Home' Capricornus Quarterly : CQ April 2016 Contents 17
Educator Dan Haesler reminds us that learning is all about
the journey, not the destination, writes Mike Donahue
It’s odd that the kid from Manchester
who wasn’t really learning much in high
school in 1995 has become a leading
education analyst and commentator
in Australia and the Asia Pacific.
“Purely by chance a teacher came up to
me during a Study Period – in which I was
doing precisely no study – and said you’re
wasting time here;
go teach Year 7s to
play rugby. From
there I discovered
sport and working
with young people
were two things I
could see myself
doing long term. That was my fluke – that
teacher didn’t have to do that – but we
can’t leave this generation’s education and
future to chance,” explained Dan Haesler,
a former community outreach worker and
veteran teacher now based in Sydney.
He worked with parents, teachers
and students at RGS in March.
Focusing on the relationships between
engagement, wellbeing, achievement
and leadership, Haesler’s overarching
message to the RGS community – during
a series of workshops and lectures – was
that students don’t necessarily need
to be smart in the conventional sense,
but instead, adaptive. That is, they
need to be flexible and always willing
to learn new ways of doing things.
“We want to ensure that kids are
learning things now and that they are
developing skills that will help them
to re-learn, master and unlearn in the
future,” says the deep-learning advocate.
“So many people buy into the idea
that education is a competition or a
race for who does best on the next
exam. Peer against peer. School against
school. The West against Asia.”
He is especially concerned about
boys and girls who are too performance
oriented and only care about the
next exam or assignment.
we need to
realise is that
mindset is not
and it’s not
good for their
he told an evening audience of parents in
the Islay Lee Learning Centre Theatre.
Students anywhere, according to
Haesler, can become engulfed in a culture
of performance, competition and anxiety.
“If you’re focused on being the best
and that is your only aim, then by any
definition any success by your peers
Students don’t necessarily need to be smart in the conventional
sense, but instead, adaptive. That is, they need to be flexible
and always willing to learn new ways of doing things.
is a threat to you and so rather than
being inspired by the success of others,
which is a wonderful way to think
about peer group learning, it becomes
undermined. We are threatened
by it and we become jealous of it. It
becomes a negative motivator that is
not conducive to deeper learning or to
children pushing their boundaries.”
He warns that unhealthy learning
patterns, which can develop as early
as pre-School, can have a dramatic
effect on a child’s mindset.
“Children can either develop a
more fixed mindset in which they
believe their basic qualities, like their
intelligence or talent, are simply fixed
traits; or a growth mindset in which
people believe that their most basic
abilities can be developed through
hard work. In a growth mindset brains
and talent are just the starting point .”
Crucial to the success of this type
of learning, or growth mindset, is
providing students with multiple
opportunities to demonstrate and build
on what they know according to RGS
Dean of Studies, Dr Michelle Waller.
“T he School’s learning framework
is in fact centred on the idea of deep
learning. For example, we employ
big question topics that require
students to think flexibility and
explore knowledge,” says Dr Waller.
“This type of learning experience
fosters a growth mindset in students
as it allows them to make mistakes
and learn from them at School.”
Children also need to be encouraged
to take reasonable risks, make mistakes
and learn at home, pleads Haesler.
“I tell parents don’t be an expert or
the oracle at the dinner table. Just be
an example. Be mindful of what your
children need, not what they want. Think
about how you view your potential and
capabilities. We tend to think potential
is limited to teens and kids but wherever
we are in life we have untapped potential.
Consider how we articulate that on a
day-to-day basis and how we demonstrate
that,” suggests the father of two.
Grades, high grades, are important
says Haesler but not at the expense
of “meaningful” learning.
“Children with a growth mindset
want to go deeper, learn more and do a
good job. Children with a fixed mindset
only do it for the teacher or mum or
dad. And they just do a good enough
job. There’s a big difference.”
For more from Dan Haesler go to his
Don’t play down
your potential, but
don’t expect the
red carpet either
Dan Haesler, education analyst and
writer, spoke with RGS Year 11 and 12
students about their learning potential
Q: What did you learn
from the students?
A: We talked about Dream-Believe-Achieve
and I learned that this a really motivated
and cohesive cohort, enthusiastic about
their School and the future. Some probably
play down their potential, though, feeling
afraid of the hard work and failures it
takes to be really successful. That is not
uncommon at all. With the whole Dream-
Believe-Achieve rhetoric, the most important
aspect – hard work – is often neglected. I
was encouraged by those who said it was
important to be willing to struggle. In my
experience a lot of young people today
are not willing to struggle long enough.
Q: Is that a generational thing?
A: No, but I think this generation has
done more than any other generation to
outsource their sense of self to others.
And that is partly [my generation’s] fault.
I mean when did Pass-the-parcel change
its rules from one kid gets the prize to
everyone gets a prize? It happened when
we thought we needed to make sure
everyone needed to be happy and accepted
all the time. Here they are now taking 35
selfies a day putting them through 35
filters to make them look a certain way
and spending all day checking how many
people like them. Don’t get me wrong, my
kids are wonderful to me but what I am
saying to them and others is don’t expect
everyone to roll out the red carpet for you.
That just doesn’t happen nor should it.
In classrooms where deeper learning
is the focus, you find students who are
motivated, challenged and look for ward
to their next assignment. They apply
what they have learned in one subject
area to newly encountered situations
in another. They can see how their
classwork relates to real life. They
are gaining an indispensable set of
knowledge, skills, and beliefs, including:
Mastery of Core Academic
Content: Students build their
academic foundation in subjects like
reading, writing, math, and science.
They underst and key principles
and procedures, recall facts, use the
correct language, and draw on their
knowledge to complete new ta sks.
Critical Thinking and Problem
Solving: Students think critically,
analytically, and creatively. They
know how to find, evaluate, and
synthesize information to construct
arguments. They can design their
own solutions to complex problems.
students work well in teams. They
communicate and understand multiple
points of view and they know how to
cooperate to achieve a shared goal.
Effective Communication: Students
communicate effectively in writing and
in oral presentations. They str ucture
information in meaningful ways, listen
to and give feedback, and construct
messages for particular audiences.
Self-directed Learning: Students
develop an ability to direct their own
learning. They set goals, monitor
their own progress, and reflect
on their own strengths and areas
for improvement. They learn to
see setbacks as opportunities for
feedback and growth. Students who
learn through self-direction are
more adaptive than their peers.
An Academic Mindset: Students with
an academic mindset have a strong
belief in themselves. They trust their
ow n abilities and believe their hard
work will pay off, so they persist to
overcome obst acles. They also learn
from and support each other. They see
the relevance of their schoolwork to the
real world and their own future success.
Dan Haesler with Senior School students Jack Brandon, Gabrielle Matthews, Lachlan Jewell, Aniqa Hussain and Anirudh Chipiri.
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