Strengths Based Learning

Sam, the student mentioned in this blog post, is strong in mathematics (currently in Grade 3, he will master the complete elementary curriculum by around mid-year next year).  He is, however, not the world’s finest writer.  In fact, just a week prior to joining HWA, he had decided that he simply wasn’t going to write.  His public school had agreed with this analysis and were going to let him use primarily voice to text technology.

One of the great travesties of our education system is that we hold students back from progress on their strengths due to weakness in another area.  Sam, referenced above, is also a real ‘go getter’ and strong in science and reading.  He needs to be highly encouraged, however, to build his music skills and art skills.  Sam’s weaknesses in writing, art, and music should not stop him from learning to fly an aircraft, designing a solar power system, or launching a website to trade interesting rocks with other children.  All of these opportunities require skills that are not found in the ‘Grade 3 curriculum’ so most would not be open to Sam in our school system.  This needs to change (but won’t).

Strengths based education looks at a child’s strengths and uses those as a leverage point to ‘fill in’ weaknesses.  As Sam builds a website he will need to write.  As he learns to fly he will need a radio license and thus learn a new language.  As he builds a solar power system he’ll have to write to suppliers to get pricing and advice.

There is no value in holding children back from what they can achieve.  It has lead to schools full of frustrated, bored, and anxious children.  Education and learning are not linear – let’s stop treating them as though they are.