Le Xue She: For Next Generation

SHANGHAI, CHINA – Le Xue She (Love Learning) and the For Next Generation movement was founded by Oscar Cui to address the internet addiction and disinterest in learning that he witnessed amongst teenagers in China.  Time and again he saw students become addicted to the internet because they were bored with the subjects they were learning in school and discouraged from pursuing their own outside interests.

“I started this movement to help young kids deal with their internet addiction by teaching them how to learn,” Cui explains.  “I want them to know that there is a way they can learn both what they really want and the school subjects as well.  The way is to learn how to learn, i.e., The Art of Learning.”

The goal of the For Next Generation project is to help students uncover, cultivate, and apply their strengths through an exploration of The Art of Learning principles.  The initial phase of the program is a 10 session online reading group.  For each session, participants read selected chapters of the book, answer introspective questions from The Art of Learning Project’s resource guides, share and discuss their thoughts and experiences of the principles, and take turns leading the reading group.  Participants work on exploring difficulties they’re having in their lives through the lens of TAOL principles, and using those principles to find resources, knowledge and experience to address the problems.

At the end of the first 10 day course, one student shared, “The Art of Learning gives me a new way of thinking about learning.  We cannot live without learning.  We have continued to learn since we were very young, but I have a sense of powerlessness when it comes to learning.  However, with this book, you see a well-structured learning system.  What is more, you can discover yourself in the book.  Growth mindset and fixed mindset exist in our everyday lives, but we do not notice them.  I am encouraged and passionate about learning after reading this book.  It is an amazing experience!”

In the second phase of the program, Cui will offer an online course focused on specific Resilience and Peak Performance principles that the students feel will best address their areas of interest and need.  By Listening First, they will discover their personal approaches to learning and begin to apply it to their study of the principles.  

In time, Cui plans to develop a third tier of the program to spread The Art of Learning throughout China by recruiting and training others who will lead study groups across the country.

 

CoolCoach

PUNE, MAHARASHTRA, INDIA – CoolCoach is a social enterprise with a mission to make nations fit by educating and instilling healthy habits while providing fitness-related career opportunities.  Vishnu Chandrabhanu, the organization’s Program Lead, reached out to The Art of Learning Project with an interest in incorporating the learning principles into both their work with the young adults in the CoolCoach fellows program and with the children in the fitness education programs.  

Many of the CoolCoach fellows experienced struggle in traditional academic programs and, as a result, often feel discouraged and unmotivated when it comes to learning new skills.  In the first 24 days of the CoolCoach training program, the young adult fitness program fellows meet daily with the CoolCoach staff to learn how to become a lifelong learner, how to build professional skills such as communication and interview strategies, how to sculpt their own physiques, stay fit, and master performing a variety of exercises, and how to coach others to perform different movements and stay fit.

During this initial training period, Chandrabhanu will introduce the CoolCoach fellows to Resilience concepts such as Investing in Loss, Valuing Process Before Results, Beginner’s Mind, and Using Adversity. They will play games together in which they learn to reflect on their mistakes and make plans for how to modify their approach to address those mistakes.  Instead of using the traditional method to grade assessments, Chandrabhanu and his staff will have the CoolCoach fellows identify what they think went well and where they feel they struggled.  They will then work together to make a plan for how to address the points of struggle.

“As someone who has been a regular student, footballer, teacher and now a Program Lead,” Chandrabhanu explained, “I could connect with Josh’s reflection on how having a learning mindset even through failure is a core factor to improve drastically. I am a big believer in learning through failure thus was able to connect a lot with the chapter on Investment in Loss”

At the end of the initial training period, the CoolCoach fellows are placed in schools where they will begin working with children.  They continue to attend weekend trainings with the CoolCoach program for the remainder of the academic year, after which they often acquire long term jobs in the fitness industry.  During this second training period, Chandrabhanu and his staff will introduce the fellows to Peak Performance concepts.  They will practice and then teach visualization and breath work to develop an understanding of the Power of Presence, and will incorporate Finding Flow through a range of physically challenging activities that allow students to choose their optimal challenge level.

Alliance High School

PORTLAND, OR – Alliance High School is an alternative public high school focused on helping students gain the credits they need to graduate and the skills necessary for future success. Miguel Mejia, a math teacher and instructional coach, contacted The Art of Learning Project with an interest in developing a program that would support both the teachers and students in stretching themselves further as educators and learners.
“I want to challenge myself, my fellow teachers, and my students in understanding how we each learn best and to push those limits. At our schools we have many students who have been chewed up and spit out by the current educational system – many lack the skills and knowledge of how they can be successful and we, as alternative education teachers, need to help them discover these things so they can be successful in the next chapter of their lives. By exploring and discussing the learning process, I hope that we can all better understand ourselves and build a more supportive and higher performing community.”
The first step in this process is for the staff to read and discuss The Art of Learning and develop a common understanding of the learning principles and how they fit within their school community. From there, Mejia and TAOLP are designing a program using the Resilience principles to support students in changing their mindset about schooling and their potential for future success. The students will explore Beginner’s Mind as a means to bring the element of joy back into the learning process that is often missing for students who are considered behind or not doing well. The staff will focus on Valuing Process Before Results by reflecting on their own work and the process of the school, as well as what changes they can make to bring the joy factor into their students’ learning experiences.

Whittle School and Studios

WASHINGTON DC – The Whittle School and Studios is a prek-12 independent school with an interdisciplinary and mastery based approach to learning. Katarina Slobodova, the Assistant Director of Admissions, Upper School Advisor, and occasional parkour coach, is bringing The Art of Learning principles to her 9th and 10th grade advisory group.
The advisory group meets three times per week and is designed to support students in developing a deeper understanding of themselves as learners, an understanding of the thematic interconnectedness of their academic and athletic pursuits, and a sense of independence and ownership over their learning processes. Slobodova is designing a series of lessons that incorporate The Art of Learning principles into this work. They are beginning by exploring what it means to have a growth mindset and the impact that has on how they work toward academic improvement. They will also look at the balance between personal achievement and the needs of the group or community, how to use a Beginner’s Mind approach in both new and familiar pursuits, and how the principles of Listening First and Using Adversity can help students develop agency over their own learning.
“Reflecting about many of the lessons from The Art of Learning with Katy has helped me move from personal development to professional development,” Slobodova explains. “Resources like The Teacher’s Guide to The Art of Learning have reminded me that a process-oriented mindset (rather than results-oriented) can be shared with students simply by being cognizant about our language use as teachers.”

Heartseed Studio

FLORENCE, KY – Bryan McCartney is the owner and lead teacher at Heartseed Studio, providing private music instruction for students ages 5 through adult. In addition to private lessons, McCartney has taught the music course Guitar Methods at Cincinnati Christian University to music students interested in learning the guitar.
In his time as a music teacher, McCartney has discovered that many students struggle with internal motivation and maintaining a daily structure that allows for dedicated time to improve their musical skills. McCartney has begun his work with The Art of Learning Project with a focus on building his students’ internal motivation. Using the principle of Valuing Process Before Results, he is teaching his students to shift their focus from the end goal of a perfect performance to the incremental steps they need to take along the way. As they meet these incremental goals and see the progress that comes with intentional and focused practice, they will develop a deeper motivation to continue to strive and grow.
Live performances at a local Chick Fil A provide opportunities for Using Adversity and Investment in Loss. The experience of playing in front of an audience gives McCartney’s students the opportunity to practice channeling heightened emotions into higher levels of performance. They have also begun to look at the feedback they have received from these performances to explore how they can continue to improve and grow as musicians.
“One thing that really hit me in The Art of Learning was the idea of finding your inner rest, and creating a series of habits to unlock that rest,” McCartney explained. “I really like this idea of knowing yourself so well, and finding a way to maximize your time when you need to, that you can access calmness in any moment. This is something I hope to teach my students.”

Wuwei Princeton Academy (for SuperKids!)

PRINCETON, NJ

The Wuwei Princeton Academy (for SuperKids!) offers an intensive curriculum in Tai Chi, mindfulness, and optimal performance to help children (grades 2 – 6) thrive. Founder and teacher, Mackenzie Hawkins, had been indirectly incorporating TAOL themes into her classes and wanted to begin teaching the themes directly to the young students who had been studying Tai Chi with her for the past three years. She hoped the themes would facilitate her students’ deeper investigation of how and what they were learning in Tai Chi. The Art of Learning Project’s vision—“When children explore how they learn they become empowered…”—became the main objective for their 12-week semester.

This required teaching TAOL themes directly to young children who were too young to learn them from reading and discussing The Art of Learning book itself. At the same time, Mackenzie didn’t want to teach TAOL themes without, as she said, “the sense of how this one person [Josh Waitzkin] is exploring all of this and taking all of this on. I would like to share that sense with my young students somehow because that’s the role model that helps it feel so real and interconnected.”

Mackenzie used short quotes from the book and The Art of Learning Project website for some of the themes and also wrote 8 short “Josh Stories,” illustrating themes from The Art of Learning book, which the young children could easily read and discuss in class. One story in particular (“The Boy Who Hadn’t Lost in a Year”) had an immediate impact on several of the students, enabling them to take on harder challenges with less stress. Mackenzie wrote after class that day, “As a teacher, I just can’t tell you how grateful I am for this.” She joked that Waitzkin’s stories should come with a caution label: May impact lives!

To further make TAOL themes more accessible for younger children, Mackenzie gave the learning themes more immediately descriptive names with easier words for kids, as well as linked them to visual cards (and stickers) based on the icons from The Art of Learning Project website. (Mackenzie created a Carving our Path PDF to give an overview of how she adapted the theme names and grouped them into three categories: Guiding, Discovering, and Applying. There are also PDFs of TAOL theme cards with the original names in the Tools for Educators and Coaches section of our website.)

For the first half of the semester, the children practiced and learned Tai Chi, using the challenges and reflections built into their SuperKid Game to explore their own learning through TAOL themes. During the second half of the semester, the children were given the challenge of designing their own Tai Chi independent practice plans based on TAOL themes, executing these plans in 10-15 minute practice sessions, and journaling about their experience. Mackenzie was thrilled with how the themes gave students both freedom and structure as learners because students could practice any aspect of Tai Chi they wanted to—in any way they wanted to—while using TAOL themes in doing so. With their heightened engagement and sense of self-reliance, the children naturally deepened their practice of Tai Chi during these independent practice sessions. Mackenzie wrote, “I can’t teach kids this ‘from the outside.’ Only when SuperKids are empowered as ‘captains’ of their own learning experience can they learn at this level.” (Throughout the semester, Mackenzie wrote in-depth parent emails describing the journey she and her students took together, including many samples of student work and comments. You can find her Wuwei Princeton Parent Emails – TAOL here.)

To “bring it all together” as a capstone project for the semester, the children could pick any skill that they wanted to get better at, such as playing a sport or musical instrument, and use TAOL themes to design, execute, and journal 12 independent practice sessions over 4 weeks in order to be awarded the Declaration of Independent Learner Badge.

In the final weeks, the children also prepared to host their Being Your Best Summit where they would have Q&A about learning with a very special guest, jazz musician Rudresh Mahanthappa. Through the lens of TAOL themes, the children read transcripts of Mahanthappa’s insights into how he excels as a jazz improviser and composer. Mackenzie reported that the children loved making “webs of connections” between the themes and would eagerly discuss how interrelated they are with each other. The children each gave BestX Talks (their own version of Tedx Talks) at their Being Your Best Summit, and one of the children’s speeches is featured in the Learning Journal Blog post “A Real Learner. Another student’s “webs of learning connections” and TAOL insight notes are available under Student Work.

“What I have loved so much about the learning themes,” says Mackenzie, “is that they’ve been a way for us to connect the very specific to the very general—and everything in-between. There’s been a lot of moments this semester, when I’ve felt like saying, ‘Whoa—and wow!’” She continues, “It’s my poorly-kept secret that I teach what I need myself and what I wish I had learned earlier. What if I could have grown up with learning themes and with the sense of empowerment about my own learning process that came with them? What if I could have grown up with a role model showing how it was possible to develop oneself as a learner (of anything)? That would have been cool—and oh so helpful.”