Why You Should Make It Personal

The final habit of this (very informal) “Habits You Need to Start. Or continue. And definitely enable” series is one of those habits I hear a lot and always thought I understood.

Connect learning with life.

As I started writing I was heavily focused on content, on how we help students learn by providing them chances to apply what they’ve learned to real-life situations. Like how a quadratic equation can help you fix a leaky faucet or build a space satellite or figure out how many cookies you must sell to earn a profit.

And that kind of link is important. But in the background, I was half-listening to this 10-minute TED Talk by Carol Dweck on her Growth Mindset work. She was talking about praise and how far we have come in praising students on their process (focus, effort, persistence, problem-solving) rather than on their intellect or finished product.

It occurred to me (probably much later than it occurred to you) that we also help students connect learning to life by helping them think about what they are doing, why they are doing it, whether or not it is working, and how it might (or might not) help them do something else someday that is also important.

For instance. You have asked your students (even your Leadership Team) to work together to solve a problem (could be a leaky faucet, need for a space satellite, or to complete a cost-benefit analysis for a cookie venture). You are eager to hear their solution but you are just as eager (maybe more so) to observe how they:

  1. assess the problem (from different angles and perspectives),
  2. share their talents and ideas with team members
  3. listen to one another
  4. develop a plan of action (who, what, why, when, how)
  5. execute their plan of action
  6. test their solution and make adjustments
  7. present their solution (and the process used to identify and develop it)
  8. ask for and receive feedback

As their leader, their teacher, you might ask them these questions:

  • What worked for you?
  • What didn’t work for you?
  • What worked for others (that you observed or that they presented)?
  • What will you do differently next time?
  • What did you learn or practice here that will help you do something else someday that is also important?

Throughout this shift in focus, I made yet another connection.

Sam Redding (brain trust and creator of Indistar) has developed a framework using four personal competencies (cognitive competency, metacognitive competency, motivational competency, and social-emotional competency) that interrelate and overlap for all learners in every learning situation.

These competencies, says Dr. Redding, are malleable and continuously evolving. By understanding them and where each student is in their development, “…we may better understand how to enhance each student’s learning and their successful navigation of life’s challenges and opportunities.”

Sounds a lot like connecting learning to life. 

Below you will find an info graphic that I created to visually depict the Personal Competency framework and incorporates a few questions that teachers and students may want to ask and answer in their pursuit of connecting learning and its process with life and how it might help them someday do something else that is also important.

More resources:

The Something Other, Dr. Sam Redding

*New*Read how this high school is making learning very personal for its students, sending its graduation rates soaring in the process.

Download PDF version PersonalCompetencyInfographic.pdf.

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