Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

30 August 2006

What you should learn

Clark @ 3:31 PM

There’s some interesting lists going around about what you should learn. Stephen Downes has created a list (in reply to Guy Kawasaki’s list), and not surprisingly it’s really good. I was interested in how it compared to the list I created for my ‘learning wisdom‘ talk back in November. Stephen’s is more personal (ie what a learner should take ownership of), where mine was more curricular, but there are enough similarities to see why I resonated with it.

Here then, are his 10 items and their relation to the list I created:

  1. How to predict consequences – this is my ‘systems thinking’, the ability to use models to make predictions and explanations. I add in the ability to build models (even if just qualitatively), as I think it’s an important skill going forward.
  2. How to read – I didn’t have this explicitly, but he means it as more than literacy, and I lump it under ‘critical thinking’.
  3. How to distinguish between truth and fiction – this, too, fits under ‘critical thinking’ in my list.
  4. How to empathize – this would fit under my category of ‘stewardship’, a feeling of responsibility for others, but also the other denizens of our planet and the planet itself.
  5. How to be creative – I have this under ‘design’.
  6. How to communicate clearly – and I have this under communication.
  7. How to learn – I have ‘meta-learning’.
  8. How to stay healthy – this is one place where we begin to differ, I didn’t have this explicitly, and it’s a good element.
  9. How to value yourself – I think this is a good one as well. I don’t have it.
  10. How to live meaningfully – Again, one I didn’t have explicitly, I’d argue (not strongly, however) that it could fall out my element of ethics.

So, my list had 5 major categories with two elements each: I had problem-solving including research and design, systems-thinking with model-based reasoning and modeling, working with others covering leadership as well as communication, learning as an umbrella for critical thinking and meta-learning, and values covering both ethics and stewardship.

I could quibble about leadership, research, and ethics, and Stephen could quibble about health, valuing yourself, and living meaningfully, but I think both lists provide some good ideas sorely missing from our current schooling. Like David Jonassen says, the problems our kids learn to solve in schools have essentially no relation to what they have to solve in life.


  1. Interesting comparison. And of course I would hardly say any of my list is unique to me, but rather, serves more as a statement of what I think on the matter (which may or may not have been thought of in the same way by other people prior to me, which would be great).

    There’s a lot of similarity between your list and mine, and I suspect if we rooted around underneath the titles we would have very similar lists. That said…

    – problem-solving including research and design

    I have much less emphasis on ‘problems’ per se, perhaps being less influenced by Jonassen. For me, a lot of research and design overlaps well beyond the domain of problem solving, and therefore, so does a lot of learning. A lot of my own work in both areas is based on ‘I wonder what x would look like…’ or ‘I wonder what happens if…’ types of motivations, and are not addressed to any specific problem. Other of my work is just pure description, maybe cast into a framework or metaphor, but in either case, intended to pass along some experience.

    Generally I class problem solving under the head of ‘creativity’ and I guess what I say under creativity would be, in very short form, my approach to problem solving. But problem solving also involves critical thinking, reading and understanding consequences.

    – systems-thinking with model-based reasoning and modeling

    This all falls under pattern-recognition for me, for the important reason that all systems are patterns, but not all patterns are (interpreted as) systems. Hence, again, under creativity.

    I think if we examined it our approaches to science and discovery have a lot of overlap, but there are nuances that cause a shift in emphasis. For me, to separate out something like ‘systems thinking’ is almost analagous to separating out ‘induction’ and ‘deduction’. But these cut across classifications, and are more specific types of *content* rather than the more process or function oriented approach I wanted to take.

    – working with others covering leadership as well as communication

    On communication we both agree and I suspect we would find strong elements of agreement to a fairly deep level, if your writing style is any indication of your thoughts on this topic, which I believe it is.

    The rest of it I would separate out and cover under empathy, valuing oneself, and living meaningfully. And I would value ‘leadership’ per se as a skill). I don’t believe in ‘leading’. I believe in empowering. And empowering, from my perspective, comes from a strength of self and purpose.

    – values covering both ethics and stewardship

    I would need to know more about what you mean by stewardship in order to comment.

    With regard to ethics, I am concerned the the proposal implies that there is some body of ethics already known that could, and should, be learned by a student. Sadly, this is not the case. Even with some pretty basic precepts – such as murder and cannibalism – we find that there is significant disagreement within and among societies.

    Ethics, therefore, is something that is either imposed from without, as a form of memorization and indoctrination, or is developed from within, as a process of reason, emotion and knowledge. For various good reasons, I reject the former. Hence, I accept the latter, and have, instead of trying to look at ethiocs specifically, thought of the tools that would be needed for a person to define and live according to their own ethics.

    Comment by Stephen Downes — 31 August 2006 @ 8:40 AM

  2. I think we’re largely agreeing furiously, as the saying goes. I chose certain categories from some perspective I feel are important to emphasize, specifically things we’re neglecting in the curriculum, but I agree that there are lots of cross-linkages: problem-solving includes systems-thinking and creativity, research involves critical thinking, etc.

    You don’t have the benefit of the full presentation (there’s a PDF of the slides here, just scroll down to my name; they sadly haven’t put up a video of the presentation), but I was trying to similarly map out a curriculum from some others and my own baggage.

    On Ethics, by the way, I’m with you that you shouldn’t push a particular suite; I believe there are certain core values that societies need to share to get along, though different societies can have different sets, but I want explicit exploration, not indoctrination. So I’m in agreement that I want them developed from within, but part of my approach to the wisdom theme I was pushing comes from several areas that say wise decisions are both short term and long term, including all affected stakeholders (part of the stewardship) and informed by values.

    Sometime it’d be great to talk about this over a beer or two, and I think we would indeed find agreement to a fairly deep level.

    Comment by Clark — 1 September 2006 @ 11:27 AM

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  4. […] Clark Quinn a sa propre liste, et il en discute les similitude avec celle-ci. Sa conclusion: I could quibble about leadership, research, and ethics, and Stephen could quibble about health, valuing yourself, and living meaningfully, but I think both lists provide some good ideas sorely missing from our current schooling. Like David Jonassen says, the problems our kids learn to solve in schools have essentially no relation to what they have to solve in life. […]

    Pingback by le semeur» Blog Archive » Réussir dans la vie: apprentissage en 10 points — 11 September 2006 @ 12:53 PM

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