  As stated before, this is not just about students, but for it to be successful, these are initiatives that should be available to educators as well.  Experience is the best way to create new learning, and if our staff does not understand this, how will our students?  We should also look at what we do already in these areas and make some of these initiatives more explicit to our public.  Changing the terminology from “staff days” to “Research and Development Day” (or whatever the time length), better communicates the work that we are trying to do, and perhaps creates a better focus for ourselves on what we are trying to do with our professional learning time.

Although a lot of these terms are related to “business”, I see them as valuable opportunities for learning and to create opportunities for our students, not only in their future, but also their present.

I look forward to your thoughts.

  • Renee

    George, this post really resonates with me. I have kids just about to start their education journey, and I wish what you talk about occurred more in schools. I especially loved your “entrepreneurial spirit” section…and the need to help kids make a living with their passions. And you hit the nail on the head with leadership!!! What an important concept that not many people truly understand!

    Keep at it! You are making an amazing difference! Thank you!

    I wish my late husband could have had the chance to chat with you! He was so passionate about all 3 things you mentioned above! It would have been cool to see you guys talk & share about your passions!

  • chris

    Wouldn’t it be great if there was an entrepreneur elective for kids? There are students who really feel a call at an early age to a career. Why not guide them through researching this and help them start to create a network of people who can answer their questions and even potentially mentor them one day. For those undecided students, how about career exploration? Maybe they think they want to be four or five different things? What a great time to find out about it. When I was a kid I wanted to be an artist, then a fashion merchandiser or buyer, then an author, then a psychologist. When I finished my second year of college and didn’t have a clue what I wanted to be, I decided that since I liked kids and babysitting, maybe I should be a teacher. The rest is history. The funny thing is, that I “KNEW” all the other things I wanted to be much earlier in life. Who knows what I would have become if I had the time to actually learn about all of these jobs in detail. PS Thank goodness I really do LOVE education.

  • Priscilla Sands

    George Couros came to SCH and connected with our faculty in ways I have not seen with other speakers, educators, and experts. He is engaging, respectful, and knowledgeable and his blogs should be required reading. We are still talking about ways to go further and deeper with our entrepreneurial program. It’s exciting to imagine how a wider web of educators will begin to spin education differently for our children.

  • Marina Pyo

    These “trends” ARE the skills our children should be “taught” today. It would also help with engagement issues. Great article!

  • Amy

    George, I teach in a school for students with special needs and love your section on entrepreneurial spirit. Challenging the status quo for my students is imperative because there are no entrepreneurial norms for them to slide into easily. I want to promote the need and motivation for enterprise in their lives! Amy

  • http://Www.wearecommunities.org Francisco

    This is right on. I hope the next time this article updated, in addition to R&D, a greater emphasis on technical training: coding, advanced machining, advanced technical installation for environmental, solar, and power technologies as examples, are added. To support the entrepreneur spirit, soft skills: EQ based lessons, communication, problem and solution analysis using tools such as design thinking skills. Skills that can’t be outsourced. It’s a lot, but will be required in the future.

  • Zahra Duran

    Great article, thank you! I agree these skills are seriously needed where in our society children are taught to aspire to a small handful if career choices. When they “grow up” they are left lost in a world where these skills could give them the tools to successfully step outside the box and truly aspire to a career and life they love.

  • http://twitter.com/WillGourley Will Gourley (@WillGourley)

    Hi George,

    I so value the perspective taken in this post. Having my start in business, the leap to education has been perplexing at times with regards to institutional incubation/integration/adaptation of ideas. There does not seem to be a magic elixir that will lay the broke and ineffectual to the side.Business naturally does this, because the economics dictate that it will adapt, innovate or get trampled by those who do. You don’t stay in business long unless you can serve your clients, develop new ones or “liberate” them from a competitor.

    What struck me most was the stat that compared the R and D investment of industry to that of education. How can education incorporate R and D into staff rooms and ultimately our classrooms? The spirit of the entrepreneur is unquenchable because it considers all possibilities and approaches in order to succeed.

    Is there a need for boards to shift their goals?

    Perhaps, it comes back to the equipping of educators in their faculties of ed. prior to their service. My interactions with your brother Alec leads me to believe he is addressing this already and going forward in his role. My faculty at Tyndale U. seemed very intentional about preparing us for the reality of the education job market and our possible roles within it.

    Your thought about developing leadership is probably the best place to start, but will field the greatest resistance from an entrenched mindset. Our PLN/PLC community is active on Twitter and Google + etc, but there are multitudes more who are missing the opportunity to be edified and encouraged rather than isolated and discouraged.

    Do we need to check our egos at the door in order to make this work? Do we need to know that we are safe to research, develop and expected to share with our colleagues so we can model it for our learners?

    Thank you for pulling these thoughts out for us to consider. W

  • http://www.technicallyteamann.com @8amber8

    This post is entirely too intelligent for me, :) you’re so smart, GC!

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  • http://twitter.com/samelf Sam

    Love your post mate. I wish that Entrepreneurial spirit was taught when i was in school, even when i tried to educate myself on it, by reading Rich Dad Poor Dad in English class, i was discouraged by the teacher who said that books such as these had no place in a school, this was less than 10 years ago, too! I have continued to develop my entrepreneurial compass in spite of this advice… :) – thank you for the post…
    Cheers,
    Sam.

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