Ready Them to Learn for a Lifetime

Matt Orourke Blog Catalytic Conversations

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I recently spoke with Carolyn Mooney at the Chronicle of Higher Education for an article she was preparing to take the pulse of Chief Learning Officers on what they’re looking for from new grads. She asked “If you could persuade colleges to do one more thing to prepare students for the workplace, what would it be?” Here was my take: 1024px-College_graduate_students Ready them to learn for a lifetime. “Lifetime learning” is such a facile phrase that we almost take it for granted—especially in education. However, it is absolutely a differentiator in today’s world of work. We need team members who are curious and capable of learning more and more often. In his book on elite athletes, Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes—and What We Can Learn from Them, Mark McClusky argues that “the ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.” fasterhigherstrongerbook-coverIn our work—which involves technology, data science, software development, and experimenting with policy and practice to tackle challenges around helping more students learn well and finish strong in higher education—team members who are power learners are a must. Like many emerging industries, there are few simple, repetitive elements to our daily work. One key element of being a power lifetime learner is the ability to build and engage a broad personal learning network and draw from diverse disciplines to solve new and novel problems. This means our team members have to read broadly, be open to connecting seemingly unrelated contexts and people, and be willing to learn from the good work of others. Moreover, they need to be able to synthesize, analyze, and utilize insights from these diverse deep dives and bring them back to challenge our thinking, spark our interest, and solve problems. Then, they especially need to be able to move from learning to action in a disciplined and tenacious way, with a good dose of humility and humor. The admonition “take your work and learning seriously, and yourself lightly” is spot on in our company. This kind of learning preparation is not simple stuff. While it has long been the heart of the liberal arts and essential in the best of science and technology education, it seems harder to find in recent graduates. So, to directly answer your question: Regardless of the discipline, an education journey that prepares students to learn well, learn often, learn broadly, learn with others, and bring purpose, tenacity, and grit to bear to use the learning to solve big problems—usually on diverse and often globally connected teams—would be ideal.
To view the entire article which included important insights from James O’Hern (Conference Board), Gus Schmedlen (Hewlett-Packard), Steven Farr (Teach for America) link here.

Graduate photo credit: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. This image was originally posted to Flickr by Kit from Pittsburgh, USA (Grads Absorb the News) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons”

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