My father was a wise man. Not because he held university degrees or a wall full of certificates, and certainly not because he held positions of great power. He was born with no great advantages, and he struggled all his years to build a life for his children that was better than the one he had inherited. He was a wise man, because, having spent every spare moment of his life in the pursuit of knowledge, he understood what it truly means to be educated.
I was about twelve years old, but I still remember the words he used to explain his philosophy to me. “The purpose of education,” he said, “is not merely to give us the answers we need right now, but rather to provide us with the confidence to go out and teach ourselves – for the rest of our lives.”
The complexity of modern society and the demands it places upon all of us – especially the young have resulted in information overload. The world is shrinking, and we are bombarded with data from so many different sources that it is difficult to make sense of it all. At school, the curriculum is filled with topics and facts, processes and techniques in all the myriad subjects, and students have available to them more raw information than at any other time in history.
But such an array of raw information can be daunting. Which facts are vital? Which are irrelevant? What do I already know that may be important? What do I still need to find out, and where can I access it? For a student facing these issues in a number of disciplines, the task can seem impossible, and the individual can slip into what psychologists call ‘overwhelm’.
But this form of overwhelm is just a symptom of the 21st century obsession with data, where the devil is, indeed, in the details. Our society and, consequently, its educational institutions have become so tied up in content that method is often lost in the background noise.
When I began teaching back in 1976, one old teacher warned me of this tendency. “Teaching,” he said, “is a cumulative profession. They keep adding things, but they don’t take anything away.” That was thirty-seven years ago, and the trend is accelerating. With the availability of so much information – from so many more sources – and with industry and the commercial world demanding so much more schools and their students, teachers are faced with crammed curricula, and it is a heroic task just to negotiate the information. But there is little time left to concentrate on the best approaches to learning.
What is needed is a model of thinking – a simple and effective approach to study – that enables the student to deal with the complexity of the available information in a way that controls it and focuses on the essential details, while filtering out the ‘white noise’ of irrelevant facts and erroneous opinion that fills so much of the internet and many print publications. To achieve this, we have developed an Hourglass Model of Learning:
Click here to find out more about how the MindChamps Hourglass Model of Learning is applied in our programmes and redeem a complimentary personal coaching session for your child (Pre-school to Tertiary level).
Article by Mr Brian Caswell, MindChamps‘ Dean of Research & Programme Development