Teaching Kids How To “Think Great Thoughts”: Educating Tomorrow’s Leaders

I have written a great deal in my blog about medical education in the US today.  Medicine is rapidly changing and we must continue to evolve the way we educate medical students in order to keep pace.  As we continue to strive to develop more patient centered, technology based instruction in US medical schools, I have reflected on the way in which we prepare students for college and professional schools.   The successful primary and secondary school student is the raw material from which exceptional physicians are created.  A love of learning is essential to a student’s success in any institute of higher learning and I would argue that  a student’s attitude towards education begins upon initiation to a formal education system.  Without motivated, engaged students who are well prepared for college and for life in the ever-changing world, we are not able to effectively educate the doctors of tomorrow. In the interest of full disclosure, I have no formal degree in education; However, as a physician and life long learner,  I have been involved in academic activities for most of my life.  I have a passion for learning and hope that today’s school children will as well.

In a recent blog published on the NPR website, author Will Richardson suggests that we not only incorporate technology but promote communication and interaction among students and learning communities.  Social media offers unique opportunities for students in diverse geographies to connect and work and learn together.  Mr Richardson goes on to suggest that we must create a learning environment in which students are motivated to do schoolwork not only for the grades they receive but for the works that they are able to create and the value these works may have in the real world.   Students must learn to look not only at their final product but critically examine the journey or process that leads to the endpoint.   Through introspection and observation, learners are able to adjust to different environments and are better able to meet new challenges with confidence.We must educate our children in a way that results in effective, responsible and productive workers that are able to embrace and utilize technology together.  Education in the US must promote free thinking, creativity and practical application of knowledge in order to foster the development of future doctors, entrepreneurs, scientists and other highly-skilled professionals.

As a parent of a middle school child, my wife and I remain engaged and involved in her journey through school.  Like any pre-teen, she has dreams and career ambitions for later in life; my daughter wants to be a veterinarian.  We are fortunate to attend Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, NC where innovative approaches to education are the norm.  For example, rather than learning about chemistry and physical science from a textbook, the 6th grade science class is producing an episode of CSI(Crime Scene Investigation) for parents.  Students have crafted a crime scene and parents have to investigate the crime using physical evidence provided by the students.  The students spend weeks learning about forensics and the science involved in crime scene investigation.  They work together, engage one another in academic interchange and eventually apply what they have learned in a way that goes well beyond a written test.

No longer is the traditional paradigm of reading a textbook, memorizing concepts and regurgitating factual answers on tests an adequate education.  We must teach our children to think and apply concepts in today’s world in everyday situations.  We must motivate students to seek out answers to questions.  Students must be taught the important skill of  regular self assessment; they must learn to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses.  Moreover, we must promote learning opportunities that help students learn to collaborate with one another and incorporate technology to solve problems.  Our students must learn to think globally in order to be successful in the future.  Now, more than ever, we are connected.  Social media outlets allow for easy communication and interaction.  Social media has made the world smaller and allowed students to reach further with single keystrokes.

If we as a society are able to transform education at the primary school level, we will be able to better develop young minds along the way.  Great minds are both born AND bred–Schools must now focus more on the journey so that students may “think great thoughts” along the way.

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