Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Critical and Creative Thinking in a Global Education Setting

I just finished reading A Critical Thinker's Guide to Educational Fads, which was published by The Foundation for Critical Thinking. In it the authors discuss the essential idea of various educational 'fads', proper educational uses and likely misuses of each. The fads range from school choice and Socratic questioning to integrated curriculum. Three of these fads stood out for me as important ideas that should be considered in more depth... and together as an educational strategy.
Critical Thinking
I believe critical thinking is the most important fad discussed, as it involves metacognition (thinking about thinking). When we think critically we reason, evaluate, judge and problem solve so that we produce the best thinking we can. When we think critically, we speak and listen with empathy, consider all viewpoints, think with an open mind, observe more carefully, persevere through a thought to an intelligent conclusion. Schools should teach critical thinking because this skill just might get us through any situation in life we might face.
I was not taught how to think critically in school... were you? We use critical thinking all throughout school (conducting science experiments, writing papers), but most of us are never specifically taught how and why it is important to think critically. We need to teach students this skill along with how to master test taking, how to develop good study habits and more. Most students muddle their way through and develop these skills and abilities on their own. Think of how much more successful they'd be if we'd just give them the right tools.
Educational Fads suggests the idea of teaching history as historical thinking, biology as biological thinking. Instead of memorizing our presidents, students should analyze presidencies in an historical context. Imagine the number of students who might be intrigued with science if it were taught this way. Our schools tend to teach in such a fragmented way that broad concepts are isolated instead of integrated into a larger perspective.
Citizens in today's global world need to know how to think critically in order to effectively communicate with and work alongside others from various walks of life. We must learn how to communicate with people who live in vastly different cultures where perspectives are different and backgrounds diverse.
Creative Thinking
Genuine creativity builds on critical thought, and as the authors of Educational Fads state, something is not creative simply because it is different. Creativity involves thinking 'outside the box' in order to solve a problem, create something new, do something differently than it's been done before. Simply thinking creatively will only get us so far. Creative thinking must be combined with critical thinking to truly produce distinctive results.
Creativity sparks the imagination to think in unique ways to do things, to solve problems - even in interactions with others in non-conforming ways. Creativity and imagination allow us to fathom the concept of putting a man on the moon, connecting mankind through this thing called the internet, inventing silly shoes called Crocs.
Folk lore states that FedEx founder Fred Smith received a C on a term paper in which he outlined the basis for his idea for FedEx. Smith describes his thoughts not as a eureka moment, but as a simple observation. He described his thought process in a 2007 interview:
"As society automated, as people began to put computers in banks to cancel checks - rather than clerks - or people began to put sophisticated electronics in airplanes - society and the manufacturers of that automated society were going to need a completely different logistics system." (From the May 6, 2007 blog posting: Interview with FedEx Founder Fred Smith - Yale University)
Was Fred Smith taught how to think creatively and critically? If he wasn't, he was certainly doing it on his own. His idea began creatively, but was followed up with critical thinking in order to bring the idea to reality in a credible and viable way and it was thought out within a global perspective, and if it had not, FedEx might not be the company that it is today - or even exist at all. This is the kind of creative thinking which is combined with critical thinking that our schools must teach our students how to do. Instead of giving them a problem to solve that may have an obvious solution, we must challenge them to combine critical and creative thinking to seek new pathways to a solution or to a solution itself that would not have been reached otherwise, as Mr. Smith did - as so many innovators do.
Global Education
Educational Fads describes global education as curriculum designed through a global perspective. In our increasingly diverse culture which resides in an increasingly open global community, global education is crucial for this and every future generation to participate in - in an age of nuclear capability, growing terrorism and an ever-increasing pool of diverse perspectives that have a voice in the global community.
Our schools serve as a microcosm of the larger world, and educators must prepare our children beginning at an early age to not only accept but embrace everyone's differences - their differences in appearance, in thought, religion, ethnicity, background, and more. We must teach students to think beyond their classroom, beyond their community, instilling in them a global perspective from which to learn new concepts and ideas, new perspectives, new ways of considering the various aspects of the world.
We in the United States live at a physical disadvantage to most of the world, as we are separated by many miles and have developed preconceived notions about the world which in many cases are incorrect or flawed, due in part to our lack of critical thinking and to large degree due to our physical, emotional and intellectual separation from the rest of the world's population. As the world grows closer because of technological advances that allow us to video conference with people globally with the touch of a button, purchase products from the remotest corners of the world with the click of a mouse, everyone must check their egos at the door; fairly address viewpoints with which we disagree; and empathize with others' insights, perspectives and knowledge.
If educators worldwide embraced the idea of teaching critical and creative thinking in a global education setting, future generations would learn the importance of diversity, empathy and fair-mindedness - allowing us as educated citizens of the world to think about our world, those who are in it, and the problems we face as a shared civilization.
Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Cynthia Stephenson brings 20 years of sales and marketing experience to her writing which has included corporate marketing materials, websites, blogs and more. Stephenson received her BA in Journalism in 1989 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and began her career as a graphic designer and editorial assistant for Northwestern University the following year.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

21st Century Workplace Education

I have been in the corporate environment for many years and always wondered why do we have a training department? I always thought it should be the Education department. Education is not only in academia. In this century, it is no longer learning in school first and then goes to work, it is a life-long learning. Education goes together with work. There is a continuous evolution of changes taking place and employees at all levels need to be current with what's going on in the industry and in their line of work. Only then they can come up with creative ideas, think differently, share and make positive contribution. In which case, Education & Development department makes much more sense to me.
With mechanization, modernization and technological developments, businesses need fewer people who are trained to do things a specific way and more people who are educated to find new ways of doing things. All people should be able to think and come up with different ways of doing things and offer their thoughts because everyone is an intelligent human being, not just the so called executives. Thinking organizations are constantly alert for new ideas and new methods, keeping in mind the cultural diversity. People across the globe think differently. It is an added advantage to the organization to have diversity from as many angles as possible - experience, education, age, culture, ethnicity and gender leading to a wide variety of different perspectives for better customer focused results.
"You don't train people; you train dogs, snakes, elephants and fish; you educate people."- Stanley Marcus
What's the difference? The word education comes from the Latin 'educo', which means to change from within. Training provides an external skill. Education changes the inner person. Training deals only with the doing level. Education teaches people how to think. 1-12 month infants are trained and after a year they too learn to think. This is critical even in schools, to teach the kids to think critically, analytically, logically, conclusively and inferentially.
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime". - Chinese proverb. When you give him a fish you train him and when you teach him to fish you're educating him.
Let me give you an example: I received a letter from a company that said they do not have my current address. Well, but I received the letter at the current address. When I called and talked to this young woman she had been trained to act. She had been conditioned to recite her memorized lines. She has rehearsed it to perfection. But she had not been educated in customer interaction.
She said, 'Please fill in the form and send us your correct address'. I said, "if you don't have the correct address how did I get this letter from you to the correct address?' She has not been taught to listen to the customer, to think about what the customer is expressing. She is a robot. Often times we try to standardize everything including interactions!! I have seen in corporate environment where people are given scripts to greet, answer the questions and solve problems. What is happening in corporate world? Getting brainless robots? How can they provide service to customers? Can they have a decent conversation on customer needs? The last question she asked me was 'Is there anything else I can do for you?" I am sure many of you who read this article have heard this question.
Education deals with the feeling level, the way we respond to stimuli. First we think about it, then we begin to feel it, then we choose our behavior and act based on that feeling.
Training attempts to add on the qualities needed for success. Education builds them in. Training is required to teach a specific skill or to learn a specific procedure. But it is ridiculous to develop a process for human interaction... Corporations believe in a myth to develop a process for everything including smiling, greeting and thanking. You're in a sealed box and they keep saying 'think outside the box'. It's vital and crucial for corporations to invest in ways that let people grow by knowing to think for themselves.
* Training focuses on teaching people yesterday's skills.
* Education focuses on teaching them to develop tomorrow's skills.
"You can't have a better tomorrow if you're thinking about yesterday." - Charles Kettering
We continue to spend our time in the past, teaching people what to do instead of focusing on how they think, feel and behave; far too much time is spent on getting a job done and conforming instead of producing outstanding results and being creative. We have the powerful creative, highly imaginative brain that we hardly use.
In my corporate experience for several years, I have seen even high level executives who are short sighted and focus on saving their jobs. It is rare to find people who think of "What kind of company do we want to be in 20 years and what kind of employees will it take to get us there? What can we do to educate them?" People seem to be self centered than being loyal even though their resume says so. Only when people start thinking those questions, we can plan educational development programs to develop competent employees for 21st century.
To bring about such changes corporations need behavioral agents, not trainers who are plentiful, easy to find and not particularly expensive. Behavioral facilitators who nurture lasting qualities that won't become obsolete that quickly are not commonly available. Even if the qualities they taught did become obsolete, people are now educated to think and they will be able to adapt to change. And come up with ways to deal with the changes.
If yours is a thinking organization, you should be able to:
  1. Talk directly to people in other departments and divisions, to customers and suppliers.
  2. Form teams across departmental lines and employees at all levels, to execute new projects or to solve common problems.
  3. Ask front line employees for their opinions and rewarded for ideas that work on a regular basis.
  4. Treat mistakes and failures as learning experiences and not as black marks against people who then get fired.
  5. Thinking organizations are made up of people who are educated in such skills as goal-setting, problem-solving and decision-making, communication and conflict management, negotiation, total quality management (TQM), time management and teamwork.
Awesome Power is an organization committed to to encourage, motivate, inspire, coach and support individuals to reach their fullest potential.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Maori Education - The Path to Our Future

Figures recently released by the Ministry of Education show that there has been a steady growth in Maori tertiary enrollments. However, although there has been growth in enrollment figures, this growth has been attributed primarily to growth in attendance at Wananga and educational institutes that empower Maori to embrace not only the learning of their history and culture, but teach mainstream educational courses in a manner that appeals to the style and formality of the Maori culture itself.
However, the figures also indicate that Maori are less likely to enroll in tertiary education facilities during the core tertiary ages of 18 to 24. According to the University of Waikato, a number of factors have been identified as affecting the successful participation of Maori students in tertiary education. These include the transition and adaption to unfamiliar environments and learning procedures, inappropriate support systems, financial barriers and a lack of social and academic support. A number of studies have highlighted the high number of students who are first generation participants in tertiary education, for whom adjusting to the practices and rules of a new environment without the support of whanau (family) is difficult.
Nonetheless, the emerging signs and trends of increasing Maori participation in tertiary education institutes are encouraging. Further research into the role of Maori education has highlighted the need to tailor the learning style, experience and environment to suit the aspirations of the Maori culture and the value of the whanau.
According to a review of Maori education conducted by MAI in 2007, the further education of the individuals, both young and old, is essential for the continued development and future prosperity of Maori and the culture. With a better educated population base, the review proposes that Maori will be better able to determine their own futures and prosper, both economically and socially. Marginal educational records and enrollments affect the future prospects of the individual and the whanau. However, several initiatives are proving very successful in respect to enrollment and completion rate of Maori students. These include empowering Maori in the community to take on leading roles in education institutions, developing role models that young Maori aspire to replicate.
Leading tertiary providers in New Zealand have realised these facts and have created tertiary environments that not only cater for the general public, but provide specific learning styles, teachings and learning environments that are conducive to the continued promotion of Maori education. Those who are serious about Maori education have gone so far as to provide customary Maori buildings, such as the marae, which is not only the focus of the whanau, but learning and education. Plus some institutions provide a "Manaakitanga" programme designed to support students' success in their studies.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Top Universities in New Zealand - The Newfangled Source of World-Class Education

The potentiality of New Zealand for world-class education has recently been discovered as the education system of this English-speaking nation revolves around the British system. So, students from other English-speaking countries will find the curriculum of the top universities in New Zealand easy to cope with. Renowned for its fascinating outdoor locations, and imposing landscapes, the country of buzzing cafes, clubs and restaurants has made its mark in the field of education also. As stated by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand, the major cities that draw the attention of global students include Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.
Pupils who are eager to study in New Zealand can opt for institutions like Victoria University of Wellington, University of Auckland, University of Canterbury, Lincoln University and Massey University. Though there are other institutions available for pupils, the aforesaid names are some of the top universities in New Zealand.
Established in the year 1897, the Victoria University of Wellington got its name after Queen Victoria. This very old university comprises 8 faculty divisions, namely education, science, law, architecture and designs, graduate research, commerce and administration, engineering, humanities and social sciences. Among them, the architecture and designs has established its uniqueness by becoming the foremost center in New Zealand. Situated in the capital city of Wellington, the university facilitates the prevalence of a vivacious atmosphere both inside and outside the campus. It also makes sure that students not only grasp a profound knowledge of their subjects, but they also apply their knowledge in their given fields.
Located in Christchurch, the biggest city of New Zealand's South Island, the University of Canterbury was founded in 1873. Originally called the Canterbury College, the institute is rated among top universities in New Zealand due to its advanced research centers, and a large pool of motivational faculties. The university offers education to over 2,000 foreign students and 20,000 domestic students. The six colleges that are affiliated to the University of Canterbury provide teaching in education, law, engineering, science, arts, and business and economics.
If you want to study in New Zealand, you must certainly consider the University of Auckland, the biggest university at present with more than 38,000 students enrolled. The university boasts one main campus in the heart of Auckland or four specialization campuses in the region for enrolled pupils. There are more than 4,000 international students from over 90 nations pursing various courses in the university. You can choose one from a variety of programs offered on education, arts, science, engineering, bioengineering, business administration, theology, and medical and health sciences. The University of Auckland has occupied a top position in the list of best universities of the world, prepared by a popular rating agency.
A study in New Zealand can be fruitful in terms of a number of student scholarships too. However, you have to apply for these scholarships much earlier due to their limited places. International students can avail a maximum of 28 scholarships every year. The most prominent scholarship schemes include Livestock Emissions & Abatement Research Network (LEARN) Fellowships and New Zealand International Doctoral Research Scholarships (NZIDRS).