Drawing on two decades of qualitative research as one of the Founding Directors at the Harvard Graduate School of Education Good Project, and sharing insights from recent research on the role of education in a good society, Professor Gardner explored the meaning of good work and civic participation.
Following a 30 minute lecture, Professor Gardner answered questions from the audience as we explored the nature of education and its power as a force for good in society.
Howard Gardner: Greetings. I'm Howard Gardner. I'm speaking to you from the library at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Mass. I'm sorry I can't be with you in person for the celebration at UWC Southeast Asia. But if the technology works, I will be able to have a brief discussion with you after the formal talk. So my talk is divided into three parts.
The first and longest part is a discussion of the research that my colleagues and I have been doing for many years on the question, "what is good work?" In part two, I'll talk about “how do you assess the impact of an enterprise that you've been involved in for a long period of time?” And the third part, I'll speak briefly about a four-year study of the United World Colleges Network, which we've recently completed. So what is good work? This is a question that was posed over 25 years ago by three psychologists from left to right William Damon, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and yours truly, Howard Gardner.
We looked a bit younger in the time of that picture. Unfortunately, Professor Csikszentmihalyi died about a year ago, but Professor Damon and I are continuing this work on Good Work. And the question we asked over 25 years ago is this: how do people who want to do good work succeed or fail? And at the time we said things are changing very quickly.
Our sense of time and space is being radically altered by technology. Market forces are very powerful and there are few if any counter forces of equivalent power. If this sounds like a very timely set of questions, it is because in 2022 we could ask exactly the same set of questions. What did we do? We conducted in-depth interviews with over 1,500 individuals from nine different domains or professions, which included K-12 education, higher education and other professions.
And we talked to people at all different phases of their career: high school students, novices, professionals in training, people in mid-career and veterans or trustees. I should emphasise this work was carried out almost entirely in the United States. 25 years ago and continuing. And so it's an open question to what extent our answers would be applicable in other societies.
But you have to start somewhere and as citizens of the United States that's where we began in 1995. So here's an example of a lawyer we might have interviewed. Here's an example of a physician we might have interviewed. And here someone closer to home is a chemistry teacher whom we might have interviewed. 1,500 interviews, nine different professions.
Each interview lasted about an hour. Some of them went up to two and a half hours. People love to talk about work when they have a sympathetic audience. So what did we discover is good work? We didn't know the answer. That's why we talked to so many people. And we're going to talk about three key findings. The E's of good work, the importance of alignment and what we call circles of responsibility.
And again, these were findings which came from the interviews of over 1,500 people in nine professions, at different stages of their career in the United States. Here's probably the most important finding: good work is composed of three elements - it's excellent, it's engaging, and it's carried out in an ethical manner.
Excellent means the worker knows his or her stuff. Whether they're a lawyer or a journalist or teacher, they know what you're doing.
Engagement is very important. They care. They like going to work. They enjoy their friends, their colleagues. They work extra if needed. Working has meaning for them.
Third and most important for today's talk, they have a sense of what it means to be ethical, and they try very hard to behave in an ethical way. Ethics means what do you do when there's a problem in your work and what you shouldn't do? What you should do is not obvious. You have to think about it. That's what ethics is about.
And if you look at the graphic, we intertwine these three E's and we call it ENA poking fun at DNA. And if you are a good worker, you have an intertwined excellence, engagement and ethics. And if you're interested in the training of good workers, as we are, you have to work on these three E's, these intertwined strands of ENA.
Number two, what's alignment? Alignment is a multi syllabic word meaning: everybody involved with the profession wants the same thing. And when people are aligned it's easier to do good work. So what we found back in 2000, 22 years ago, is that the field of genetics doing research in genetics was well aligned. The researchers, the funders, the medical recipients of information, families all wanted the geneticist to do their work and they didn't get in the way.
This may be less true in 2022, we don't know. But in 2000 genetics was a well aligned field of science. Journalism could not have been more different. Journalists, you have editors who want to do one thing, reporters a second thing, owners of the press, the third thing, people who read the fourth thing, people who advertise a fifth thing. So journalism was massively misaligned and it's much harder to do good work when the different stakeholders have different ideas about what they want.
And a very telling result is we talked to about 100 geneticists and 100 journalists back 25 years ago. We didn't speak to a single journalist, sorry, we didn't speak to a single geneticist who wanted to leave the profession. They all loved what they were doing, studying genetics and trying to figure out how that affects health and well-being.
On the other hand, a third of the journalists whom we interviewed wanted to leave the field of journalism, and this was 22 years ago. And everything we know with the rise of the Internet and social media and what's called alternative facts and different forms of truth make journalism an even less attractive field. So that's the third. The second finding is the importance of alignment.
The third finding is a sense of responsibility. We asked everybody to whom or what do you feel responsible for? This was an incredibly powerful question. In fact, we ended up writing a 400 page book called Responsibility at Work, just discussing how different stakeholders in different fields, different professions, think about responsibility.
Now, this diagram is pretty self-explanatory. If you think about age and stage of development, young people feel mostly responsible to themselves, to me, then to others. People in their family, to friends. Then as they begin to become workers, they feel a certain amount of responsibility at the workplace. And typically it stops there.
But some older people whom we call trustees end up feeling not just responsible for the workplace, but the whole field of law or medicine or science or journalism or education. And they become real leaders, not just of their own profession.
And then the most impressive people are people who believe that they have responsibilities to the whole society. We can think of someone like Mahatma Gandhi who didn't just think about his own group or his own profession, but thought about not just India at the time. But about the whole world. In general, as I say, young people mostly feel responsible for themselves and those circles widen with age. But most of you will know, at least by reputation.
Greta Thunberg, the Swedish leader who isn't yet 20, who since the age of ten has been fighting a worldwide battle for awareness of climate change. She is that rare individual who at a very young age has a sense of responsibility to a larger world. And from what we know about Gandhi and other leaders like Nelson Mandela, they also begin with a very wide sense of responsibility.
We would like to think, well, we figured out what good work is, now we're just going to package it and sell it. And everybody will become a good worker. But it's not an automatic sell. That was a jolt to us. So 20 years ago, actually, 18 years ago, Wendy Fischman and I and two other people wrote a book about making good, how young people cope with moral dilemmas at work.
And one of the powerful but depressing findings from this study is young people. 15, 20 know what good work is. They respect it. But they say that's for later, when they're older, and more successful and more powerful, then they can do good work. But meanwhile, they want to have a pass. They want to be able to become rich and wealthy and successful.
And then they'll do good work and they'll be damned if they relinquish the chance for good work to somebody else who's less scrupulous than they are. So for many young people, not for Greta Thunberg, obviously, or Nelson Mandela, good work is for a later day. And I have a couple of supports for this. This is a spoof from an American newspaper, "Recent graduate figures
she might as well do good in the world until the economy picks up." So good work is a frill here, not a major strand in her life. Then this is a true story from about a decade ago. 125 students at Harvard, the school where I teach, turned out to have cheated on a final exam. And this was a big scandal.
The amusing part of it, if you can be amused by this: this was in a course, called Introduction to Congress. And since the United States Congress deservedly has a very poor reputation, Senate and House of Representatives, perhaps it's not surprising that many people who took that course cheated and they got various penalties. We could discuss how the university dealt with this.
I don't think the university dealt with it very well. This is an article from The New York Times. When there's a scandal at Harvard, it becomes national, if not international news. So two decades later, after the good work study, the study of responsibility, the making good study of young people, we have launched something called TheGoodProject.org.
And the goal of that project is to help people in general, but young people, become good workers. And you can learn as much as you want about Good Project by going to thegoodproject.org. But I want to just tell you about a few of the things we've done. And then we move to the last two parts of the talk. In education, our team is developing lesson plans to inculcate good work in students. It focuses on high school students, but it can be used for Secondary school students. It can be used with younger students, and we're using it in college and professional schools. And indeed, you could use it anywhere where good work - work that's excellent and ethical and engaging - is part of your goal.
Let me give you just two examples of dilemmas in our Good Work toolkit.
Sydney is the editor of her high school newspaper. She's a good editor. Her grandfather was a writer for The New York Times. There's a rape on campus. Very serious. That should be in the newspaper. Everybody should know about it. But she's called in by the headmaster. The headmaster says, look, Sydney, you can't publish this because if you do, the school will get a bad reputation.
People won't come here next year. And so you have to keep it a secret. So she's very confused. She goes home, she tells her mother the story, and her mother says, I'm so proud of you, Sydney, for standing up for your ethics. But, you know, your grandfather would be proud of you, but your younger brother wants to go to that school next year.
And if you get in trouble, maybe he won't be admitted. So this is a real ethical dilemma for Sydney, and I hope it would be an ethical dilemma for anybody who hears that story. What do you do when there's a rape and people need to know about it, but you're not supposed to talk about it. A very different kind of dilemma.
This is Mike. He's a wonderful chemistry teacher. Kids love him. Good teaching manners. Kids learn a lot of chemistry, a lot about science, but they come in to complain to Mike. Mike, they say, you're terrific and we really like you, but you're too tough a grader. Your grades aren't high enough. And so students in other classes get higher grades and they do better in college ranking.
They do better and get into the college they want. So we want you to just raise everybody's grade. In Mike's dilemma because he has high standards and he doesn't want to give grades to students who don't deserve it. So, again, these are not dilemmas where there's a simple, straightforward answer. If you think it's obvious what to do, you haven't taken the dilemma seriously.
But these are the things which we find that students and interestingly teachers like to grapple with. And we would like to believe that it helps to make them into better workers. Here's a fun thing. We give everybody 30 values on 30 sheets of paper, and we ask them to rank them from the most important value to the least important value.
And if you have good eyesight, you can see that they range from spirituality to professional conduct to courage. And the students just rank them and put them aside. Many of them become very engaged. They get on the floor and they move the papers all around. But then later, perhaps the next week, they're asked to make a pie chart.
But how they spend each day, how much time they spend sleeping, being with friends, being on social media, in school, studying, fooling around, playing games, being on Facebook, etc., and the teachers encourage them to compare how they spend their days, how they spend their lives in accordance with their values. And often it's a huge wake up call because you might say that faith is very important or curiousity is very important, or telling the truth is very important, but you don't spend any time doing that.
And again, we hope that this produces some disequilibrium with students and helps them think more about their sense of responsibility. And as I've said, teachers often find these absolutely interesting too. They're not just for 15 years old. They're for anybody who cares about what kind of a person they are and what kind of a worker they are. So let's say you wanted to know what factors encourage good work.
We've identified three, and they're easy to describe. One is vertical support, help from people who are older, experienced, more knowledgeable than you. Though not the editor, not the head of the school, I would say, who didn't want people to know about the rape. Second is horizontal support: your peers what do they value? Your group, your playgroup, your work group, your after school group.
And then what we call wakeup calls when something very good happens, let's say Greta Thunberg addresses the United Nations effectively or when something very bad happens, like a huge cheating scandal at a major university. How do you interpret that? How do you react to it? How do you learn from it? And if you have vertical support, horizontal support, and reflect on these wakeup calls, or booster shots, you're more likely to become a good worker.
Here's another graphic. Three sources of support: parents, teachers, students and their peers. So I've spent a lot of time talking about what we did in the Good Work project. I've given you some of the findings and concepts. I've said that we've become interested in the last few years in trying to encourage good work, not just to understand it, but to promote it.
And I've given you some concepts like vertical support, horizontal support, and wake up calls, which can help to achieve good work. But how do we know whether we're successful? How do we know whether we have had an impact? And in the next part of the talk that's the question that I'm going to try to answer. Impact is a word that we use quite readily.
And if you think about it, it probably comes initially from physics where you have different forces having effects on one another. On the bottom I put a photograph of Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Don't Look Up, the movie about the comet that's about to hit the earth. And that would have had a lot of impact. And those of you who, well if you haven't seen the movie I won't tell you what happened but having a comet hit the earth has a lot of impact.
But when you're looking at any field, you can talk about the ideas and the practices that impact. Here you see Newton, Einstein, Galileo, each of whom have changed our understanding of the physical world and what we can do with the mechanics and the bombs and so on. Also, in education, the various devices which have been invented have impact: slide rule, Skinner Box, distance learning and then something called the book and printing, which of course has had a lot of impact in education.
And then there are people who have impacted education. These faces are probably not so well known to you though their names may on the left you have Maria Montessori who had an enormous impact in the early education of children. On the right, you have A. S. Neill who started the Summerhill schools which leave all the agency for education in the hands of young people.
And in the middle, the man who had enormous influence on United World Colleges, International Baccalaureate, Expeditionary Learning, Kurt Hahn, the German British educator from the earlier part of the 20th century. So you can have impact in different fields and you can have impact in different ways.
So let's go back to The Good Project. If we wanted to know whether our writings - we've written ten books and countless articles - or our curricula which are hosted, or our courses, which we've given for many years, are having an impact. You have to ask, who are the key players whom you try to impact? What are the key ideas? Have they been understood? What are the key practices?
Things like value sort and the dilemmas. What are the effects? Can you demonstrate short term effects, mid-term effects, long term effects? There are probably millions of young people who know about Greta Thunberg and her ideas about climate change. Some of them may be affected immediately, others over a much longer period of time. Then, as architects of a programme like The Good Project we need to ask, are we trying to affect teachers, principals, heads of schools, trustees, laggards, people who are potentially the hardest ones to reach? Are we trying to reach the more general public parents, the readers of the newspaper?
And then do we want to have many small impacts or one major impact? I can't help thinking about the comet that's about to hit the Earth. That would be one major impact of the negative sort. Of course, if we found a cure for COVID, that would have an impact of a very positive sort for the entire planet. Or are we more hoping to get the modest effect in many different people in different places?
So even if you have just developed some ideas and you want to know whether they work, these are the kinds of questions which you need to ask. If you want to know whether you're having impact and of course, you may not be or worse, you might be having impact different - how to impact that impact? There are some studies, in fact, that sometimes ethics courses in secondary school make young people less ethical.
We could discuss for a long time whether that's the case, whether that's a short term or long term effect. The important point, which I always stress to my research team, is you don't want to fool yourself. You don't want to say, well, we've got a great programme and people are smiling and giving it straight A's. You don't want to assume it has an effect.
You have to go figure out the right ways to assess the right ways to measure whether you're having impact. So United World College approached us at Harvard at an organisation called Project Zero. About five years ago, they said we would like to know whether being a United World College campus - most of them are two years, though SEA goes for the entire educational pre university span - we'd like to know whether we're having impact and if so, what sort.
We knew a bit about United World Colleges. We knew a lot about research. We've done research in many different avenues. We were in the middle of a ten year study of higher education in the United States, which has just been published in a book called The Real World of College. So we were intrigued by the possibility of doing a study with United World Colleges.
And so we said yes, but we stressed we have to be independent, we have to go where the data takes us, and we can't just give you a finding that makes you feel good. We're going to try to give you findings, which will be helpful to you. So that's the UWC study, which was just completed a few months ago.
Here's how we asked the questions with respect to good work: How do we measure the impact of good work, ideas and practices, and how effective are our materials? You have to ask the same thing with respect to UWC - how do we measure the impact of UWC ideas, practices and the important though challenging question - how effective are our materials compared with others designed for similar purposes and carried out in other places?
So that's the mindset going out of the Good Work Project and out of the college study that we brought to bear on our study of impact in the UWC system. So here are the intrepid investigators on the left. Shelby Clark on the right, Danny Mucinskas. They travelled to almost all campuses. Because of the pandemic there were two out of 18 that they couldn't go to. They spent real time there observing, talking to students, talking to teachers, attending classes. But then in addition, we sampled thousands of students at the different campuses, the different UWC campuses all over the world. And we also got in touch with many alums via the international office and asked them about their experiences.
We collected a lot of data, a lot of data, and we have just completed a summary report. You can see the cover there, Educational Experiences and Outcomes at UWC: An Investigation of Impact. And I hope the word impact now has been complexified and problematised for you. It's not something you can simply take the temperature, say "yes, we're success" or "yes, we didn't do what we wanted to do."
Very, very important thing Let's say we got all sorts of results about United World College Network, maybe the whole network, maybe some of the schools. To what extent is it due to the United World College platform, programmes? Courses, mission statements? IB curriculum? You can't answer that question unless you have comparison schools. And so we insisted on having ten different comparison schools around the world.
And while we couldn't study them with the same intensity that we studied the UWC campuses. We surveyed them. We even surveyed alums in some cases. And this was essential if we wanted to separate out what effects are due to the UWC mission and programme, as opposed to effects which might happen at any school that was internationally oriented and had resources to provide a decent education, sometimes an IB education, sometimes it's equivalent.
So over four years we studied and visited UWC campuses, and we also studied and surveyed and gave many different kinds of instruments, psychological tests which we made up, psychological tests which were well known. We gave those all around the world. So the report. The report is big, over 300 pages. Fortunately for those people who want to get the gist, there's an executive summary about 30 pages, and that gives the highlights. But for any of you who want to get into the weeds, we have four substantive chapters, one focusing on learning and pedagogy. The second is a sense of belonging and the mental health of students.
A third on the stated mission, as opposed to how mission is actually understood by the different constituents and teachers, alums, students. And then - very, very important for the goals of UWC - what kind of impact, short term, mid-term, long term, does participation in UWC, usually for two years though at SEA for many more years. And then the end of the report where we separate our recommendations from our findings because of two very separate endeavours.
So the report is just about to be posted and we encourage you very much to read it, study it, debate it, it says, as it were, a second life of our study. And here are some of the things you might think about and talk about. These are some questions which we raise. I'll just give you the highlights. Number one: is UWC a coherent movement or is it just a set of loosely coupled places and ideas?
Number two: how do different constituents on the campus, the leaders, the teachers, the students, beginning students, ending students, students from that country, that part of the world, students from elsewhere, do they see things in the same way? There are many, many features of UWC in class, outside of class, community service, extra activities, the national committees, which features are more central? Which ones would be easiest to relinquish and why?
What's the role of the IB? Very controversial. What's the role of a required national curriculum or exams? Then we saw students ideally four times over the course of the two years, we saw them by our survey. What effects can you see over the two years? What effects if people go to a longer term school, like SEA? What effects can be seen with alums and we separated the recent alums from the alums of many years ago.
Are they the same effects? Are they desired? Are they expected? Or are they paradoxical, like I mentioned, where one ethical course actually made high school students be more cynical about ethics. And then most important and what we insisted on - How do UWC schools compare with other schools? The same general kind, internationally oriented schools in different parts of the world.
What's unique? What might be special as opposed to what's it like at any select secondary school, which even if you called it the AWC or the CWC, you would get the same results. These are hard questions. I can't claim we have the ultimate answer either, but I can say we have a much better way of thinking about it than we had five years ago, and I hope that's true for the movement as a whole. That would be the real criterion of the success of our study. Has the impact study opened up new ideas and led to promising kinds of conversations and changes?
So we've covered a lot of ground in the last 30, 40 minutes. I began by talking about The Good Project, which my colleagues and I have been involved with for over a quarter century.
Most of the time was spent doing research and writing books, but then we began to think about what we've done effectively and that's a question of impact. So we thought about impact in general because you have an impact in any field, from politics to science to entertainment. And then what's the impact on education? What are the machines, the mechanisms, the ideas, the people I could have mentioned John Dewey, a very powerful influence on education.
And then without making any claims that I could really discuss a 350 page paper in a few minutes of a recorded conversation, I talked about the structure of our study, what we looked at and some questions that you might be thinking about as you read about our study. I should also mention that we've written reports for the individual schools which they will get and be in a position to use.
And we've also written reports for the comparison schools, and this is what I call the professionalism of researchers. We could just have done what we said we were going to do, but we felt a responsibility to the whole field. And so we will have a website and we'll be writing about our own thoughts in the period to come.
And I end with a salute to you. Here's to good work in education across the globe. Thank you very much for your kind attention.
END OF TALK; START OF Q&A SESSION
Lizzy Bray: I hope that got your brains thinking a little bit. I know that we have successfully connected with Howard Gardner in Boston and he should appear on our screen shortly if you have a question that you would like to ask. I'm speaking now to our live audience. If you have a question that you would like to pose to Howard directly, please do move to either one of the microphones oh, I forgot that part.
We have to see me two and please move to one of the microphones close to the stage here. If you are in our online audience, please send through your questions to the chat. And I am hoping I'm going to kick start the question but I think I'm waiting until I see Howard on the screen. Am I correct? Coming? On his way one moment!
Yes. Yay! Delighted to see you, Howard.
Howard Gardner: Thank you. It's good to be with you.
Lizzy Bray: So I've explained that the questions are going to come in from our live audience as well as online. But if I may, I'm going to start with a question of my own, Howard. And I'm curious from your perspective and with the many different teams of researchers that you have worked with, whether when people talk about good citizenship or a good society, have you seen over the last 20 years of your work, have you seen a divide or a change in interpretation of that? Excellent question.
Howard Gardner: Can you hear me?
Lizzy Bray: We can hear you perfectly OK.
Howard Gardner: I'm actually getting feedback, but I'll do my best to ignore it.
Yes, I can only answer that with respect to the United States and the picture is not a very benign one. We have found in our studies, particularly at the college level, that students are very transactional interested, principally in what they can get as soon as quickly as possible that will advance their own career, their own interests. And a disappointing lack of concern about the wider world.
And I can give you an amazing statistic in speaking to a thousand college students over the last five or six years. The ratio of the use of the words I and me as compared to we and us is 11 to 1. So students talk about themselves 11 times more often than they talk about a larger entity. And even more shocking, when you talk to adults a few years out of college, that the word "I" is even more prevalent.
I think it's 14 times as great as "we". Now any sceptic would say, well, that's just the use of words. And it's indeed I saw a lot of examples of why concerns and trying to help other people. I wouldn't make as much of a deal about this, but I think the society in the United States has become quite divided and people are much more concerned about what they want and much less concerned about other people.
Now, of course, I understand we have people from all over the world who are attending this particular talk and it might be interesting to see whether you have that same ratio of egocentrism as opposed to a broader concern. We can't look at the conversations from 20 years ago because we don't have that data. But in a sense, if the country looked very cooperative and helpful
we wouldn't care. But it's not the way the country looks now. I'm not going to discuss the friends of the United States and the extent to which they are realised in other parts of the world. But everybody who's listening to this, watching it will have their own ideas about that. But I guess I would say that good work is in short supply in the places I know best and that's why my colleagues and I are trying so hard to try to get individuals to become more involved with thinking through dilemmas knowing how to discuss them, knowing how to decide what to do, and then actually following through.
And that's the kind of impact that we're hoping to have. Just one small thing we've already discovered is when people are involved in our work, they're more likely to read the newspaper and to know what's going on in the world. This is not something we're trying to instil, but it's a sign that maybe they're a little bit more concerned, not just about their own interests and their own ambitions.
Lizzy Bray: Thank you very much. I kind of want to just go away and have a long chat with you, Howard, and ignore the rest of them. But apparently that's not my job today. So I am actually going to see if we've got some other questions coming in. I think tonight have we got some online?
Sinead Collins: Can you hear me OK? Howard, I think he can. So we have a question that's come in from online, which I think is very interesting. So it's from Clayton, who is asking, "vertical support is important for good work. Autonomy is an important part of our pedagogical model. What's the appropriate balance between vertical support from teachers and student autonomy?"
Howard Gardner: Yes I don't have a well worked out answer to that question, but I would think that the job of the education community is to help students become autonomous, though not in an egotistical, ego-central way. And of course, students have very different starting points when they arrive on campus. And the way they interact with their peers will also have an impact on this.
I think the role of teachers and other adults on the campus is to model both support and autonomy but to help students eventually internalise these values so that when they leave campus, whether it's for the summer or go to college, or to pursue some other career, they will have internalised some of the values. And that's where the fact that we actually polled thousands of alums from UWC some quite recent, some from a long time ago. You'll get in the report the sense of what sorts of things people think that they took away and also what sorts of things that they do that their peers do are things that they value. And some of them will be quite surprising to readers.
Lizzy Bray: Our live audience is very shy.
Sinead Collins: I have another one.
Lizzy Bray: All right. We'll go to our online audience.
Sinead Collins: This is actually from Alice Whitehead, who many of us know, an alum and a former teacher here at UWC, and now out in the world doing wonderful things with sustainability. Her question is "If you could choose any key elements or themes of the UWC learning experience and infuse them into all the schools around the world with the intention of promoting education for positive global change, what would they be?"
So which elements would you choose?
Howard Gardner: Well, I'll talk about two things that strike me. One is that the opportunity is truly to go into the school to meet individuals from very different backgrounds, whether it's national, religious, political or demographic, and to have the chance to interact with them both in school and in extracurriculars and just hanging around the dorm, as I as I did when I went to Robert Frost.
I think that that's obviously a very central aspect of UWC, and I wish it could be done more and it could be done much more in other parts of the world. The other thing which struck me in attending classes is that the students really benefit the most when they really have an agent role to play in the class.
And while it's important for teachers to have a curriculum and assignments when it's largely didactic lecturing or just fishing for answers you already know, that is much less effective than just doing enough to get the students started. Have them discuss among themselves, have them write things, have them enact different kinds of performances of understanding, and then bring them together so they can hear what one another has done, and then get that useful feedback from the teachers.
And there is a lot of data in the study which say that students particularly value those opportunities. Of course, there's also data from teachers saying, you know, we've got the IB, we've got curriculum to go through and we can't be derelict. And so that's a delicate balance. And as everybody knows, you know, some students catch on more quickly.
Some students have language problems if the language of teaching, which is typically English, isn't their native language. And so one has to be very quick on your feet. And international teachers are very mobile, which means they may lead interesting lives. But to the extent that you can keep a faculty in the same place and you have leadership that's constant it's much easier to develop, I would say, a learning ethos which pervades the school. And the schools which I was most impressed with both within UWC and in comparison schools, are ones which kind of know what they're trying to do.
And that's broadcast throughout the faculty. New faculty are onboarded and they stay. And then there's a lot less heavy lifting that individual teachers have to do. And frankly, a lot less heavy lifting then that individual students have to do. But I'm also aware of how difficult it is to bring this off. And I'm not even saying pandemic or politics, two issues which loom very large in the world today.
Lizzy Bray: Thank you. I could see a fair few nodding heads as you were answering that question for us.
Yes. Jen, do you want to come down?
Jen: Hello. The question I had I was really interested in is what made you interested in UWC as your research? I can imagine with all your background experience and how well-known you are, that there would be lots of schools and educational places interested in having you study them. So what made you agree to UWC? What about UWC really interested you in wanting to develop such a huge and involved study? Thank you..
Howard Gardner: Yeah, I don't want to create the impression that people are knocking on my door all the time with this kind of study, but I think there are two answers. One, we had already begun this very large study of colleges in the United States. Again, the book just appeared "The Real World of College". And so our appetite was whetted to do something analogous at the secondary level.
And so an invitation from UWC was very welcome. The other thing is that even though the word is less popular now than it was ten years ago, I'm very much of a globalist. I think we're one planet, whether it's climates or politics or economy. And that vision of Kurt Hahn, of the IB which I've done a lot of work with in the past, probably for 20 or 30 years.
And UWC is something I believe in. But as I've emphasised too, during the talk, we weren't there to prove that UWC was great, but rather to try to understand what's strong and what can be worked on. What's distinctive about UWC and what might be true about other IB schools which have never heard of UWC,. But if we've managed to motivate a better set of conversations among the heads of schools and the international office and the national committees, we will have done what we wanted to do.
And I'm happy to say, you know, we've met with Faith, the new director and the head of the Educational Committee. And while I'm sure they would have loved us to say that it's nothing like UWC, I think that they understand that there are real issues which need to be dealt with. And if they're willing to deal with it, I have no doubt that the movement will be stronger.
Jen: Thank you.
Sinead Collins: Come on down.
UWC teacher: Hi, Howard. Can I call you Howard? My question is, what surprising findings did you uncover from your research about UWC?
Howard Gardner: That's a tricky question because I kind of made a pledge not to go into specific findings because they'd be blown up too much. But I guess that one thing I will say is the movement is much, much more dispersed than I would have thought. And that's not necessarily bad. But if, for example, you were to go to Catholic schools around the world, you might find a lot more similarity.
Or if you go to music, schools around the world would find a lot more similarities. But the country that it's in, the student body, the leadership and frankly, the incidence of who happens to be the teachers there at the present time who were who were picked by the national committees, whether the energy crisis is a big issue or whether clashes of the political sort of big issues, those loom very large.
And I think the biggest challenge, which I already mentioned and which is the headline from our report, is to what extent does UWC welcome this pluralism even if it means that some UWC schools are more like IB schools, which never heard of UWC as opposed to saying we really want to be distinctive, we want to be clear from the very first that this is a UWC school.
I'll use a very quick analogy. If I'm known for anything, I'm known for the theory of multiple intelligences. And all over the world people say, Oh, we have multiple intelligence schools. Sometimes they're even named after me. But typically they tell me a lot more about the country and the leaders than they do about multiple intelligences. I don't think it's the same way for UWC, but it is definitely something that struck me as someone who did not know much about the movement when I began to study five years ago.
Sinead Collins: Another one I'm very interested in has come in from online. When you look at the current state of the world, have we observed any long term demonstrated effect of good work in terms of impact, particularly in the area of education? Give us some hope, Howard.
Howard Gardner: I would be lying if I said I could demonstrate anything that would convince a sceptic. But what I will say is that a lot of the work which I've developed with my colleagues at a place called Project Zero which is at Harvard and which I've been involved with for 55 years, though I don't think I look like it is that I think that the concepts we've developed, whether it's multiple intelligences or teaching dispositions or teaching for understanding, and these are used much more widely now than they were decades ago.
And I think some of the concepts from good work, the notion of good work is technically excellent, personally, engaging and carried out in an ethical way, has an impact in schools, whether they are secondary schools or universities or professional schools where these ideas are taken seriously. Another one, which I don't think I mentioned in my talk maybe I did, was the notion of larger rings of responsibility as you get older.
So those ideas have had some impact. But if I had to testify and say that I think this school is fundamentally different, because of a good project, I would say that still remains to be determined. But we're working on it. One thing which I think you learn if you're a UWC school and you could be elsewhere as well, is that these are all ongoing.
Nobody ever says we've reached the summit, the Mt. Sinai, but are we moving in the right direction? And I think in the schools that we've worked with and in some of them in the United States, but there are now other parts of the world, I think that at least the ideas have had impact. And one of the reasons we want to talk about impact is we'd like to be able to demonstrate it in a way that's more convincing to us.
And that's why these findings, like students reading the newspapers more and talking about things, is exciting because it's not something we're trying to do. But obviously, exposure to these ideas brought this around. So maybe the takeaway for those who are researchers is to be prepared for surprises. They're not all going to be good ones, but sometimes you really learn from something that you didn't expect. Thank you.
Sinead Collins: Gopika I can see you over there.
Gopika: Hello. Thank you so much for problematising the idea of impact for us. And I'm wondering if you can do something similar for the idea of good work. And my question is, what aspects of good work are globalist, as you said, and what aspects of good work might be more culturally specific? And related to that, how does this speak to the larger idea of decolonisation that we've been talking about in both higher education and school education?
Sinead Collins: Thank you.
Howard Gardner: Okay. Those are very good questions that I can only touch on briefly. I'm going to mention two things, which I think are both changing quickly and complex to find good work, which, as I said, we began with 25 years ago. One is the advent of artificial intelligence, which is doing so much of what human beings used to do, including professionals.
And that makes the whole notion of the workplace very different than when we started this work 25 years ago. And the second is what does it mean to be a professional? What does it mean to have a profession? There are two aspects to this. One is that professions are much more different around the world than I ever realised.
Whether it's journalism or law or even medicine. Perhaps science is less so, they're practised in very different ways. They're very different values. They're very different teachings with very different kinds of rewards. And so the notion of global is much more complicated than I would have thought. A.I. is going to affect everything. But let's be blunt about it. As everybody who's listening to this knows, there are some countries where computers are completely controlled centrally and information is completely controlled centrally. And it's very different from a country like the United States, where anything goes and anybody can develop an algorithm and anybody can develop a social media site and anything can be texted or transformed.
And frankly, I think both of those are equally bad. I don't want Big Brother to make all the decisions, but I don't want this to be completely wild either. And these are issues of good work, which were not at all salient to us when we began 25 years ago. But the notion of excellence and engagement and ethics, excellence means do you know what you're doing and do it well?
Engagement, do you care? Do you look forward to the work, or is it just a burden? And three and that's what our focus has been - do you try as much as possible to do things in the ethical way? And when you fail, you try to make amends. And I would love to have discussions like this take place all over the world.
We're making some efforts to do this. It's not a completely American effort. We're also translating our materials now into Chinese and into Spanish. But I guess the short answer to your question is, even if we were doing the best possible job and we had the most wonderful results, this is a challenge for four generations, not for one lifetime, particularly one that's nearing its end.
Lizzy Bray: I think we have time for one more question. Sure. Come on down.
UWC Staff: Hi, Howard. I'm a little bit nervous, but I'm going to ask this question - as students progress through the school from K-through-12, the curriculum becomes more prescribed, more theoretical, and the opportunity to engage in authentic real world problem solving becomes less available. The opportunities are often provided beyond the curriculum with extra curricular and service programmes. Do you think that if education reduces its prescribed curriculum and provides courses and classes to engage in real world problems and connections with the local and wider community and organisations, we could develop students who leave school with more of a good work attitude rather than them developing that later in life.
Howard Gardner: Well, that's a wonderful question. And I align myself with it. But I'll make two points. One is that and I think I alluded to this in my talk. One of the big questions for UWC is, you know, how central the IB is going to be, not just whether you use it, but how much you organise everything around it. And that's not something where I would even want to give advice. But I think that that's an issue that has to be tackled because it's thought of so differently across the movement. And the other thing which I've just been thinking about very recently, so your question is timely - if we want to have a good work society, it needs to begin as soon as young people go to school.
I think the best schools for young people in the world are the schools of Reggio Emilia. Many of you will know them in northern Italy, where it's not about I, it's about We. And when there's a group of five kids and one kid is sick, they say, Well, what would Julio say? What would Julia say? So building that sense of way from the very beginning and having it go all the way through school in the United States so people will know the EL the Expeditionary Learning Programme, I think it is the best constellation of American schools.
And it's not for privileged kids. It's for kids often in very disadvantaged areas. But they have the kinds of ethical dilemmas and group work all the way through from kindergarten and first grade on. So I guess my answer to your question is, if this were part of the DNA, if this were part of the ethos of the educational system throughout then there'd be less of a burden on secondary teachers to feel they have to do the curriculum and have good work and so on.
And the other thing which we write a lot about in The Real World of College, this book that was just released is that in the United States, but I don't think it's just the United States, students and their families have incredibly transactional views of education. It's what's it going to do for me with no caring about what it's going to do for anybody else?
And even though I'm not religious at all myself, I think that schools with a mission, particularly a religious mission, do better on this because students kind of know that they're not in school just to promote themselves. UWC, in a sense, is a secular religion. And I think that's a good note on which to end the talk so that you can be thinking about whether that's a good analogy or whether it's a misleading one.
But thanks, everybody, and I'm sorry I can't be there, but I'm very moved that so many of you are there. In this case, early in the morning, in my case, time to go to bed.
Thank you. Thank you.
Lizzy Bray: Howard, on behalf of everyone who is here live and those online, we really want to extend our deep gratitude for helping us to begin our 50th Forum celebrations with a very provocative and lots of good thinking in there for us to consider. I know I'm going to take away your ENA visual. I think that's a helpful tool to think through some of the things that we do in the college.
So, again, please join me in extending a very warm thank you to Howard Gardner. Enjoy the rest of your day.