Category Archives: Higher Education

Rethinking Learning for Changing Education

Lives matter, actions matter, even words matter. What these signal are the values of humanity for treating everyone as equal; they highlight the power of coming together and the importance of communication by choosing the words we use.

So when we say we’re “learning” something, why does that matter, and what does learning really mean? 

Learning is best described as a process, which is different from a product or a collection of information. It’s this process that means we are always changing, modifying, and refining what we know, do, value, and prefer.

What’s interesting is that many of us suggest that learning occurs in designated areas such as schools, workplaces, or traditional spaces built for learning, namely universities, museums, and libraries.

But something as simple as learning (an always changing process) being housed in places that doesn’t change, makes me also wonder what we really mean, even more, what really matters, about our “education…”



Lifelong learning as a family affair

Talking to people about “lifelong learning,” without ever providing real-life examples, has been something I’m often guilty of. Sure, lifelong learning describes how individuals continue developing personally and socially, but what actions would specifically count as lifelong learning?

Even better, how would others recognize you are involved in lifelong learning and participate with you?

A promising response and real example on behalf of lifelong learning come from Northeastern University’s president, Joseph E. Aoun, when he announced that through their “Lifetime Learning Membership,” parents and siblings can also go to college at a 25% discount (John O’Neill; news@Northeastern).

What is so inspiring for other colleges to consider is that President Aoun announced this at their university’s parent-and-family weekend, stated that “learning is a lifelong endeavor,” and matched his words-with-deeds by introducing this innovative, “first-of-its-kind,” lifelong learning program.

Lifelong learning-in-action may naturally exist outside the campuses of colleges and universities, yet this ground-breaking effort may provide another real way to do lifelong learning, not simply as an individual matter, but as a family affair.

Key People Who Inspire You

Thank you to our brothers and sisters worldwide for reaching out and helping us in times of great need. WE WILL NEVER FORGET.

Thank you to our brothers and sisters worldwide for reaching out and helping us in times of great need. WE WILL NEVER FORGET.

Writing this week’s blog has been more emotional than before. Having witnessed the effects of the super typhoon Haiyan on my native land, the Philippines, brought forth so much emotions- sadness and empathy for the survivors, grief for parents carrying their lifeless child as they walk across debris, anger for the politicking that is going on instead of focusing on relief efforts, but mostly deeply inspired by the millions of unknown brothers and sisters worldwide who came together to help assist the Filipinos in this time of great need and challenge.

When I think about this week’s module of key people who inspire me, I think of people like the heroes I’ve mentioned earlier. Each individual put in their time, resources and energy into rebuilding our nation. In their own big and small ways, they inspired me to be a better person and I experienced what Dr. Boyatzis called renewal. For me, it is a feeling of intense emotional rejuvenation. I think in our stress-laden lives, we need moments of renewal to remind us to be mindful and thankful of what we have, renewal to allow our hearts to let go of past hurts and pains, renewal to remind ourselves that we are resilient and renewal to have the power to rebuild and forge ahead stronger than ever.

How about you? Who are the key people in your lives who have inspired you? What have they done for you and what lessons did they leave you? Either it is a word of encouragement, an unexpected helping hand, a pat on the back, a shoulder to lean on, a kind nonjudgmental ear, that person/s has given us a vision of what we want to be in the future. How powerful is that! Talk about transformational learning, borrowing Jack Mezirow’s term. Or Complexity Theory according to Boyatzis, and this occurs when a person’s thoughts, actions and behaviors change in a sustainable nonlinear way. This change is incremental- some days we change a bit, some days we don’t change at all and some days we revert back to our old ways. But Boyatzis in his research contended that there are five patterns present when people sustainably change. The first step is called the ideal self, and this is a self-reflective discovery, a glimmer of our desired self, of who we want and envision ourselves to be. The second step is the real self, where we obtain feedback from others about how we show up and we consciously compare that data with our ideal self, something like a personal balance sheet. The third step is exploring a learning agenda by committing to some personal changes or maintenance of positive actions, thoughts and behaviors. Note that this is not a performance improvement plan, but more like a mental action check list. Now that we have this mental list, the fourth step is to actually practice, experiment and see how these changes are received and perceived by people around us. Finally, through a consistent stream of reflection and change, we begin to establish trusting and resonant relationships.

As I look at the photos and videos of towns in the central part of the Philippines  reduced to rubble caused by the super typhoon, the rising death toll each day, the tears streaming down the survivors faces, I feel immense grief and feelings of helplessness but at the same time, I am deeply hopeful and inspired by the spirit and will of the survivors to rise above this tragedy and the generous individuals and organizations who donated money and gave up their holiday parties so money can go toward the relief fund; selfless volunteers who sent and packaged hundreds and thousands of relief goods everyday, and kind souls who organized hot meals, temporary tents and transportation for the displaced victims. This week alone, I feel humanity come alive more so than ever. Seeing my fellowmen suffer so much desolation, I have witnessed how the world came together to reach out and pull our country out of this time of desperate need. My cup overflows. I am deeply grateful and thankful and inspired. Thank you to the people who helped the Philippines and who inspired me in your own ways to change the world, one nation, one person at a time.

Call for Engagement: Doing education and learning together

Any movement that brings people to other states of awareness is often painstaking. Not because of its difficulty, but due to its surprising simplicity. A simple word such as “education” has become so complex in society that heated debates and political protests are planned on its behalf.

Some say “it’s all about the kids,” others pledge allegiance for the sake of “learning,” but even learning happens to be another contested term.

So what’s a “call for engagement”?: It is an opportunity to reconcile the continuing tensions between education and learning.  In other words, it expands the role of education and learning beyond schools, colleges, and campuses and places the classroom within communities, societies, and localities for all people, regardless of age, industry, or education level.

This call actually centers around a humble vision: “Doing education and learning together,” which means that we are all educators and learners when it comes to improving schools and changing communities; but also, when it comes to settling old debates and choosing to nourish and act upon new ideas.

So if you hear this call and believe in its vision, then become engaged through learning with one person, one citizen, and even one city at a time.


Learning from Land-Grant Colleges: Starting a New Education Agenda

On July 2, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act that resulted in many colleges and universities now designated across America as land-grant institutions. Each State and major territory has at least one land-grant institution that all total about 110 American college and universities (See listing). Today marks the 150-year anniversary of this original legislation, which is another opportunity to take a fresh look at their purpose and intention.

Although I have written extensively about land-grants (for example, see posting On the Commons), perhaps the most important point is their potential for creating an improved national agenda and educational policy. Among many of the topics that require reconsideration, making clear distinctions within education are essential.

The reason is that most national discussions about education lies within the K-12 perspective, that is elementary and secondary education. Other levels of education such as higher, adult, continuing, and vocational are lumped into postsecondary and tertiary levels layered with divisions.

Making clearer distinctions could inform society about the kinds of education that is needed for current times, instead of using terms haphazardly without evidence whether improvement have occurred or missions have been met.

What makes land-grant institutions so promising is not their location in towns and cities, but that there were originally established to introduce a “new education” for the needs of society. In the nineteenth century, farming and agriculture were needed, but in the 21st century, fields in science, technology, and engineering have required more attention. This shift in priority also requires a new engagement to education that outlines its purpose and outcomes. Priorities such as STEM is not just for K-12 education, but also for the broader education and learning of society at all levels. Changes across all educational institutions, including land-grants, should lead in this new agenda.