There can be little doubt that we live at a point in history where unprecedented access to educational materials is now available to an extraordinary variety of learners. By the same token, however, competition for places at top universities has never been more intense.
This juxtaposition between the vast array of educational resources available to students and the incredibly competitive nature of the modern economy and the current university system can feel intimidating to students. However, there are ways to bridge this gap in unique and productive ways.
Utilizing Free Materials
Via nonprofit firms such as Khan Academy and educational access websites like Coursera, today’s students are currently able to obtain learning materials from extremely meaningful sources. On sites like Coursera and edX alone, for example, today’s learners will have access to a vast number of free lectures and courses from schools such as Harvard and Yale. Twenty years ago, providing widespread public access to these courses would have been unthinkable due to limitations in technological advances.
Complementing School and College Materials
Moreover, many of the free courses provided by these websites can strongly complement the educational materials that most students currently use in school. In fact, many teachers across the globe currently incorporate materials from sites like Khan Academy into their lesson plans; the results have often been extraordinary.
Teaching the Growth Mindset
In terms of making a quality education accessible to everyone, however, providing students with access to top-notch educational materials is only part of the solution to today’s problems.
In recent years, for example, the notion of the “growth mindset” as it pertains to educational psychology has gained much traction among educators keen to foster creative and confident thinking in their charges. First popularized by Stanford psychologist Carol S. Dweck, the “growth mindset” refers to an approach to life challenges that values the experience of making mistakes.
Approaching the Problem of the “Fixed Mindset”
According to psychologists like Dweck, the flip side of the “growth mindset” is the so-called “fixed mindset.” A fixed mindset is said to occur when students or other learners become discouraged in the learning process due to self-esteem issues. Rather than viewing mistakes as an opportunity for personal reflection and change, in other words, individuals using a fixed mindset often view mistakes as insurmountable hurdles to personal growth.
How Teachers Can Help
The thinking goes that when students learn how to use their mistakes as learning opportunities, they will be better able to obtain mastery in their chosen field. Too often, students associate their self-image with their performance in school; teachers can provide an immense service to such students by training them to overcome mistakes by looking at such mistakes with a creative mindset.
There can be little question that we are standing as a society at a unique educational crossroads. At the present moment, greater public access to quality educational materials is making a huge difference in the lives of today’s students. Today’s learners are also facing a more competitive university entrance process and a job market that demands an increasingly wider skillset from its applicants.
By combining top-tier educational materials with the principles of the growth mindset, however, today’s students can prepare themselves for the rigors of tomorrow’s economy. Undoubtedly, it is this approach to education that will set the tone for the next generation. The resources are there for those who seek them out; it remains to us to take advantage of the resources that are available to us and guide today’s students towards a brighter tomorrow.