Learning to Play, Learning to Win

by | Mar 9, 2016 | School Climate, Student Engagement

As a long time fan of the Vancouver Canucks National Hockey League team the past year has been frustrating.  After the great run to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011 there has been a decline in the team’s performance and this year they will surely miss the playoffs.

Early in this year’s hockey season, the Canucks’ management ensured fans that this season they would focus on reaching the playoffs while rebuilding the team, a feat very difficult to do.  Their recipe for achieving both goals was to keep their “core” veteran players and mix in several rookies.

The team has suffered more losses than wins the past few weeks leading to management admitting that they would not make the playoffs this year.  They quickly decided to add young players and focus on the “rebuild.”

As the team continues to lose, the team management and coach put on a happy face sharing their excitement that “the players are learning to play.”  I am not sure exactly what that means but if the focus is on enhancing each players skills I am all for it.  However I have not heard that they are “learning to win.”

This gets me to thinking about how schools prepare students to learn and also succeed.  Are we focusing so much on student learning that we fail to adequately prepare them to use their knowledge, skills and dispositions to be successful in life?

Frequent testing for knowledge in subject areas may well be a journey to content proficiency but are we also assessing students’ ability to apply their knowledge beyond the school walls?

Since we expect schools to prepare students to be active principled citizens shouldn’t we ensure a focus on student attributes to contribute to as well as change society?

Getting back to the Canucks, is this the year players learn to play or learn to win?  Similarly in schools are we focusing on student learning or developing the attributes to contribute to their communities?

Fortunately for the Canucks, wining is documented each game and at the end of the season there is an unquestionable win-loss record, I think schools correspondingly need to implement assessments to determine their current and future contributions as citizens.

With appropriate assessments of student attributes we can then backward map to the necessary school climate, most effective teaching and learning methods and professional development essential for student progress (learning to play) and success (learning to win).

Let’s hope in the very near future the Canucks and our students have moved to high levels of success due to a focus on attributes characteristic of winning.

Terry Pickeral
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Terry Pickeral

Terry Pickeral, has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations, evaluation and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.
Terry Pickeral
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