ASHBURTON, AUSTRALIA – The staff at St. Michael’s Parish School are committed to developing flourishing and animated learners in prep through grade 6. Christian Williams, a school leader with a passion for building resilience and empathy in children, is working with his staff to develop growth mindsets and build deep pedagogical knowledge and capacity across all subject areas by utilizing key concepts from The Art of Learning.
“The resources that are provided by The Art of Learning Project are incredibly valuable to teachers and students,” Williams explains. “The systematic framework for building students’ confidence, self-efficacy, and metacognitive skills is the best I have ever used in 10 years as a teacher. I have also grown professionally and personally by embracing Josh’s philosophies”
The primary focus of the school program is Investment in Loss, where students and teachers are given the time and support to attempt skill mastery in any discipline about which they are passionate. By encouraging risk-taking, patience, and self-reflective learning, students are shown how to Value Process Before Results and develop a deep sense of their own abilities and potential.
SHANGHAI, CHINA – Bloom Education brings together children and teenagers from diverse cultural groups with an aim to provide a holistic educational experience, especially in subjects not typically taught at school. They strive to connect people from different backgrounds and to inspire a love of learning in all of their students.
Strategy Advisor and Youth Mentor, Osmond Wang, approached The Art of Learning Project while preparing for a two-week summer camp program based in Xicang, Sichuan Province, which would focus on exploring TAOL principles while providing students with opportunities to truly enjoy the learning process. An important component of the program was to support the students in developing empathy and discovering the connections between the three participating cultural groups – the Han ethnic majority, non-Han minority, and Americans or Canadians with Chinese heritage.
The entire student population participated in daily martial arts practice as well as a variety of academic, arts and crafts, and other activities, including small group city-building games and debates themed around selected topics. The facilitators led the groups in 1-hour reflection sessions at the end of each day, during which the students contemplated and discussed their learning. Through these reflections, students were able to Value Process Before Results by noting progress and growth, and practice Investment in Loss as they made plans for how to approach a situation or problem differently in the future. Finally, at the end of the 2-week session, the student who demonstrated the most commitment to the process of learning was voted “most dedicated learner” by the other participants in the camp.
“In the beginning (and for many days…), the mandatory daily 7am martial arts practice was not an activity that the students enjoyed, due to the early morning time slot it was scheduled for” shared Wang. “But by the end of the camp, it was the most popular activity and the martial arts teacher was voted best teacher among all the instructors, which was a testament to the quality of his teaching and also an indication of the students beginning to grasp (emotionally and behaviorally) the principles of learning. Martial arts offered a medium through which students could clearly see their own progress – of being able to do something they weren’t able to before.
“I think it shows that learning activities can be structured in ways that allow students to enjoy learning even when the initial learning experience requires elements of discomfort. I love that – when discomfort is enjoyed, even desired, in service of learning.”
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA – Ace Academics is a math and science focused tutoring organization serving students from grades 2 through 12. Founder, Sal Enslin, is dedicated to helping her students develop self-confidence, curiosity, and a sense of personal agency in their learning processes.
“Many students experience maths and science as a necessary evil. They think of these subjects as abstract and boring, and they often just want to get those over and done. Many students are convinced that they have no talent for this; that they are not smart and are often completely disengaged from the learning process, “ Enslin explains. “If I could show them that their brain is capable of way more than the school system has led them to believe, and give them the tools to find out what that might be… that would be incredible. If we could discover how each student learns, how that would play out in his or her environment, and how he or she could apply what we do to anything else they want to learn, it would enrich their lives a lot.”
Each tutoring session is unique, depending on the needs of the participating students. Additionally, the learning principles Enslin incorporates into these sessions, and the methods used to explore them, vary depending on the group. Many of her older students have been reading and discussing sections of The Art of Learning Student Guide in order to provide a general introduction to TAOL principles and open a conversation about their relationships to those concepts. Enslin is beginning to incorporate peer feedback in several of her tutoring sessions as a means to practice Investment in Loss. She is practicing Stress and Recovery with her students by taking breaks during difficult tasks to explore student passions and interests, and regularly incorporates Listening First into her work with each student in order to understand what drives them, how they learn, and any underlying needs that may affect their learning processes.
SANTA FE, NM – Geoffrey Moon is a Gifted Education Specialist within the Services for Advanced and Gifted Education Department for the Santa Fe Public Schools. He first heard Josh Waitzkin speak at the National Association for Gifted Children conference in 2009, and has maintained an interest in bringing The Art of Learning principles to New Mexico public school students since that time.
“Josh’s story is a fantastic platform for allowing kids to look at what being pushed does to them and what making their own push and following their own bliss does for their motivation and their talent development,” Moon explains. “I think the book is pretty authentic… in the way it speaks from the first person, unlike a lot of the materials we use that come from a “you ought to” approach. It also breaks down some of his lessons learned in a way that allows students to explore each one and say ‘Do I need to internalize this? Does this affect me, or is it about somebody else and how am I different?’”
The Santa Fe public school system is in the process of expanding their gifted education programs to include greater numbers of minority students, English language learners, and economically disadvantaged students than have historically participated. As part of this push, Moon is developing a seminar course for 8th and 9th grade students who have been identified as gifted or potentially gifted. He emphasizes the importance of helping these students develop breadth, observational skills, and critical thinking skills in order to understand themselves as learners and embrace challenge, rather than allowing them to develop a learning path exclusively in response to the skills they believe they already possess.
Throughout this course, students will read The Art of Learning, explore and discuss concepts from the book that are applicable and identifiable to all the students, and then begin to explore how they will each challenge themselves moving forward. As a culmination to the seminar, each student will create a self-development plan to carry with them beyond high school. It will serve as a dossier with current strengths, weaknesses, experiences, and interests, as well as plans for next steps after leaving high school and being on their own. Moon’s hope is that this plan will support these students as they transition into college and beyond, and encourage them to continue to stretch and grow as learners, independent of the high school support system.
LAFAYETTE, CA – LMYA is a non-profit organization providing year-round athletic programming for school age children. In addition to the traditional athletic experience, the girls’ volleyball program offers a unique combination of sports, staff management skill training, and technology training to their high school aged participants. The full program consists of over 500 athletes playing club recreational volleyball, 80 volunteer parent coaches, 60 fourteen to eighteen year old volleyball club girls who partner with the coaches as paid trainers, and 10 girls who are paid to run the business portion of the organization. The goal of this unique program is to provide teenage girls with an opportunity to learn to be assertive in the workforce, and to develop real life management and technology experience in order to be better prepared for fields in which women are often underrepresented.
Eric Standring, the LMYA volleyball Commissioner, believes that programs such as this one take steps toward addressing the gender inequities so prevalent in the technology industry, as well as provide the participants with an opportunity to make a return on their monetary investment in club volleyball, and deepen the family connections between trainers, players, and their parents who volunteer with the program.
In the early phase of the program, Standring is focusing on building resilience in the young trainers and office staff, as well as in the volunteer parent coaches. As a first step, they will practice Valuing Process Before Results through collaborative goal setting and the development of benchmarks on the path to those goals. Both trainers and coaches will work on cultivating a Soft Zone approach to meeting their goals with an understanding that they may need to change their focus as they progress.
“I’m blessed to have two things come together in my life right now: TAOL and Strata Data Conference Chairman, Roger Magoulas. The chance to hear how ideas on learning resonate between these two camps, is inspiring. Particular to TAOL, having the foundational learning principle off which to dialog provides stability but at the same time, direction.” Standring says.
Ultimately, Standring hopes that incorporating the learning principles into the work of the Trainers and Coaches will deepen their relationships, encourage greater engagement for all participants, and improve the overall experience of everyone involved.
BARCELONA, SPAIN – Dorian Iten, the Digital Art Program Coordinator at BAA, uses The Art of Learning principles in a 10-week course that focuses on Investment in Loss and Valuing Process Before Results, with an aim to strengthen resilience and deepen the students’ awareness of their internal states.
“Time and again I have found my insights from drawing and painting echoed in the principles Josh gleans from chess and the martial arts,” Iten told the JWF. “Both mental and physical resilience are crucial elements of an artist’s success. There is a lot to discover in this area and I am looking forward to sharing our findings with fellow teachers, trainers and coaches!”
Throughout the course the students explore their feelings of self-doubt by learning about and discussing mindset, analyzing both failures and growth of masters in painting, and participating in shared journaling activities on Slack. Students practice Valuing Process Before Results in collaborative drawing exercises in which they focus on improving accuracy and proportions by working on each other’s drawings. By regularly discussing both the teacher’s and the students’ struggles, the class develops a safe space in which students can be vulnerable and open to working together on Investment in Loss and growing as learners.
“As artists, we value our bodies as instruments and seek to refine perception and control,” Iten explains. “Our students are studying their own responses and biases through heart rate variability training and the study of screen recordings of their digital painting sessions. Heartbeat by heartbeat and brushstroke by brushstroke, new understanding emerges.”