Sunday, 24 June 2012

From 3 R's to 4 P's

At a recent meeting in Vancouver educators from a number of BC school districts discussed what it will take to ensure that students keep getting quality teaching and learning experiences as they move deeper into the 21st century. Hard to believe but we are already more than a decade into the new century and still many educators talk like its something new. In the last century education dedicated itself to providing students access and proficiency in the 3 R's - reading, writing, and arithmetic. (As an English teacher, it still seems ironic that alliteration took precedence over spelling!) In the new century it appears that the R's, while still important, may need to give space to three P's - play, passion and purpose, if education is to keep students meaningfully engaged.

3 P's are prominently featured in Tony Wagner's book "Creating Innovators - The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World". Wagner identifies a pattern—a childhood of creative play leading  to deep-seated interests, which in adolescence and adulthood blossom into a deeper purpose for career and life goals. Play, passion, and purpose become the forces that drive young innovators. Wagner also discusses the education system and how it might better promote such a pattern.

Certainly the the three P's resonate within the BC education system. Though elements of all three P's should be present throughout a student's school career, the play, passion, purpose progression aligns neatly with the primary - intermediate - secondary system currently evolving in Peace River North.  Channeling the energy and enthusiasm that is common within our primary grades into increasingly individualized learning in the often turbulent middle years, should generate secondary students who learn with purpose and drive.

A strength of such a system is that everyone has a role to play. Educators certainly need to innovate and engage students, but the students themselves, and their families have to play their part. Awakening, developing and exploring possibilities must be a shared responsibility, and all parties need to keep the others accountable. Tuning out and turning off when things get hard or do not come easily cannot be an option regardless of whether one is in the class, in front of it or supporting it from home. Partnership becomes the fourth, and possibly most important P!

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