I try to limit the posting of Youtube videos to my Wednesday Watchlist posts and I also try not to comment on the videos I post because in my selection criteria I require that a great video speaks for itself. But after watching this video from Simon Sinek this past weekend I realized that I need to post and share this video as soon as possible. Sinek offers a biological and anthropomorphic explanation of effective leadership and what happens when we don’t have it that I believe everyone needs to watch. The following explanation of the responsibility or cost of leadership is a small sampling of Sinek’s exceptional perspective:
Leadership/alpha comes at a cost. You see we expect that when danger threatens us from the outside that the person who’s actually stronger, the person who’s better fed and the person who is actually teeming with serotonin who actually has higher confidence the rest of us; we expect them to run toward the danger to protect us. This is what it means to be a leader. The cost of leadership is self-interest. If you’re not willing to give up your perks when it matters then you probably shouldn’t get promoted. You might be an authority but you will not be a leader. Leadership comes at a cost. You don’t get to do less work you get to do more. You have to do more work and the more work you have to do is put yourself at risk to look after others. That is the anthropological definition of what a leader is.
I haven’t yet read Sinek’s latest book Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t but if his book is even a fraction as good as this talk I am looking forward to exploring his thought further.
My first reaction after reading this National Post article is that the reporter is playing the sensationalism card. My second reaction was frustration. These types of polemics are frustrating because the average reader will not be fully aware of what discovery or inquiry based learning really are. If the reader simply relies upon the content of the article it would appear that Alberta students will be left on their own to not only figure out how to learn but what to learn.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Constructivist models like discovery and inquiry-based learning, if well implemented, will provide a structure for openness which addresses the critics main concern that students need a structure. The best way to understand a structure for openness is to consider Apple products. On the surface they are elegantly simple and easy to use but to achieve the elegance and simplicity the structure and programming underneath are extremely completed. Similarly inquiry-based learning environments require a very well thought out structure that underlies the openness and freedom.
Furthermore inquiry-based learning by its design has built in scaffolding and additional supports that enable the learner to discover, explore and inquire in a supported fashion. So this alarmist notion that students are “left on their own” to learn is just typical reaction from a concerned but uniformed source. The key to the success of inquiry-based learning is the implementation and paradoxically how it is structured.
When I was at ACU we developed on a Gates Foundation funded research initiative called the Mobile Enhanced Inquiry Based Learning (MEIBL) project in which we used mobile technology as the tool to provide the scaffolding that is necessary for inquiry based learning in introductory undergraduate chemistry and biology classes. Videos of lab lectures, procedures, access to databases of information and much more were available to students on their mobile devices which provided a scaffold and helped them gain experience with scientific discovery process. Because of the scaffolding enabled by the mobile devices the instructor had more time to work with students in a mentorship role which enabled the students to go much deeper into their studies and explore subjects in ways they could not do in a traditional drill and grill classroom. The students “did science” rather than just “learn about science” and when combined with the additional time the instructor had to mentor the leaner their success and grades revealed that this approached worked as well and often better then traditional classes.
Bottom line — if inquiry based learning is done right it is great. However, if it isn’t then the critics are may be right. Time will tell how well it is implemented in Alberta.