As I think about what I really want for our students, it always comes back to learning and leading. I want our students to be stronger learners and stronger leaders. I want them to develop habits and mindsets that cause them to continue to grow as learners and leaders even when they leave school.
In my new book Future Driven, I shared what Google senior vice president of people operations, Lazlo Bock, had to say about leading and learning at Google:
For every job, though, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information. We assess that using structured behavioral interviews that we validate to make sure they’re predictive.
And the second is leadership—in particular, emergent leadership as opposed to traditional leadership. Traditional leadership is, were you president of the chess club? Were you vice president of sales? How quickly did you get there? We don’t care. What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else? Because what’s critical to be an effective leader in this environment is you have to be willing to relinquish power.
So does content matter? Sure it does. However, the content will change over time, but the ability to learn and the desire to lead will endure even as shifts occur in the world around us. As educators, we only have so much time to work with these students—the current group—but if we can inspire them as learners and leaders, that will carry forward with them. Our impact can endure and continue to pay dividends beyond our time with them.
But we need to help our students have the most authentic learning experience possible. Students need opportunities to practice leading and learning. They need to do things that make a difference beyond just getting a grade or completing an assignment.
You cannot develop as a leader by only reading about it in a book. You can learn leadership principles, but you will only build your capacity as a leader by applying what you learn. You could memorize all sorts of leadership ideas and be a terrible and completely incompetent leader. Growing as a leader happens with the opportunity to practice leadership skills and to get feedback and reflect.
Similarly, you cannot develop fully as a learner if you are only accepting new information. You can memorize stuff. You might get right answers. But that’s not enough. Students need opportunities to apply learning, to make choices as a learner, and to refine their personal learning interests.
The traditional model of school has not served students well in developing adaptable learners or leaders, in my view. Sure, there have been some opportunities to develop in these areas, but we need to consistently provide opportunities for students to develop their capacity as learners and leaders.
What about in your classroom? I certainly hope students are learning content. But are they also having opportunities to develop more deeply as learners and leaders? Are they learning HOW to learning? Are they learning HOW to lead? Leave me a comment. I want to hear from you. You can also share out on Twitter or Facebook.
- We Want Students to Think ‘HOW Am I Smart?’ Not ‘AM I Smart?’
- Future Driven: Looking Forward, Giving Back
- 11 Ways to Build Capacity and Never Stop Growing