Common Ground Between Education and Private Sector-Part Three

Part One Education Collaboration Delivers ROI, Economic Growth, Well-being made the case for change, Part Two presented a few starter targets. Part Three defines common ground between the two worlds-it’s not as difficult as we may think to narrow the gap.

Closing the Chasm Part Three

Goals:(1) identify common ground learning opportunities that will minimize the gap between education and work, (2) help young people become better prepared for adult life and ensure they are successful; (3) ensure economic growth by developing a deep and talented labor pool; and (4) make a difference in the grand scheme of things—impact society.

Many of the same skills apply for leaders and followers in education, the workplace and the community. There’s much more common ground than you may think in both social and emotional learning (SEL), and real-world skills—analytical and critical thinking skills. In other words, whole-person development.

Some subjects and material may target specific audiences or environments and may not be relevant for students and teachers, leaders and followers. But it is more often than not a matter of the same materials offered at a different level of complexity.

What if young students and adults learned to speak a common language, use common concepts, tools and techniques? In the private sector, there is lots of differentiation in terminologies and tools, mostly consultant / vendor-driven to artificially boost sales (been in that racket!). Don’t be fooled—the root concepts are the same.

(1) Social and Emotional Learning (Emotional Intelligence)
Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all (Aristotle)

It’s called social and emotional learning (SEL) in education and interpersonal skills / emotional intelligence in the workplace. The same basic skill set, except that young people are less likely to be damaged goods while more adults need remedial work. In manufacturing, any product that has to be repaired is usually not as “whole” or as good as an original produced right the first time. Rework can take extra time and effort, but at least it makes the product serviceable again.

Emotional intelligence is critical to leadership and organizational effectiveness overall. And we know how important it is to emotionally engage learners. Emotional development is a prerequisite to effective skills development and is essential to guiding young people in their growth toward becoming well-adjusted adults.

  • At work and in school, however, we’re intensely focused on hard skills. Gotta make more stuff above all else. And STEM subjects are, after all, vital to economic survival so we can produce even more efficient stuff-makers. But there’s much more than productivity and economics at stake. We’ve become more aware of the impacts of losing touch with our humanity:
  • Social issues are growing due to the diminished influence of traditional normalizing institutions—family, organized religion and education. Among the more significant symptoms of that erosion of norms: youth disengagement, lower attainment levels, poverty, drug abuse, crime and even radicalization.
  • We’re more and more isolating ourselves from others, in spite of our basic human need to belong. We’ve become a society of strangers, even to the people we live next to and work with every day. The worst-case scenario of this social disconnect and emotional detachment: budding sociopaths go unnoticed until they reach the tipping point and become yet another mass killer while no one is paying attention. The more “everyday” impact is that our social and moral fabric has become tattered and torn.

Common Ground: Engagement is Engagement

Boosting engagement levels brings impressive benefits to both education and the workplace, and the engagers are common to both worlds. Social engagement plays by many of the same rules too and there is huge potential in seeking a broader understanding of engagement theory in all three worlds then leveraging engagement concurrently. Again, it’s a reinforcing loop. See It’s More Than ‘Employee’ Engagement (LI Pulse) or, if you don’t like LinkedIn, WordPress.

Gallup and America’s Promise did a good deal of work on student engagement-very good stuff! America’s Promise re-focused on a major outcome of student disengagement: low achievement and attainment levels while Gallup is still carrying the student engagement torch on its own.

DANGER! Reacting to outcomes is retro! From the Six Sigma playbook: quality of inputs determines quality of outputs. To maximize process effectiveness, improve then monitor input quality and the process itself to ensure ongoing effectiveness. Outcome metrics only indicate whether a process was effective, raising a flag when adjustment is needed. But any resulting action is after-the-fact, corrective, reactionary, and too late—damage is already done.

The shift from quality control (sorting defects out) to quality assurance, from problem resolution to prevention via continuous improvement is not easy! After over twenty years the private sector still struggles to turn the corner. I’m a hopeless dreamer…the two worlds can learn from each other!

Common Ground: Teacher and Leader Professional Development

Teachers are critical-to-quality process inputs. Yet, a recent Gates Foundation study found that teacher professional development is fragmented and ineffective, per teachers themselves.

Following: input from UK education innovator Lisa Kavanagh (Explore Education is a private group).
“… teachers do need to be trained in an entirely different way. The shift is less about deepening their ability to express subject knowledge, as this is just the starting block. The key is to facilitate learning desire and curiosity in students. Understanding how students’ brains work. How to ask questions that cause students to become critical thinkers. Supporting collaborative learning. Allowing students to make time-consuming mistakes. Be willing to stand back and observe and then ask quality questions. Far less instructional imparting of facts.”

Specific to-do’s to maximize the capabilities of teachers were noted in the Gates study. And we know a good deal about what impacts learner capabilities. Leadership soft skills training has been the private sector rage forever with enough material to choke a horse. Yet the Gates study found conspicuously absent teacher development opportunities for social, emotional, interpersonal, relationship-building skills. Soft stuff delivers hard improvements in key metrics and real bottom-line gains (there is plenty of data for doubters, but data bores me. My creative side takes serious exception to analysis paralysis).

Leaders and teachers are make-it-or-break-it role models, critical to improving young peoples’ learning, increasing citizens’ civic involvement, boosting working peoples’ capabilities—and to increasing engagement levels of youth, citizens, workers.

Soft stuff, hard bottom line results.

Common Ground: Social / Emotional Skills for Leaders and Teachers

  • It Starts With Me, and My Values. What are values, where do they come from, why are they critical, what are mine, how do they impact my daily actions, and my goals?
  • General interpersonal / communication: listening, group / team decision-making, conflict resolution;
  • Leadership skills: coaching, mentoring, role modeling;
  • Social and emotional learning boot camp: concepts and applications. Projects and exercises can differentiate applications in the different environments;
  • Understanding engagement theory, leveraging universal elements of engagements in specific environments. Same application approach as SEL

See the Engagement LINKS, above: It’s More Than ‘Employee’ Engagement.

(2) Critical Thinking (Process / Analytical) Skills
Same rules, slightly different game.

In education it’s called critical thinking skills. In the workplace it’s problem analysis, resolution, continuous improvement, quality management. Same stuff, no-brainer common ground. Workplace quality improvement techniques have applications in administrators managing their school, in teacher professional development, and in lesson planning and delivery.

GOAL: learn to speak the same language, use the same tools. ACTION: Provide leaders and staff with hands-on experience with the toolbox, which they then pass along to students in classroom lessons and project assignments. No limits to this one!

Common Ground: The Toolbox (leaders and teachers first, then model, mentor, coach)

Once leaders have hands-on experience with them, most tools can be easily adapted to fit later elementary, middle school and especially high school, learners. If you haven’t used these, they probably sound more complex than they are.

  • Basic flowcharting to be used in process analysis, storyboarding, project planning;
  • Fishbone diagramming for cause and effect analysis and categorized brainstorming;
  • Problem definition, root cause analysis and resolution. The Five Whys, causal chains;
  • Identifying improvement opportunities and continuous improvement techniques
  • Modified Failure Mode and Effects Analysis: criteria-based decision / risk analysis tool;
  • Basic quality management concepts from ISO9001 and the Baldrige Criteria. Process management, critical-to-quality factors, control plans, measurement and analysis;
  • (Advanced) Systems thinking basics, understanding interrelationships among activities and events;

An absolutely natural alignment is possible in teaching statistics, the Mother of all Tough Subjects. Use six sigma and statistical process control theory and tools, applying them to real world workplace / process problems. Statistics all of a sudden becomes a whole lot more relevant. Even more effective: young and working learners learn together with both workplace process problems and current social issues used in classroom lessons and project assignments.

Common Ground: True Project-based Learning

From the age of about 10-11 learning should be largely project based, with private sector providing workshops, training in the areas of expertise. If students have a choice of the type of projects, the teacher (facilitator) can cover all additional learning that supports it (maths, english, science). If we have enrolled in a project that we connect with, then we will be motivated to learn the supporting maths, science etc. Suddenly it has relevance. It becomes real. It matters. (more from Lisa K)

I’ve seen far too many assignments short-cut project-based learning. Maybe the teacher looks at PBL as an easy way to get out from under daily classroom management = more time to do all the administrivial crap that’s been heaped on their plate. A humongous issue for later…

Teaching accountabilities need to be realigned, re-focused on teaching.

Effective PBL requires learner input in project selection, with guidance: the right subject areas, right-sized projects (purpose and scope is critical), the right HIGH expectations. REAL WORLD relevance is a must. Then, ongoing guidance, support, expert resource help provided as needed from the teacher and, ideally, from adjunct subject matter experts. Suddenly the teacher has a new role: project consultant and coach for learners! And learning reaches a new depth that is inaccessible through traditional memorize > regurgitate methods.

Project work becomes part of a learner’s portfolio / vitae for their post-education employment search. This ensures absolute relevance and connection for students to their education careers.

Local employers participating at a deep level salivate upon seeing budding candidates growing from the seeds they help plant and nurture!

And guess what, Business Kahuna? You’re getting free consulting, from an army of energetic young legs to chase your issues for you. Ditch the pre-conceived notions you’re entertaining right now…too many times the obvious solution is such low-hanging fruit you’re knocking your head on it and still not seeing. Been there done that. It’s amazing what fresh, new eyes can see and what still-open, unbiased minds that have not yet been jaded by the everyday hassles you have grown addicted to can come up with.

Common Ground: Teaming, Coaching, Leadership Skills

Teaming is teaming and coaching is coaching: the same ground rules apply in the classroom and the workplace. The lack of appropriate skills is an issue among teachers, private sector leaders, students and workers. In the workplace and the classroom, teams fail. Expectations to “work as a team” are issued with little or no guidance, and no training on exactly how team players and leaders are supposed to behave and make decisions. The effectiveness of both team and leader is not considered in grading classroom exercises, or in most performance assessments in the workplace. In both cases grading and evaluations are based more on “how well did you get the work done? Is it correct? Was it done on time?” No weight is given to “how well did the teams and the leader function in getting the work done?”

The universal concept: people need support to achieve the goals they are accountable to deliver on. If they don’t get support, you the leader have set them up to fail. What gets measured gets done: set expectations, provide needed skills training, monitor performance, coach, praise or take corrective action as needed.

There’s always more…
…but that’s it for now. Moral of the story: we’re in this together, let’s work and learn together. It’s the only way to ensure broad and lasting acceptance and sustainable, meaningful social change.


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