Getting to the Heart of the Educational Matter

In my work with iFoundry (www.ifoundry.illinois.edu), Olin (www.olin.edu), and now ThreeJoy (www.threejoy.com) and the Big Beacon (www.bigbeacon.org), I’ve progressively moved from thinking about education as starting from the head to increasingly feeling and believing that it starts from the heart.

Educational theorists and devotees start to get at this when they talk about the various X learnings (where X is an element of {active, experiential, project-based, challenge-based, problem-based, etc}), and experiences and projects and problems and challenges elicit emotions and discussion of human motivation more so than the usual pedagogical approaches, but the various X learnings are particular practices or techniques and invoking one or more of them doesn’t really get to the core of what it is that we are trying to achieve or the fundamental processes that might achieve it.

A recent Huffington Post article (here) takes a different tack by identifying trust, courage, connection, and joy as the pillars to successful educational transformation.  If I were to focus on one of these as primary, I would suggest that educational transformation is about moving from educating a student who shuts up, listens, and obeys to one who has the courage to take initiative, even in the face of resistance (see this article here).

These four largely cultural and emotional variables are rarely discussed, but once these distinctions are made and introduced, it is hard to stop reflecting on them and how we can enhance their presence in educational settings undergoing change.