Saturday, 23 July 2016

Thought Leader - Dr Yong Zhao

Dr Yong Zhao


I was lucky enough to hear this amazing educator talk at Christ's College in Christchurch on Friday. He was entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time. Many laughs were had and many conversations were held about how his research and ideas would challenge our way of teaching and how we think our students learn best.
This blogs is a summary of my notes from the talk. Most of the information he  gave us in his talk is on his website (I have linked to some of his blogs), but I wanted to sum up what I felt were the main points.

What makes a good educator?

 What we mainly focus on now is the curriculum. Students should be able to do this and know that. For example, in the USA they focus on language and math. We want to prescribe best possible programme for students to achieve but so much is based on assessment and content. See Dr Zhao's blog on A World at Risk: An Imperative for a Paradigm Shift to Cultivate 21st Century Learners

Parents want to know who is better so we rank students and we rank schools (PISA).
What we need is transformation. In an interesting story about his childhood, Dr Zhao showed how useless it was as a farmer to go to school. He also showed that in one place you can be useless and in another you can be useful. It's about finding what your place is.


Disengaged students.
Youth unemployment. This generation had more education than any other generation but still in the USA there are over 50% underemployed or unemployed.
Boomerang generation  - average of $20,000 in debt.
See his blog on College Ready vs Out-of-Basement Ready for expansion on this.

Equity issues

He talked about talent being the potential to learn something. Being talented in math means you can learn faster. Everyone is talented in some area. Nature gives us the ability, nurture gives us the opportunity. Are you exposing students to lots so they can find out if they are good at it? Just because they can learn something doesn't mean they will be good at it. School can narrow us down from our talents.

He talked about the 16 basic human motivators and their object of desire by Dr Steven Reiss, which he related to education. Some people are naturally more curious than others. Some people love to run or ski because they get energy from it, but others are not interested. If we look at these motivators, there are a lot of bell curves and we could be high on some and low on others.

At the moment we want to turn students into homogenous students who can all do the same things. He related this to a sausage making process. If you want sausages then a sausage making machine is good.  However, we do not produce great kids. Lady Gaga would be useless on a production line.
Universities have students who play the game, get their degree but can't find a job. They have played the game but the game no longer works. We are delivering the wrong education.

This picture shows the types of jobs  and the change over time.  We can see the changes that the Industrial Revolution had in the 1800s and then in the 1950s when technology became more prevalent. We are now entering the 4th Industrial Revolution with smart machines and computers doing a lot of the work. He talked about the flow-on effect from just one area - driverless cars. Once we have those then many other jobs will become redundant. Police Officers, Traffic light controllers, no job is safe.
On the other hand it brings new opportunities.  You can drink more wine becuase there won't be drink driving issues, people will want new things in cars that they can do while travelling. There will be more leisure time and more disposable income. In this age of abundance you consume more. When it is personal it is better because you have choice.
 He talked about shampoo - you have a huge choice. So many people involved, from producers to advertisers.
 When you are not useful in one area, you can be useful in another. He talked about Kim Kardashian who is famous for being well known! He used the story of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer being brought up where the national standard for noses was black. Rudolph became famous because he was unique and had a global following.

New paradigm of education

He suggested reading "The End of Average" by Todd Rose
Every student comes to us unique so we need a student driven and personalised profile. We need to find out what they have and develop it fully. Get students to discover strengths and weaknesses for themselves. This then changes the effect of schooling. Schools should give students opportunities to shine.

Product-oriented learning

The last section was about identifying problems worth solving. Are we bettering people's lives? Entrepreneurship was highlighted with particular comments around projects outlined on . One in particular he talked about was  a group of students setting up a business that made a lot of money which they then gave to charity. Every child played a role and they ran it as a company that played to their strengths. Each student had something to offer and it was shown on a global campus.

The following are taken from his book "World Class Learners" which has some great questions for educators to think about. Here is a Youtube clip to watch as well.

Student Autonomy - What

Product-Oriented Learning - How

Global Campus - Where

We can learn from, with, and for everyone in the world.
When you assess something you lose something. Top scores have been shown to correleate to low confidence and interest. This might improve test reading score but then they may hate reading for ever.
We need to foster curiosity. If you teach a 4 yr old how to play with a toy, they will learn quickly but lose interest quickly.
We need to ask businesses to sponsor schools to support change. Businesses do not lie in the past. Education does not have enough funds to be innovative.  We need a diversity of ideas, institutions and practise. Encourage local students, staff. Teachers need to be a curator and create learning opportunities with feedback.  Students need to be free to play.

I really enjoyed the morning and certainly have a lot more reading to do. I know I am on the right track with what I am doing in my classes. It was nice to have some validation for this and ideas on what I can improve on.
 I think we worry so much about teaching we forget about learning. Leave students to do it themselves and just guide them in their passions.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Sue for this great blog on Dr Yong Zhao, I also really enjoyed hearing his talk and felt it was in line with what I believe and am trying to do in my course. The talk gave me a lot to think about and gave me the courage to try a range of new things to make learning meaningful and relevant to my students in the world we now live in. Vicki Dixon