Solving Educational Problems © Martyn Carruthers
Education is confronted by volatile economies, changing demography, public opinion, government support and commercial competition. The issues facing education require more than employee restructuring or financial management. The issues concern relevance in tomorrow’s world.
University education has long been an educational holy grail. Universities have been endowed by royalty, religions, governments and successful alumni, and an ever-increasing number of young adults compete for placement.
University education provides knowledge – know what and know why. The practical know how more often comes from technical and vocational colleges. This single fact may decrease the relevance of university education if the gap between theoretical knowledge and pragmatic expertise continues to increase.
University education, whether relevant or not, will remain in demand while government regulations, professional associations and conservative hiring procedures require university diplomas. A person’s skills, abilities and individual excellence are less important than their paperwork. And the paperwork needs careful scrutiny. Email degree spam from spurious colleges, unknown universities and fake degree mills plague the email inboxes of the world.
Modern universities can be perceived as a luxury of an energy-rich economy – a luxury that, unless alternative long-term energy sources are harnessed, will decline with oil reserves. Expanding global connections and changes in the global balance of power indicate that Europe, China, India, Brazil, and other regions will shape the future.
University students will soon require a greater knowledge of geography and other cultures, and they will probably have to change their ideas of the United States as a sole superpower. It would be worth the effort to prepare students to consider global issues and trends. Students can benefit from a fuller recognition of the global framework within which they will work.
University and Commercial Research
Since World War II, most important discoveries were made in commercial laboratories. The laser, the transistor, polio vaccine, microchips, the hologram, the personal computer, nuclear magnetic resonance, the CAT scan … and many more. Universities train technologists – but universities are not where technologies advance.
Be prepared for vicious academic fights and politics about funding.
Watch a university scientist start a project. Count the grant applications and weigh the paperwork. Count the number of approvals needed for steering committees and assess the time waiting for answers. Note the politics to get the support of the department chairman and the resources committee, while monitoring rival researchers. Watch the maneuvering to get work space, computer time and assistants. Few commercial scientists need squander so much precious resources.
The process of education is different to the halls of academia. Young people receive 5-10 years of education, consisting primarily of classroom lectures and guided library research. They may not be prepared for the reality of a changing world.
Learning intersects with other developmental processes and students enter classrooms not only with knowledge and abilities, but also with social and emotional experiences that influence their values and beliefs, and how they will engage in learning.
Most students know that they are unlikely to use 90% of what they learn – that their examinations merely test whether they can remember something long enough to repeat it. Later they find that 90% of the knowledge that they actually use came from other sources than formal education. University students are expected to jump through academic hoops – to prove their persistence; often at the enormous expense of reduced life experience.
Knowledge is a poor substitute for wisdom.
As literacy became normal, bookstores appeared and the need for specialist educators dropped. Internet access is now revolutionizing education. Academic information (know-who, know-where and know-what) is diminishing in its sanctity. Technology knowledge (know-how, know-which and know-when) has become the golden key that open the doors of success. It is an old story that some university drop-outs later employ those students who completed their education. Wisdom (know-why and know-what-if) is ever rare, and may be counter-productive to achieving shallow, pointless or counter-productive goals.
Ruts are Graves
University tenure implies that time teaching a subject improves the worth of the teacher. Tenure evaluation focuses on published articles and grants, not on teaching excellence or leadership development. But the real world pays for results – not for papers.
Many academic fields have ever-increasing competition with educational resources that are developed independently of formal education. Computer science, recently an ivory tower specialty, has become synonymous with self-educated expertise. Social sciences are becoming sciences of mediocrity – a preoccupation with statistics and theories – that compete with a multitude of self-help systems that provide better emotional control, success and relationship skills than can be found in universities.
Dr Clare W. Graves (a post-doctoral student of Dr. Abram Maslow) postulated that human societies develop and regress in predictable ways; and explored the underlying codes that shape human nature and drive evolutionary change. Dr. Graves described “value systems” that provide a systemic frame for predicting human dynamics. Each “value system” provides a stable plateau on the pyramid of human development. Graves’ value systems are described as memes in Spiral Dynamics (Beck and Cowan, ISBN 155786-940-5)), and are subjectively described in the following articles:
Some useful definitions:
- Data concerns experience, reactions and measurements
- Information concerns measuring sticks, measurers and context
- Knowledge concerns skills, discernment and relevance
- Wisdom concerns systems, benefits and consequences
Know-why and know-what are the domain of universities. Know-how and know-which are the domain of technological colleges and trade schools. An emerging choice is systemic education, which offers a synthesis of academia and technology, in which academic know-how is upgraded by systemic coaching, accelerated learning and expert modeling:
- Systemic coaching – rapidly improve competence
- Accelerated learning – rapidly acquire new skills
- Expert modeling – rapidly replicate expert performance
Systemic Solutions offers a wide perspective, examining how to serve both present and future generations: develop skills for predicting “future history” – skills that can select systemic solutions to complex problems and find ways to avoid long-term and expensive mistakes.
The left column of the following table indicates the primary thrust of university education. The central column includes techniques utilized by technical and vocational schools, and the right column describes some emerging qualities of systemic education.
|Academic Education||Vocational Education||Systemic Education|
|Rooted in traditional assumptions||Rooted in duplicating success||Rooted in integrity|
|Individual differences are ignored||Individual differences are blurred||Individual differences are celebrated|
|Focus on describing problems||Focus on solving problems||Focus on systemic benefits|
|Focus on examining the past||Focus on acting now||Focus on future consequences|
|Teacher’s authority is position||Teacher’s authority is competence||Teacher’s authority is integrity|
|Focus on historical evidence||Focus on current situations||Focus on predictive accuracy|
|Focus on theoretical structure||Focus on demonstrated skill||Focus on creative flexibility|
|Assumes students need knowledge||Assumes students need skills||Assumes students need purpose|
|Focus on accumulating knowledge||Focus on developing skills||Focus on developing qualities|
|Gain acknowledgement through theoretical papers||Gain acknowledgement through practical projects||Gain acknowledgement through achievable visions|
|Emphasis on logical thinking||Emphasis on practical skills||Emphasis on wisdom|
|Ignores unconscious process||Utilizes unconscious process||Celebrates unconscious process|
|Skills serves to improve knowledge||Knowledge serves to improve skills||Knowledge and skills serve to improve human systems|
|Internal solutions to understand situations||External solutions to overcome barriers||Systemic solutions to benefit humanity|
The emerging field of Systemic Education synthesizes knowledge and skills, focusing on elevating and integrating conscious strategies and unconscious process for systemic goals. Following the terminology of Dr Clare W. Graves; Systemic Education reflects a Level 7 world-view; Skill-Based Education reflects Level 5 and Knowledge-Based Education reflects Level 4.
Level 6 Community Education is not described above, but is becoming common in post-industrial countries such as Canada, Switzerland and Scandinavia. Level 6 education is typified by non-profit information sharing, equality and consensual decision-making. Many helping professionals spontaneously form groups and systems with a level 6 structure. Levels 8 and 9 have yet to emerge.
What is Learning?
You learn when you acquire experience. Your remembered experience is often called knowledge. “Gaining knowledge” is a multi-level process:
- Adaptive learning – you learn to adapt (or react) to your changing environment.
- Generative learning – you learn not only to adapt – you also learn to change how to perceive (or assess or measure) your changing environment.
- Evolutionary learning – you not only learn how to act and perceive, you also learn how to change your identity (or transform) your changing environment.
From Observation to Intervention
Systemic learning, whether therapeutic, educational or organizational, can focus on:
- Observe the patterns of interrelationships and interaction
- Model the systemic dynamics until the predictions match the observed reality
- Construct future oriented goal paths that produce the desired expectations
- Plan interventions that incorporate time, boundaries and relationships as well as content
- Test and fine tune each element of an intervention with view to the consequences
Systemic Coaching interventions follow an interactive 7-step program:
- Systemic diagnosis maps how members perceive their system and its context.
- Goal path analysis maps how members perceive choices and consequences
- Conflict management identifies and dissolves potential conflicts
- Boundary management resolves issues of identity and mission
- Relationship bond-work replaces old beliefs and updates members’ values
- Trauma work ends past trauma and its consequences
- Mentorship provides ongoing inspiration for key members of the system
Although few educational providers can offer systemic education, the following educational pattern is utilized throughout Systemic Solutions to train systemic coaches, therapists and consultants. (Our Systemic Coaching provides diagnostic, remedial and planning skills that are applicable for individual, partnership, family and corporate or organizational coaching).
- Observe the system
- Describe the qualities of the system
- Create hypotheses about connections between elements
- Create models of systemic elements and interactions
- Experiment to test the validity of hypotheses and models
- Formulate theories, laws and principals
- Apply theories, laws and principals to create systemic tools
- Solve applied tasks using systemic tools
- Observe the systemic results (and recycle to step 1)
Applications of Systemic Education
Systemic education can integrate the goals of Knowledge-based, Skill-based and Community-based education while moving into systems thinking. We coach people to:
- Develop skills to improve performance
- Develop relationship skills for empathy and life quality
- Acquire academic knowledge for stability and security
- Use systemic skills for flexible management of human systems