Sunday, January 22, 2012

The 3rd Dimension: Deep and Meaningful Experiences

In a previous post, I wrote that motivated students doing great work can be found at the intersection of opportunities to build essential skills and the opportunities to learn important subject matter.  I still believe this, but want to add a third dimension into the discussion.  It is a dimension that is less about what you teach or how you teach it.  The third dimension is about nurturing a culture within your class conducive to developing deep and meaningful experiences.

Why is creating such a culture in your class important?

There are probably many reasons (feel free to leave a comment with your reason), but I suggest the importance of creating such environments in your class are related to society's move away from standardization and more towards distinction.  In other words, in a connected world in which choices are practically unlimited, people are more likely to choose options that are aligned with their desire to make connections with others who share their own specific preferences.

Standardized options, which present limited (if any) opportunities to advance one's attempt to find a connection with like-minded peers, are not designed to produce the reaction that evokes distinction.  Standardization is one size fits all.  Standardization is the result of a factory mentality born in the industrial age.  We are experiencing a change from that mode of thinking to one of empowerment, choice, innovation, creation, and distinction.  Successful educators today must find the balance between the standardization of school and the need to create enchanting experiences that attract and motivate students to do their best work.

Unfortunately, teachers have been subjected to the standardization mindset for so long that many find it terribly difficult to implement a mode of thinking that helps create a more distinct experience.  I am not suggesting that the standardized model be eliminated.  The standardized model can be helpful, especially in situations requiring a structural frame of thinking.

On the other hand, modern society demands teachers be more than structural thinkers and standardized factory workers.  As a matter of fact, many studies (including my own research) exploring how effective educators think have found that the most effective educators use multiple frames of reference.  The two most used being the aforementioned structural and the human resource frame, which is used to connect individual needs to overall goals.

So the question becomes,

How can educators approach their craft in a way that nurtures a climate conducive to creating deep, meaningful, and distinct experiences in an educational environment often designed to accomplish standardized goals?

My answer to that question reflects a concept I have written about before, the Open House Culture.  In an Open House Culture, educators begin to view their work as their cause rather than their responsibility.  In addition, educators working in an Open House Culture are specifically focused on developing a classroom defined by being friendly, trustworthy, reliable, responsive, and interactive.

Students do not like generics.  They want to learn, but also to learn in an environment which taps into their desire to make connections and feel distinct.  Providing opportunities to learn important content and build essential skills certainly encourages motivated students to do great work.  Adding the third dimension, creating deep and meaningful experiences, into the equation elevates the experience to a higher, more enchanting level.


Thank you for reading this post.  As with all my posts this month, I ask you to consider joining me to help support a worthy cause - St. Jude's Research Hospital.  Between now and the end of January, 2012, I will donate $1 US for every copy of either of my two eBooks purchased.  You can find additional information about this offer by clicking here.

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