We can’t overemphasize the importance of discovery of gifts and calling, which exudes confidence and courage. Thus every student should have the opportunity to be engaged in interdisciplinary experiences that matter.
We are successful when our graduates holistically flourish.
Education at many levels and places is under attack. And rightly so.
- Questions about curriculum in our schools continue to swirl in political debates around the country. The question seems to be: How can we pour content knowledge into students to transform them into skilled workers and citizens?
- Stories of mistreatment of students in athletic and academic programs at all levels, from little league to professional league, are frequently in the headlines. The question seems to be: How far are willing to go to win?
- Lack of access to high quality education remains an injustice throughout the world. The question seems to be: What is it going to cost us?
- The cost of education and student debt levels continue to rise, but median incomes continue to stagnate and fall as do opportunities for meaningful work. The question seems to be: how do we maintain the status quo?
One thing is clear. We can do a better job educating our next generation of leaders. So what’s the problem?
The problem is we aren’t asking the right questions, such as
- Why are we doing what we are doing?
- What leads to students’ long-term holistic flourishing in life and career?
- How do we solve the innovators’ dilemma?*
Education is connected to students’ well-being. Which is exactly why providing Experiences That Matter is necessary in preparing our next generation of leaders. But what kind of experiences?
Research from Gallup indicates that people who work according to their strengths are 6.0x more likely to be engaged in a career; and people engaged in a career are 4.6x more likely to experience well-being or human flourishing.
We believe the goal of education is shalom, or human flourishing.
God created us to work and manage his creation. Humans flourish when they have the opportunity to be engaged at work. They are engaged at work when they have the opportunity to discover, develop, and use their talents.
Therefore, we believe education should emphasize these attributes.
- Calling. All work matters to God and is fundamentally holistic and spiritual in nature. We all been given gifts and passion to flourish — which we cannot do alone. The questions are: what gifts do we have and how do we best use them? And what are we passionate about — that is, what do we choose to suffer for? At CFL our passion is to help students discover, develop, and use their gifts by co-creating work experiences that matter so that they — uniquely gifted people — contribute to the well-being of others as part of God’s grand movement in history.
- Career-orientation. There is a connection between long-term well-being and engagement in a career; and between engagement in a career and understanding one’s gifts and the gifts of others.
- Centeredness (on Holistic Student Development). Not athletics, not employers, not faculty, not scholarship; the focus of education is students’ holistic development.
- Coaching. We can better understand our gifts and calling if we engage with people who have been there — they are generally wiser than we are.
- Collaborative, Community-based, Cross-Cultural, Cross-Disciplinary, and Cross-Generational Learning. People aren’t give the dignity the deserve, problems aren’t understood, movements don’t happen, the world doesn’t change, and people don’t flourish when each of us works alone. We all have something valuable to contribute.
- Complementation (with the Liberal Arts). Co-curricular action learning with coaching and mentoring complements a liberal arts education because it adds value: it enhances critical thinking and launches students into the marketplace. Learning experiences outside of the classroom are as important as learning experiences within it. As John Dewey said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
- Critical Thinking. Understanding context from the perspectives of others is vitally important for understanding problems, creating change, and launching movements. We believe engaging students in significant projects with coaches and mentors will enhance students’ critical thinking skills beyond what is learned in a liberal arts education.
How can we put these values to work?
A specific question for us at liberal arts colleges is How do we fuse liberal and professional learning?
We believe part of the answer is to allow liberal arts course to engaging in pedagogies that are typically used in business education (e.g., project-based learning, community involvement, consulting) and business education courses to engage in traditional skill-building within the liberal arts (e.g., critical thinking, analytical skills, “great books” engagement) both inside class (“curricular”) and outside of class (“co-curricular”) with coaches and mentors.
In fact, I believe that if we assessed the learning of undergraduates using typical liberal arts education assessment measures, and compared these groups, Group #3 would win:
- Students who engaged in traditional liberal arts pedagogies
- Students who engaged in traditional business education pedagogies
- Students who engaged in business and liberal arts pedagogies both within and outside of class.
Group #3 would score highest because of coaching. We can’t overemphasize the importance of discovery of gifts and calling, which exudes confidence and courage.
Thus every student should have the opportunity to be engaged in experiences that matter.
*This is the innovator’s dilemma: how can we devote scarce resources to new idea when our old ideas are so successful? Or, to use a sports metaphor and adapt a saying by hockey great Wayne Gretzky: how to get an organization to focus on where the puck is going to be when no one really knows?