5 Key Takeaways for Teachers from The Eton Journal

The Eton Journal For Innovation and Research In Education recently released an issue on Human Fulfilment and the Aims of Education. The  issue contains a multitude of innovative explorations into how education can be used to move students towards human fulfillment. According to the APA dictionary of psychology fulfillment is the actual or felt satisfaction of needs and desires, or the attainment of aspirations. One purpose of education is to prepare students for life, or in our way of thinking a good and meaningful life of contribution. While the entire journal is definitely worth exploring, here are five takeaways that caught our attention: 

Take Inspiration

It is more important in the pandemic-changed classroom that educators find inspiration for new approaches to teaching using a multidisciplinary approach that includes unexpected modalities. One of these is video games. Many students and adults already spend time playing video games and are familiar with the structure of these games. The familiarity can provide a comfortable place to begin creating a structure for education. Blair Murray Cusati asks in his journal chapter “Can Teachers Learn Anything From Video Games?”, and the resounding answer is yes. Cusati discusses video games as both great ways to get people to learn and to enjoy the process, pulling out three specific ways that teachers can learn from this structure of video games. These principles include “the development of player identity”, “the provision of information “on demand” and “just in time’”, and the “use of ‘sandboxes’”. Common in all of these sections is the focus on individuality and building an idea of self. Just as video game players can find a more rewarding game experience where they can create their own identity, learn to fail and succeed, and learn about the game at their own pace, students may be more successful if they are given the opportunity to create an identity, learn at their own pace, and have a safe place to fail. 

Take a Break

Today, school can seem almost synonymous with overscheduling. Between required curriculum, social emotional learning, passion projects, physical activity, clubs, and other advocacy groups, it can seem unfathomable to add anything else. But, perhaps one thing we should be adding is learning how to do nothing. Daniel Soars’ journal “Why We Should Teach Pupils How to Do Nothing” suggests students should be learning how to do “nothing other than what they are doing” and how to do “nothing in particular”. In other words, students should live in the moment they are in and be able to do nothing at all in that moment. Soars explains that fulfillment depends on us being able to live in the present, whereas school tends to place a focus on the past or future. Fulfillment during and after formal education may be more attainable if schools were to add a focus on the present. One could imagine multiple ways schools could implement this, from creating opportunities for learning which isn’t being done for a grade or a mindfulness practice which teaches students to live in the present. At CreatePositive we have an entire module, Idleness and Play, dedicated to practicing the skills that many students have lost as they progress through school.

Take a Language

One subject that has historically been included in many school curriculums is a foreign language. But as Beatrice Parolin explains in her chapter on “Enhancing Pupils’ Motivation to Learn Languages'' while language learning can be incredibly useful for student development, there has been a more recent lack of interest in language learning, at least as observed in Anglophone countries. Parolin explains two reasons why pupils should place more value on multilingualism; first the enhanced creativity gained through exposure to new language and culture and the possibility of improving student interest in others. We see this interest in others, other cultures and people, as critical in healing the divide and closing the gap between “us” and “them” that is threatening humans around the globe. 

Take a Step Back

Perhaps one of the most integral perspectives to consider is that of the student. The Eton Journals allow us to do just that through responses of seniors (year 12 students) about what education should be. One student, Cees Armstrong’s article on becoming critical thinkers, explains  “it is to be expected that many feel that the path down education truly is not for them, since whenever they go down this path they are forced to learn facts and figures without any clue as to where these facts come from or how they are useful”. To teach students to excel in memorization seems a greater loss than win if it comes at the cost of their love of learning. Regardless of what level of formal education students decide to pursue, the goal of creating lifelong learners necessitates keeping students motivated to learn. As Armstrong suggests, through critically thinking about the purpose behind the education goals of our current school systems, a version of education which inspires the student to be passionate about learning could be established. 

Take Care

Something which should always be a guidepost in our lives is our emotional wellbeing. It’s no longer a soft skill, but an essential one. Catherine Smith examined the importance of emotion in the schoolplace in the article “Emotionality and Teaching, From Policy to Practice”. Smith discusses what she coins as teaching with heart, which is divided into the five categories:

  •  emotional health in classrooms
  •  essential emotional knowledge
  •  emotional management
  •  emotional scaffolding 
  •  empathy for pupils

The educational experience of both students and teachers improves with increased emotional intelligence. 

We love translating research into applicable actions for your classroom. Here are things to try this year:

  1. Meet learners where they are already engaging- video games, TikTok, YouTube or Discourse for example. By going to “their turf” you signal respect, connection and understanding and you model adaptability which is the top skill of the next generation according to McKinsey’s research.
  2. Put "down time" on your calendar. What gets scheduled gets done.
  3. Model curiosity about other cultures and languages by knowing the background of each student.
  4. Make sure to relate student passions like sports, arts or causes to your curriculum. If you know at least one passion of each student you will be able to connect it to your lesson plan in a curiosity-inspiring way. The world would be a better place if the answer to “why do we need to know this?” was never “because it’s on the exam.
  5. You cannot support student emotional-agility unless you have spent time practicing your own. Make a point of regularly working on your emotional navigation system by reading or listening to podcasts or doing some work on yourself.

If you love these tips or have another aha moment from the Eton Journal For Innovation and Research In Education we’d love to hear it. Write to us connect@createpositive.org or join our discussions on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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