Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Tony Wagner discussing learning at the 2011 Intellectual Warrior’s Conference

These are my notes from Dr Tony Wagner‘s presentation: “Overcoming the Global Achievement Gap: Learning, Leading and Teaching in the 21st Century” at the 2011 Intellectual Warrior’s Conference at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, on April 12, 2011. Tony is an Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, and the author of “The Global Achievement Gap.” MY THOUGHTS ARE IN ALL CAPS.
– email: tony_wagner [at] harvard [dot] edu

Tony Wagner at the Intellectual Warrior's Conference

Twin challenges today
– there are fewer and fewer unskilled jobs today
– all our students in schools today need new skills

Learners today of the “net generation” are very differently motivated in terms of their learning than past generations

I talk to lots of people about important skills for their jobs
– in addition to ‘habits of the heart’ (qualities of moral courage, strong work ethic, compassion, etc.) there is a set of core competencies there are seven career skills needed by all citizens today

1: Critical thinking and problem solving
– in any field of endeavor, organizations that excel / do the best encourage people to think critically / think about continual improvement
– example is Army battle plans written
– Ritz Carlton chain example: Every person has a $2000 unquestioned / discretionary budget to solve customers’ problems

When I started to examine what executives thought about “critical thinking” problems became evident (lots of different definitions)
– over and over again, executives said critical thinking begins with the ability to ask good questions

Students were very hesitant to ask questions

2: Collaboration across networks is so important
– lots of collaboration is virtual now
– need to deeply understand and respect differences (including cultural and religious)

3: Agility and adaptability
– new economy shows this often: new job roles, additional job roles

4: Initiative and Enrepreneurialism

in my new book I am really getting a good idea about how important failure is
– Design School at Stanford (jokingly say: We’re considering F the new A)
– how do we encourage students to take intellectual risks

#1 complaint of many Harvard professors
– students don’t know how to write with voice, with passion

5: Effective oral and written communication

6: Accessing and analyzing information

7: Curiosity and imagination
– roles of these in creating a more innovative economy

Bit challenge is how are we going to create an economy NOT based on consumer spending
– what is going to create these new jobs if it’s not consumer spending?
– I think the answer is having students who solve the world’s problems

is our innovation in the US in spite of or because of our educational system
– what are we going to do

I am very concerned we have a focus on high stakes testing, 30% dropout rate from US high schools, many high school graduates are not college ready
– other countries are getting to understand that what gets tested gets taught
– if you want a generation of problem solvers, you have to assess this

PISA: Program for International Student Assessment
– 65 countries participated last year
2009 PISA results
– reading: 15th out of 65 countries
– science: 23rd out of 65
– math: 32nd of 65

College completion

Current generation “net generation” is growing up tethered to the Internet
– accustomed to instant gratification and ‘always on’ connections
– using the web for extending friendships, interest-driven, self-directed learning, and as a tool for self-expression
– constantly connected, creating, and multi-tasking in a multimedia world, everywhere in school

I am not one to suggest technology is the panacea for education
– many white boards are not used in ways much different than blackboards

We are moving from an information-based learning system (passing along content that will be tested, filling heads full of knowledge) in which:
– rigor is content mastery (getting more right answers
– studying existing content by disciplines
– learners working alone and in competition
– motivated mainly by extrinsic rewards (grades)
– taught in isolation

…moving to a transformation-based system, where it’s what you can DO
– I’m not saying it’s a dichotomy, you have to have a background of information to teach problem solving
– master competencies “just in time” learning

The 5 habits of mind (redefining rigor: learning to ask the right questions)
– weighting evidence
– awareness of varying viewpoints
– seeing connections / cause and effect
– speculating on possibilities
– assessing value: both socially and personally

these habits of question asking are what is critical

Questions for TRADOC:
– are there ‘habits of mind’ you believe all soldiers should master? if so, what are they?
– to what extent have you adapted teaching / training methods to the needs of the 21c learner
— use of technology, hands on, for students who want to make a difference
— needing to develop the ‘muscles’ of perseverance and concentration
– how do you teach both critical thinking and unquestioningly following orders?
– how do you value both leading by influence and chain of command?
– how do you encourage responsible risk-taking and innovation in a risk-averse, compliance-driven bureaucratic organization

Now getting some feedback from participants
– need for a basic foundation

– I found when teaching the basics, it’s important to engage kids minds 1st before convincing them need to master the basics
– example: giving 1st and 2nd year med students experiences with cases so they get a better context
– often we spend 11 years of school giving kids the basics, when actually up-front thinking problems and hands-on learning will often give kids the motivation they need to concentrate and sustain their learning of the basics

Reference from a participant on the “learning walk” from his book

– we have to do formal evaluation of instructors
– lesson study: how is a lesson crafted and how could it be better crafted
– learning walks are first steps towards lesson studies
– at Quantico I asked to visit and see some classes, before I shared my presentation there

One example: I saw how reticent the 2nd lieutenants were to ask questions
– wait time is so important for instructors!
– the better the question you ask, the more wait time you have to allow

learning walks are for continuous improvement, not

I think the Flip camera is one of the most revolutionary tools which we are underutilizing now in our schools
– videotape lessons, and use those to examine how we can get better
– make learning and teaching more transparent
– that can help us work toward continuous improvement

I find what gave students the perseverance to master a technical challenge / skill was a collaborative, team experience solving problems with others

Think about developing a video library of best-practices examples of lessons from your instructors

If you look at how people get better in athletics and performing arts
– they are getting better through observation and coaching, according to performance standards
– your organization may want to use learning coaches who can help instructors

All the technology in the world is not going to help you ask a better question, leadership, people skills, etc.


Tony: Problem is we tend to teach the way we were taught
– sit and get seemed to work for many in the past, it was the dominant mode
– it is/was all we know
– I had to reinvent my way of teaching
– I had to unlearn how I was taught, and re-learn how to teach better

Tony: We have to encourage and support educational R&D
– we do a lot of weapons systems R&D in the military, but maybe not on learning systems

Identify who your best teachers are
– use your students to identify them
– identify what works and doesn’t work
– encourage purposeful R&D: teachers trying very different things for better results

We need to be an evidence-driven profession in education
– that’s not always data: all data is not necessarily useful

Education is a show-me profession
– many teachers are willing to try something as long as they are shown it’s not a fad

Great question from participant: How do we better bridge the gap between the mindset of students who are used to step-by-step instruction / direct instruction
– students are often not-prepared for problem-based learning

Performance standards are the key / most importance
– driving the car is the key
– just taking a test isn’t enough

750 colleges and universities no longer require the SAT or ACT
– high school GPA is by far a better predictor of college success

In the east it’s all about cram schools
Compare that to the Finland model
– math curriculum K-12 is ten pages long
– they are teaching math in a much more hands-on way, rather than rote learning

What I see over and over in schools is how BADLY math and science is taught in our schools
– most classes are VERY boring
– they are not hands on



My recent documentary film: “The Finnish Phenomenon

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