Thursday, July 5, 2012

What Schools Can Learn From Summer Camps

A friend of mine (@BenrydalShapir0) passed along a short but interesting read the other day. In What Schools Can Learn From Summer Camps, Annie Murphy Paul highlights an important element inherent in most summer programs.  Paul, relying on a research study conducted by a Standford University Psychology professor, states that conflicting ideologies exist when comparing summer camps and school.  In the article Paul presents the following:

The researchers were looking at the teenagers’ “goal orientations”—were they interested in learning for learning’s sake, or in showing off their smarts? The first type of attitude, called a “mastery orientation,” has been linked to high levels of motivation and engagement, while the second, known as a “performance orientation,” has been tied to greater anxiety and less resilience in the face of failure.

 Having worked at a summer camp for a long period of time and now, watching my three daughters head off each day to camp, I can attest to the sense of intrinsic motivation natural to any camp experience.  Whether it is learning how to successfully master a swim stroke, make a left handed lay-up or pitch a tent, goals are established by the individual and not some external force.  Summer goals are about taking healthy risks and growing over time.  Failure or better yet, personal struggle is not met with punishment, but instead, viewed as an important part of the learning process. 

Unfortunately schools often fail to reflect this attitude.  Schools favor "performance orientation" as opposed to empowering learners to determine goals.  As Paul shares we need to reward intellectual risk-taking, and avoid punishing students for failed experiments.