San Francisco, CA: 826 Valencia, a non-profit organization founded by author Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Calegari, provides free after-school writing tutoring to children in under-resourced communities with an aim to support them in telling their stories, developing confidence and pride, and making the world a better place.
Writing and homework tutor Felicia Spahr is using The Art of Learning principles to develop student engagement, expand student creativity, and deepen students’ understanding of the valuable role writing can play in their lives.
“These kids are really bright,” Spahr explains, “but many of them seem apathetic and jaded when it comes to doing school work and writing. I would love for them to not only feel excited and challenged by learning, but also feel a sense of ownership over the process. It would be beautiful to see a student excited by a school assignment and find their own path to integrating that love into their life in their own unique way.”
Spahr believes that using principles from TAOL will benefit the students because of the structured approach it provides, while still allowing a sense of freedom for both herself and the students. Her aim is to bring that sense of excitement and challenge to the students in her writing group. Through Listening First, Spahr will help students identify their passions and strengths and bring them in to their writing. By using improvisational acting as a planning process for writing, she will help them explore Using Adversity as an on-ramp for creative inspiration and Investment in Loss as a tool for revision, first within the improv and later within the writing. Finally, her students will explore Valuing Process Before Results throughout, as they experience the open-ended creativity of both improvisation and writing.
BANGKOK, THAILAND – Adam Prance has been an educator in international schools for the past 7 years. After becoming frustrated with the limitations of the public education system (while recognizing its value and importance), he has developed his own education project with the aim to both teach English to Thai adults, and to introduce them to the ideas from The Art of Learning in hopes that they will encourage their children to develop a growth-oriented mindset.
“The Art of Learning, in my mind, is the most practical and nuanced exploration of performance and training that I have come across,” explains Prance. “Many of the principles are not new, stretching back thousands of years; but what TAOL does is make them relevant to the modern world with a powerful narrative. The work of Carol Dweck exposes the mistakes made in the so-called self-esteem movement and Josh Waitzkin’s own experience demonstrates these principles in action. “
This 20 session program will introduce students to each of the learning principles outlined in the book, connect each principle to real life scenarios, and provide the participants with practical actions they can take in their own lives to begin to internalize the concepts. The program is expected to work for participants of Intermediate level (B1) and higher.
Each session will work through a PowerPoint covering a learning principle in addition to exploring the grammar and syntax of some sentences. The session leader will share personal stories from their own life and participants will be encouraged to do the same if they feel comfortable, as well as answer questions that dig into the concepts.
“Thailand is a rapidly modernizing country with a very traditional education system (often with up to 50 students in a class). Many in the younger generations recognize the shortcomings of “chalk and talk” education and want to counter the potentially damaging consequences on their own children – or on themselves.”
BENDIGO, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA – Jamie Tarrant is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, and the Director of Exercise Medicine Group Australia. He leads a team of progressive health professionals who prioritize the learning process through movement based and self-reflective activities for young adults – providing the scaffolding to become the best versions of themselves. Programs center on the felt sensation and directing attention inwards with a long term view on sporting performance, reducing injury rates, decision-making and presence.
Tarrant and his team are embarking on a 4-year program in collaboration with the Girton Grammar ‘Sport Excellence Program’ in which students will explore The Art of Learning principles as they relate to physical activity. Term One hones in on the Resilience principles, with students spending roughly three weeks each on Valuing Process Before Results, Investment in Loss, Beginner’s Mind, and Using Adversity. Through games and activities that teach balance, breathing techniques, proper form, awareness and response to challenge, and reflection, each student will deepen his or her relationship with these learning principles in connection with both their physical, emotional, and academic lives.
When asked about how his work with The Art of Learning Project has affected his students and staff, Tarrant explained, “The Art of Learning principles have brought attention to not only what we are teaching, but how we are teaching to achieve creativity and excellence in our clients and students. The structured incremental learning focuses on the development of a deep understanding of the fundamentals – ‘bridging the gap’ between academic research and the students’ long-term skill retention and self-discovery”.
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.