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A New Culture of Learning & Thinking for Success in the 21st Century

May 4, 2017

 

The curricular needs of today's millennial generation are no longer anything remotely resembling that of their parents, let alone grandparents. Rather, the schools of today and tomorrow need to embrace a new "culture of learning and thinking" whereby classrooms become mindscapes for engaging and drawing upon the inherent creative and intellectual capacities of all learners. The emergence of social media platforms, has transformed how we learn, live, work, shop, play and even meet others. Therefore in MALT, participants deconstruct the current educational framework and dialogue on reconstructing ones that better address the challenges of learning and thinking in the 21st century. These frameworks consists of a shift towards a more post-modern process and learner-based approach for education that provides constructivist learning opportunities for a diverse and unique population of learners.

 

The current education reform framework being promulgated by both business and political leaders to develop college and career readiness for today's students is based on what was once a valid, yet now antiquated, 18th century "factory" model for learning and thinking. Nonetheless, while the core philosophical beliefs that emerged from this era are still valid today, our understanding of how we need to think and learn has changed immensely since that time. Unfortunately, we have only recently come to realize that humanity has reached a point in its cultural evolution whereby progressing forward into an unknown future is no longer dependent upon amassing separate and isolated concepts derived from disciplinary thinking.Rather we now realize that survival in the 21st century and beyond is dependent upon understanding the importance of interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary thinking and the web of relationships between myriad social, political, economic and ecological processes linking together the entire global community.

 

Recent findings from research studies conducted by neuroscientists, developmental psychologists and educational motivational theorists support pedagogies that foster the development of the whole child and with it both right, as well as left brain thinking. Reason together with emotion, as well as activities that demand a more balanced left and right hemisphere learning approach, have provided today's educator with a totally new perspective of how we think and learn. Therefore, teacher preparation courses and professional development for veteran educators, need to evolve to provide today's educators with the understanding and wherewithal to develop and integrate more right brain strengths, as well as co-creation of meaning in order to incorporate an experiential approach to thinking into their classroom teaching.

 

In his book, Most Likely to Succeed, Harvard educator, Tony Wagner, cites 7 survival skills necessary for career and college readiness for success in the 21st century, including: critical thinking and problem solving; collaboration across networks and leading by influence; agility and adaptability; initiative and entrepreneurship; effective oral and written communication; accessing and analyzing information and curiosity and imagination. Similarly, in his book, A Whole New Mind, best-selling Daniel Pink argues that affluence, technology and globalization have transformed our culture and with it, now require a shift from the left-brain (i.e. L-Directed) thinking characteristic of the Information age to that of including right-brain thinking (i.e. R-Directed) processes requisite for success in the emerging Conceptual Age of the 21st century. Rather than diminishing the importance of L-Directed thought processes, Pink argues for augmenting those by including R-Directed processes he refers to as "high concept" (e.g. ability to identify and use one's aesthetic sensibility to make insightful discoveries and use them in creating innovative and novel inventions), as well as "high touch" abilities (e.g. capacity to empathize with others, find personal meaning and purpose in one's work, and in so doing, flourish). In 5 Minds for the Future educational guru, Howard Gardner, conceives five different kinds of minds (i.e. Disciplined, Synthesizing, Creating, Respectful and Ethical) that today's educators need to consider in ensuring that today's youth are able to effectively succeed and flourish in the 21st century.In Truth, Beauty and Goodness Reframed, Gardner, also persuasively argues for rethinking today's educational praxis by integrating the age-old Platonic ideals within a context of the needs and constraints of living in 21st century society.

 

Collectively, these and other progressive educational thinkers are maintaining that if we don't provide opportunities for today's students to feel comfortable developing and drawing upon their empathetic, aesthetic, collaborative and ethical capacities, in addition to their reasoning, analytical, and communicative skills, then we are not only doing them a disservice, but also not preparing them for career and college success. The time has come for educational reformers to acknowledge that the skill set needed for college and career success today has changed since they were students in traditional classrooms. Therefore, what is needed today, more than ever, is a shift in the way we understand what today's youth need to be able to imagine, create and innovate fresh ways of living and working requisite to maintaining and sustaining prosperity and flourishing for all Americans.

 

Through dynamic and experiential weekend workshops MALT students come to understand that American schools' continued adherence to its anachronistic way of thinking and learning has not only ill-prepared today's youth for tomorrow's challenges but also promoted mediocrity by squelching creativity, innovative thinking, and nonconformity-three of the hallmark characteristics underlying our nation's rise to be a major global economic leader.

 

MALT : A New Culture of Learning& Thinking

 

The New Culture of Learning & Thinking… an emerging definition

 

In the new culture of learning and thinking, the learning process has morphed from the stable infrastructure of the twentieth century to an environment where technology is constantly creating and responding to change. This new type of learning is a cultural phenomenon that underlies a large number of people's experiences and affects them in myriad ways. It takes place without traditional textbooks, without credentialed instructors, and without classrooms, and it requires environments that are bounded, yet provides complete freedom of action within these boundaries. The new culture of learning requires a profound shift in how one thinks about graduate education. In fact, this new culture of learning is capable of augmenting nearly very facet of education and every stage of life.

 

The Master of Arts Degree in Learning & Thinking (M.A.L.T.) is predicated on establishing a New Culture of Learning & Thinking that develops the knowledge, skills, competencies, and imagination for a world in constant flux. Towards this end MALT nurtures the emergence of a collegial learning community dedicated to co-creating new meaning within a constructivist and transdisciplinary context. The program is intended for learners who seek opportunities for discovering the sources and processes of thinking, learning and creating meaning. As members of a learning community students participate in experiential and constructivist activities designed to provide insight into the nature of the ways of knowing and conceptual frameworks underlying how they perceive, think and act.The learning events provide students with first-hand opportunities to investigate how exemplars from the Arts, Sciences and Humanities think, learn and problem solve.

 

MALT Cultivates a New Culture of Learning & Thinking

 

Participants:

 

Utilize a process approach to reveal how we learn, think and transform experience into meaning;

 

Discover and develop thinking skills requisite to becoming more effective critical, analytical and creative thinkers;

 

Familiarize themselves with the psychology of the creative process;

 

Investigate nonverbal expressions of meaning through music, movement, intuition and intentionality;

 

Explore how mindful listening, belief suspension, non-judgmental thinking, and reflective inquiry are useful in sharing deeper meaning;

 

Investigate the nature of their personal aesthetic as a key to understanding the inner relationships of the spiritual, emotional, cognitive, contextual, physical, and communal realities that form self;

 

Assess the validity of, and reconcile differences between, brain-based learning theories with social constructivist and other body-mind learning theories;

 

Provide experiential learning opportunities requisite to encouraging students to embrace a meaningful approach to learning as a means to enable personal and professional growth;

 

Create a venue in which learners are empowered to perceive themselves as change agents who can bring about social, cultural and personal change; and

 

Explore and analyze real-world events, crises and phenomena within more holistic, and transdisciplinary conceptual frameworks that may offer insight into creating a more sustainable planetary ethic

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