So, what can we do to think differently? From a wide variety of research in both the social and business sectors, we suggest there are 3 key changes to consider, particularly in (but not exclusively to) education:

1. Focus on learning not on results.

Results are vital to understand progress: a focus on results alone will lead to behaviour designed to achieve those results without understanding how best to achieve it. If we instead focus on individual learning, then we will get both learning and the results too.

It is right to think “if I can’t measure it, I can’t manage it.”
However, it is also right to think “If I can’t understand it, I can’t change it.”

2. Bottom up not top down.

Direction and exhortations from government lead to a one-size-fits-all solution, which is currently not of value to all (remember, the issues above are not improving). Instead, local needs should be met with appropriate, evidence-based development and improvement of practice at a local level. Improve professionalism, individuality and creativity – from the bottom up, not the top down.

It is possible to look at relevant research available, then pick the research that we think will deliver one or more of the 6 goals (above), and apply it appropriately in our context. When we apply it to all contexts, or out of context, we fail to consider local issues or individual realities.

3. Find how the individual is intelligent, rather than how intelligent the individual is.

Find young people’s interests and talents, then support and nurture them as far as possible. When there is individual purpose, other key skills – including vital literacy and numeracy – will then follow.

Forcing schools to focus excessively on maths and English for example, can ignore the needs of the individual child. There is in fact no evidence that achieving GCSE maths and English will make children successful and happy for the rest of their lives: finding what makes them tick, and helping them excel in it, will.

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