Today’s post is going to vary a bit from my decision dilemma and decision analysis posts. We are going to be looking at the idea of “choosing not to learn” and the “costs of not learning” (and not learning to make better decisions).
I am currently a Leadership Team member for a National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant. The grant aims to prepare K-12 “Master Teacher Fellows” for leadership in math and science education in urban settings. Today, I participated in the first of a two-day workshop for the NSF grant on developing leadership identities. I was excited to be a learner today (rather than a presenter), even though I have a doctorate in Educational Leadership and have experience with this topic.
The workshop presenter is Lucy West, a nationally known speaker on instructional practices, content-focused coaching, and leadership development. During a discussion about school culture and teacher self-awareness, Lucy brought up the point that all of us (not just struggling students) “choose not to learn” at points in our life. She then asked us to think about– “What is the cost of not learning?” And I quickly connected that to the work I am doing on helping people make smarter decisions.
Lucy explained how it had cost her seven years and almost $5000 choosing not to learn Tai Chi. It wasn’t that she didn’t attend Tai Chi classes in those years or that she wasn’t interested in learning Tai Chi. Lucy said that she just never practiced it outside of class or learned it well enough to do it on her own. She was exposed to it and tried it, but never really learned it.
Then it was our turn to think of something we chose not to learn. My mind immediately went to my choice not to learn how to play the piano. I took piano for six (long) years and participated in the yearly recitals. You would have thought that I would have learned how to play in that length of time – but I really didn’t. I went to my lessons and even got to the point of playing some difficult pieces, but I never actually learned how to read the bass clef (the lower notes you usually play with your left hand). I somehow figured out a way to play the notes by memory, but I never took the time to learn how to read the music.
When I thought about the “cost of not learning” to play piano, I realized this was an instrument I could have played throughout my life. I wasted a lot of time and energy (and my parents’ money) and at times I still regret the decision to quit and not actually learn it… (And yes, this may be something I put back on my “to do” list now that I have more time after Turning Down The Full-Time Job I was offered!)
So are you already thinking about a few things you have “not learned” and what some of the costs were too? I thought that might be the case!
Lucy went on to discuss school culture and the importance of the adults in the school being learners and maintaining an intellectual curiosity. She explained that the adults need to model learning and an attitude of persistence for students, and this in turn will help students see learning and their own efforts as being valuable too.
As I thought about it more throughout the day, I jotted down – Learning needs to become “What you do” and not “what you have to do”…
So, what is the “cost of not learning” for students? Well you can probably guess many of the costs. Those decisions result in a tremendous waste of time (for both the student and the teacher), money and other resources. This “not learning” can also cause anger and resentment (for both the student and teacher again), and an increasingly negative school culture.
The focus of our workshop and the NSF grant is to help “grow” teacher leaders who will positively influence school culture and use strategies to motivate students to want to learn. They will then help lead change with other teachers as well. This will hopefully reduce many of the “costs” related to student’s “not learning” over time and change the culture of the school.
So what does this have to do with you and the focus of this blog?
I am hoping that as I can play the role of “teacher leader” in terms of reducing your “costs of not learning” how to make better decisions in the past! I also hope you will see the value of making a “choice to learn” more about various ways to make better decisions in the future.
The first thing I’d like you to consider is Lucy’s original question. The “costs of not learning” to make better decisions are similar to the costs of students choosing to “not learn” in school. They may result in problems related to:
- Personal growth and development
- Building or maintain relationships
- Financial struggles
- Social or emotional challenges
And probably a lot more…
So why can’t we all just learn to make better decisions?
Here are just a few of the Obstacles to Learning that we discussed with Lucy today. They apply to decision-making as well and they may play a role in your “choosing not to learn”.
- Being blind to your biases (or not knowing what you don’t know!)
- Needing to look good (not appear incompetent, back your prior decisions)
- Not allowing others to teach you anything (you already know it, have experience)
- Thinking you have to do it by yourself (or not knowing when/how to seek help)
- And probably the biggest one – Not having time…
Is there anything we do about it?
Well sure, if you are willing to put in some effort! These are a few ideas we discussed related to the Self-Management of Learning. It was suggested to have students choose one or two things to focus on and then add new ideas as time goes on.
- Figure out what you are having trouble with and be strategic as to how you will address specific issues
- Pace yourself
- Hold yourself accountable to high standards of understanding (and ask for help when needed)
- Control the conditions of your learning – know what works for you
- Participate actively and collaboratively – help others understand
- Work productively without distractions for sustained periods of time*
(*OK – that last one is a real challenge and something I have to make plans to do more often. I know it will help my learning!)
I am looking forward to tomorrow and another day of making the choice to learn! It won’t cost me anything.
Is there anything you have “chosen not to learn” and was there any “cost” involved? What are some other costs that might be involved if people choose not to learn how to make better decisions? Can you think of other obstacles to learning? Or ways to self-manage the learning?
Photo credit: SarahWilliams@FreeImages.com
Obstacles to Learning Ideas – adapted from talk given by Julia Olalla, Newfield Network
Self-Management in Learning Ideas -adapted from Resnik & Hall, Principles of Learning for Effort Based Education