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Why critical thinking, is critical.

What do you think is the most watched Ted Talk of all time? It’s Sir Ken Robinson’s Do Schools Kill Creativity? It challenges us to rethink our school systems, to acknowledge there are multiple ways to learn successfully.

In my career as a teacher I made the very deliberate decision to transition from teaching the VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education, formerly the High School Certificate – simply known as the HSC in Australia) to VCAL – the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning.  For those who aren’t au fait with the nuances of VCAL, essentially the curriculum is geared towards a more hands on (applied) approach to learning, and assessment is focused on outcomesrather than traditional grades or results.

What I loved about VCAL assessment was that it was based on life skills and employability. Nowadays those same skills are referred to as 21st century skills, which includes skills such as verbal communication, problem solving, time management, leadership and teamwork. While the traditional ways of learning are still addressed through assessment, more emphasis is placed on creative and critical thinking in order to solve a problem.

Sir Ken’s fundamental message was that children (and adults too) should be encouraged to use their imagination!

In Australia, education is changing. Task-based learning, working in teams, appointing students to leadership roles amongst peer groups… these are all things that we can benefit from later in life, both personally and professionally. Not all lessons are learned in books – a cliché, but true.  As educators we need to encourage all learners to read widely, to search out subject matter that isn’t enforced by a standard curriculum and to be guided by their intrinsic motivators. Put simply, allow students to go away and learn something they want to learn.

While we’re here, let’s update our definition of text to include digital publishing and non-traditional modes of reading and learning. In the electronic age, it’s also timely to remind ourselves that education is not only about how you remember facts, because anyone with a smartphone has a virtual encyclopedia of reliable information at their fingertips. However, the power of information and how we choose to use it continues to be a defining question for our societies in the future. In an environment where fake news has become a real thing, knowing the facts has become less important than being able to deconstruct the message – an important skill broadly taught across many university degrees.

When I look back at that decision I made nearly 10 years ago, it’s interesting to see what the motivators were that have brought me on a journey into the professional services industry. Working in recruitment, our brief often identifies the hard (technical) skills sought in candidates. Recognising those soft 21st century skills that, along with appropriate knowledge and experience, ultimately determine whether a candidate is a good fit for a particular role, is something I’m proud to say I now specialise in.

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Posted in Education, The world @work

Three words that you might just want to hear: The power of positive language.

What three words best describe you?

Summing yourself up succinctly is no easy feat. Trying to identify yourself with your own words can be difficult at first, but being able to master this challenge can also be a really useful tool in life.

Our lives are never stagnant. Our taste in clothes, food and entertainment evolve continually, and so too can our personality.  As someone who has experienced significant changes over recent years, I believe the ability to re-assess myself has been imperative to my development.

With that in mind, try this simple exercise to see what three positive words could do for you.

Word #1A word to describe you as a person

Write down the word that comes into your head first, but don’t be afraid to write a list. This is not a word about how you’re currently feeling, the idea is about coming up with words that best describe you – quirky, energetic, trustworthy, loyal… Which one resonates the most?

Word #2A word to describe you at work

Are you introverted, engaging, hardworking, analytical, technical, creative, authentic, entrepreneurial? Which of these qualities are you most proud of? How would your leaders describe you?

Word #3A word to describe why people like to be around you

If you asked your family and friends to describe you, what would they say? (Disclaimer: it’s not necessary to ask them for the purpose of this exercise; you may need a thick skin if you do!) Think about times when someone has expressed gratitude or offered you a compliment – that’s the word.

Now that you have your three words, you have the ability to sell yourself. They’re the basis of your personal branding, your motto or your mantra. Reflect on them when you’re standing in line, waiting for a train, or even heading to an interview. While the concept of an ‘elevator pitch’ can sound clichéd, it’s great to have a few good words to say about yourself whenever the opportunity presents itself.

As you put this into practice, you will discover the power of positive language. It may evolve into an internal dialogue that leads to coaching yourself with positive self-talk. It may even be a conscious effort to replace any negativity you encounter with the words you have chosen; the more you focus on those positive words, the less you will worry about what other people think.

This simple exercise has more power than you will likely give it credit for. I challenge you to believe in your words and I’d love to hear about the positive impact they make on your attitude to life, to yourself and others.

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Posted in Education, The world @work