I send weekly updates to our participants wherein I challenge them with a question, or a task, or a contest, or give a few thoughts on their business partner experience, what they want after Praxis, etc. I tend to focus more on the broader experience and the business component, since Education Director TK Coleman works with them on the curriculum component of Praxis.
This week, however, I felt it was a good time to touch on the curriculum, and what learning really is. The participants are about to take their second oral exam, and they’ve been really digging in to the curriculum modules, but they’ve sometimes felt unsure how to prepare for an oral exam. We don’t want them to prepare for exams. We want them to learn what’s valuable to them, and then we want to hear them talk about it!
Here’s the update I sent this week to help them think about the best way to approach the challenging Praxis curriculum:
With the economics module now open and the history exams around the corner, it seems a good time to examine the value of learning vs. the process of schooling that most of you are familiar with.
The point of learning is to alter the patterns of your brain. It is to change the way you see and interpret the world so that you can better achieve what you want. (Sometimes what you want is simply the pleasure of knowing!). New facts or information can alter your thinking patterns, but it’s rare that raw data alone will rewire your brain unless it is the kind of data that runs counter to an accepted belief. The best learning requires conscious examination of your paradigms and theories (which are often tacit), consumption of information, both in the form of new theories and new facts, and a re-examination of whether your previous notions were complete and correct. If not, you begin the work of creating new ones that more accurately measure up to your new knowledge.
This all sounds a bit esoteric, but remembering what learning actually is plays a huge part in determining how much you learn from the Praxis curriculum, and life in general. The schooling approach is focused much more on a menu of raw data you are supposed to memorize, along with a set of predetermined questions you must be able to answer with that data. It asks nothing of you in terms of rewiring your brain or smashing your paradigms. You needn’t have the foggiest idea of the causal relationships in an economic order to circle multiple choice tropes like, “A) Black Tuesday was the event that caused the Great Depression”, for example. This kind of information, which you’ve been loaded up with throughout your life, has very little transformative power.
The incentive structure in a schooling system is for you to know all the answers, or at least be able to fake that you know them. You have to prove that you know certain things, regardless of whether you’ve been transformed or improved by that knowledge, and if you don’t you have to pretend you do. In other words, it has little to do with you or what’s beneficial to you, but is mostly about repeating certain things that allow parents, teachers, and other members of the schooling institutions to check items off their lists. The idea of pretending to know things you don’t is antithetical to learning. Knowing you don’t know something is wonderful, and nothing to be shielded or treated with shame. It’s one of the greatest motivators for actually learning.
As you continue through the curriculum, don’t worry about memorizing facts you think examiners want to hear. Take ownership. Look at the curriculum as a smorgasbord of content that can be used to transform your thinking in ways beneficial to you. We want to see that transformation. We want to hear you talk about what you do know, and what you did learn, not say words you think you’re supposed to know.
This ain’t school, it’s life. And in life, learning is not only amazingly enjoyable, it’s the difference between stagnation and growth. We’re tossing you a trowel, and some water and fertilizer, then coming back a month later for a tour of the garden. Your growth is in your hands.