Purpose In Learning

I have been doing a lot of work over the past two years at World Leadership School to define what Purpose Learning is and what it can look like in schools. Clearly, the idea of purpose identification and clarification is not new and something that people struggle with seemingly as they get older and more settled into their lives and careers. What we have been considering is how can we help students begin to clarify their own sense of purpose at a younger age. This generation is under immense pressure to perform. They are put onto the conveyor belt of education as soon as they enter formal schooling with one goal in mind…COLLEGE. They are pushed along and encouraged to take this class but not that one for fear they might not get an ‘A’ in that one, to play this sport but not do that play, to not get a job because it would distract from their school work, to volunteer a prescribed number of hours to boost their resumes, and to focus 100% on themselves all the time so that the can achieve “their” goal. If this is so satisfying and clear for students, then why does the data suggest that students have never been more dissatisfied? Depression is at an all time high, disordered eating and self harm are sky-rocketing, (attempted) suicide rates are astronomical, and our kids are stressed out to the max. Bill Damon, of Stanford’s d.School, has said that “the biggest problem growing up today is not actually stress, it’s meaninglessness”. Our kids don’t know what they are doing or why they are doing it. College is a goal thrust upon them rather than one they identify for themselves and we, as the adults in their lives, need to reconsider what we are presenting as important to students. Hence, this deep dive into Purpose Learning. So, the more I thought about this the more it became clear that we need a framework that we can use as supportive measures to our curriculum that will provide tools for deep engagement and opportunities for purpose exploration WHILE we teach our content.

Purpose Matrix This matrix presents the WHY of Purpose Learning, which is to develop the whole child, the head (which we do an incredible job of already in schools), the heart (connection to the world outside of self), and the hands (taking action). The HOW component was taken from Andrea Savari’s Redefining Readiness Report (2017) focused on core social emotional skills. The HOW component of each are the tools that teachers can use to get at these skills through their curriculum and their teaching. My hope is that this framework will provide ideas for teachers to shift from content centered classes to more skill development and purpose exploration classes through the lens of the content.  Let me know your thoughts on this and if you think it would be useful for teachers.

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