Saturday, December 7, 2013

Inquiry and the 10,000 Hour Rule

Recently I have been reading Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" for the second time. Like all of his books, Gladwell poses some thought provoking theories about society, behavior, and the human mind in this book. However, the element that is sticking out to me the most this time around is the 10,000 hour rule. Gladwell cites the "ten thousand hour rule" as the rule in which it takes ten thousand hours to become a world class master of anything. Whether it be playing the piano, shooting free throws, writing a blog, or ice skating, it take that many hours to become elite. Well that seems simple enough to me. However, what compels me is where the motivation lies while performing the "ten thousand hour rule."

As you all know, we do not, and never will have ten thousand hours with our students. Those classes where they are analyzing text, working out math equations, creating a story, or using the scientific method will not add up to 10,000 hours, let alone 10,000 hours doing any specific skill. So how in the world can we help to make our students masters of anything? Well, I believe it starts with creating a foundation of skill, and promoting inquiry within our students.

Think of what you have mastered or are currently trying to master in your career and life. Why would you spend that many hours on one particular skill? The truth is that we only spend that amount of time on something we value or something we believe will benefit us in the long run. That is where inquiry comes into play with our students.

I feel that we must encourage our students to have inquisitive minds in order to shape them into people who will one day be masters of something. We need to teach them that trial and error, repetition, experimentation, and persistence are all elements of success. This could obviously come in many forms from Skateboarding to engineering. As educators we must plant the seed of inquiry in their hearts and minds so that it will carry over into their adult life.

The skills of reading, writing, research, presenting, collaboration, and organization are all very important but we must inspire our students to be invested in those things and realize the value they hold in conjunction with their interests.

How do we do that? We give the students a framework of required skills and practices but we combine that with choice. We allow our students to experiment and explore without our constant intervention. We design projects that allow them to fail and learn from their mistakes. We give them the reigns and we help them when they fall behind. We encourage them along the way to persist and take risks. This is what inspires inquisitive minds, passionate people, and future masters. This is what conditions our students to not give up when they miss their free throws in life. As we know, the best motivation is always intrinsic and I believe that this is how we inspire is. Are your students going to embrace the ten thousand hour rule? Leading is Teaching.

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