Ultimate Goal and Destination
Jim Knight, author of Why Teacher Autonomy Is Central to Coaching?, notes teaching is a complex task. Knight compares it to like raising a child, with no formula or simple steps to follow to a predictable outcome. If teaching is a complex task, there should be a roadmap to show you where to go and how to get there. The key to untangle the complex task is to understand the Three Legs of a Stool concept.
Three Legs of a Stool Concept
I learned this concept from the article “Empower Students Through Creativity and Choice”. The article uses the three legs of a stool to represent academic knowledge, social emotional learning, and transferable skills. These three key areas support and empower student success. They are interconnected to form a whole child’s well-being. Without the three legs, the stool will not stand. However, with a strong foundation in each of these three areas, our students will have a stable base that can support and empower them throughout their college, career, and personal lives. I believe this is the ultimate goal and destination for teaching and learning.
How do you empower students throughout their schooling? I struggle to come up with an answer throughout my 19 years of teaching. When I read the article “Empower Students Through Creativity and Choice”, I began to understand that academic knowledge is not enough, because a child is a human being with feelings, emotions, and cognitive ability to think for himself or herself. A child needs guidance to figure out what is important and what is right or wrong. This is where three key areas to support and empower student success come in:
1. Academic Knowledge
2. Transferable Skills
3. Social and Emotional Skills
The descriptions of three key areas paint a big picture to help you connect the dots in the complex tasks of teaching. You can think of it as the foundation of a house. Each of the key areas needs a solid framework, where our students will have a stable base that can support and empower them throughout their college, career, and personal lives. I list each description from the “Empower Students Through Creativity and Choice” article:
1. Academic Knowledge: Academic achievement is important, and it is a central mission of K–12 schools. Curriculum maps determine the courses we teach, and academic outcomes shape the lessons we create. Standardized tests often measure progress toward graduation, as well as whether our students are accepted to the college of their choice. Despite the importance of academic learning, most teachers will tell you that academics alone are not enough. While academic knowledge can provide a strong foundation, it is not the entire house.
2. Transferable Skills: If you ask employers what skills and attributes they are looking for in their employees, they will consistently mention things like the ability to communicate, collaborate, create, and think critically. This core skill set is commonly referred to as the 4 Cs, and was first popularized by The Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21). In addition to the 4 Cs, most employers also include a growth mindset and desire to learn in their list of essential skills. Employers are acutely aware that the specific nuts and bolts of any job will continue to change over time. They look to hire people with a strong foundation of transferable skills that will allow them to thrive regardless of how their specific job evolves. Because of their importance to future success, these core transferable skills should be woven into lessons in every subject area.
3. Social and Emotional Skills: Often described as “intangibles,” these social and emotional skills are essential to student success, because they empower students to work through their struggles, manage their emotions, stick to a task, and understand how their behavior impacts others. Without the social and emotional skills of grit, self-regulation, empathy, citizenship, and self-motivation, students may never get to the point where they can successfully apply their academic and transferable skills. It is critical that we embed social and emotional skill building into all learning.
When you read each of the three key areas, it makes a lot of sense. Academic knowledge involves achievement, curriculum we teach, and standardized tests. They are important, but that’s just part of the big picture you use to connect the dots. Transferable skills involve employers looking for their employees that they will consistently mention things like the ability to communicate, collaborate, create, and think critically. So the employees can thrive regardless of how their specific job evolves. Another part of the puzzle to add to the big picture. Social and Emotional Skills empower students to work through their struggles, manage their emotions, stick to a task, and understand how their behavior impacts others. It is the last part of the puzzle that paints the whole picture of how to empower students to take ownership of learning, which leads to the ultimate destination and goal.