“How do you develop students to be constant learners? To be able to know that they are going to change jobs – probably about 20 times throughout their lifetime. How do we prepare them with the skills to be able to go from position to position? How do they learn to transfer skills from one occupation to another?” – Dr. Loretta Goodwin
Thinking back to when I was a young student eager to carve out a path for my professional future, I would have done anything for some straightforward, impartial advice on skills necessary to achieve success outside the classroom. I’ve often wondered why we spend so much time instilling knowledge in students, but somehow fail at providing the tools and skills necessary to use that knowledge in real life situations?
It was a pleasure to learn that there are highly educated people like Dr. Loretta Goodwin devoting their time and research to helping disadvantaged youth improve their 21st Century skill sets. Goodwin shares her remarkable journey from Cape Town South Africa to the United States and then back again. Goodwin’s diverse course of study in Soviet history and education reform eventually led her to the American Youth Policy Forum, where she has emerged as a leading voice in youth development, workforce development and equity in education.
Rod Berger: Well, Dr. Goodwin, I’m really looking forward to this conversation. Part of me selfishly wishes that when we first chatted over the phone, we would have recorded that conversation for our audience today. Your background is incredible when we think about a larger story around education and opportunity. You’re working hard to advance opportunity and drive the conversation on topics that impact young people and professionals from all over the world.
Do you mind giving the audience a snapshot of your background? I think it’s so compelling.
Loretta Goodwin: Great. Well, thank you so much. I am very honored to be chatting with you today, Rod. I’m originally from Cape Town, South Africa. I was fortunate enough one summer, just sitting at home, to be able to get a phone call literally inviting me to come and study in the United States. I couldn’t believe that it was an actual call inviting me to do this, so I immediately put the phone down. Fortunately, they rang back and said, “No, this really is an opportunity that we’re making available to students at the University of Cape Town,” and it was being put forth by Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
I was fortunate to be able to get an opportunity to study at Wesleyan. I finished my BA at the University of Cape Town first, then traveled to Wesleyan and had an opportunity to launch into studying Soviet history. I chose that because it wasn’t something I could study back in Cape Town. It was actually banned to study anything related to the Soviet Union at that time. I had an opportunity to not only study Soviet history and the Russian language, but I met the man who would later become my husband at Wesleyan.
RB: It worked out in many different ways.
LG: It worked out very well. After that, I was able to go on and get my teaching diploma at the University of Cape Town, then come back to the U.S. and gain another MA. I got an MA in History at Wesleyan, did an MA in Political Science at the University of Washington in Seattle and then was fortunate enough to be able to study at Princeton ending my Ph.D. with a focus on Education Reform.
RB: It’s an incredible journey and could be a whole other conversation. It’s the way you even talk about studying Soviet history and Russian language. I can imagine you saying, “Well, what have I not been able to study,” right?
LG: Well, as part of the preparation for my Ph.D. I did have to learn some French. Unfortunately, the time learning French was too little. That would be something I would love to go back and spend more time on.
RB: I’m curious, what was your other subject of choice?
LG: Besides Soviet history?
The challenge is, we don’t even know what those jobs are going to look like yet. A lot of the training won’t necessarily be about which particular skills they need, but how to develop students to be constant learners. To be able to know that they are going to change jobs – probably about 20 times throughout their lifetime. How do we prepare them with the skills to be able to go from position to position? How do they learn to transfer skills from one occupation to another?
RB: Dr. Goodwin, what role does higher education here in the U.S. play in this discussion? There are those that would say that higher education is digging its heels in and saying we’re not going to change. I’m sure you’ve had conversations with those, off the record, in higher ed that say, “Well, we’re not worried about online learning. We’re not worried about MOOCs. We’re not worried about vocational training. This has been our financial model, and we think that until we really hear demands from the market, why should we change because we have 50,000 students on campus?”
LG: Higher ed eventually is going to need to change. Some of the conversations we’ve been having with higher ed have been around teacher preparation. A fair amount of the work that I’m doing right now, and that’s at the American Youth Policy Forum, is engaged around this concept of deeper learning. We are trying to make sure students not only have academic instruction, but also an opportunity to learn 21st Century skills like problem-solving, and critical thinking.
In that scenario, teachers are the ones that are facilitating the learning. We move from the teacher as standing in front of the classroom and delivering a lot of information to students, to students being much more active and engaged in their learning. To be that kind of teacher and facilitator, teachers need to be trained in a whole different way. Right now, that’s where higher ed comes in. Especially the schools of education where they can be really engaged in training students – training new teachers to be able to teach in that way.
I think when students are come through schools that have much more of a deeper learning focus, they’re also going to expect that the higher-ed establishments they go to have more of those components. They want learning that is much more interactive. They want to take charge of their learning and have a lot more say in being able to have different ways of learning. They don’t necessarily want to sit in lecture halls, being the recipient of lecture notes. They are going to be much more active and in their learning. They’re going to want anywhere, anytime learning, and I think that’s where the MOOCs come in as an opportunity to give students an option to do some of their learning online in a social environment and to use social media that students already use are to such a great extent.
Ultimately, the demand is going to come from several different places. I know that it might take a while for higher ed to move in that direction, but having taken a look myself and really enjoyed the experience, I think that is something that they’re really going to have to contend with. One of the things we need to remember is that the complexion of the traditional student is changing. A lot of the student body is not necessarily going to be the incoming 18-year-olds. There are a lot of older students who are coming back to campus, and demanding different ways of engaging with content. Western Governors University, for example, has online modules and it’s an online environment.
There are other universities that are looking to that model, learning from it. That’s going to be the direction we’re going in for the future.
RB: What has been the response from the institution side to your work regarding teacher preparation? Are you getting pushback, are you getting cooperation? From the student perspective, I would think they would welcome what you’re talking about. When I think about a younger person that wants to engage in teacher preparation, they want to be in a 21st Century learning environment where they can then help facilitate to the younger students. My guess would be that the institutions might be the filter that needs some rearranging.
LG: Yes. We’re not necessarily just targeting that particular sector of the education world. At the American Youth Policy Forum, we work in that education space: youth development and workforce development. We are working to bring together researchers, policy makers, and practitioners so that as we examine these very crucial issues around education and workforce development, we have all the stakeholders in the room to be able to have these difficult conversations.
Our role is to act as a convener and bring people together. To share with them the latest research. It’s not just what the latest practices are, but are they research driven? What are the implications for policy makers?
What we do is create a space to have those discussions. We have them through our forums on Capitol Hill; we have them through webinars. The thing we’re really known for, and this gets to the question you asked, is study tours. We were bring people on study tours and showcase what the learning looks like that the students are excited about doing.
We’ll bring them to High Tech High in San Diego, Envision Schools in the Bay Area, to the Big Picture Schools whether it’s in Providence or San Diego. We’ll showcase the learning where students are really engaged and taking ownership. This is what teachers are getting in terms of preparation, to do and facilitate this kind of learning.
As others look to do this, they can ask, what is the take-away from this learning experience? They don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but instead have an opportunity to learn from those who are doing this. Our role is to make that information available and to create a space for safe discussion. For asking a lot of questions and raising a lot of concerns that people often don’t have, especially in a partisan environment. We are a non-partisan organization, so we’re able to bring people together and have those conversations.
RB: Let’s close with this, Dr. Goodwin. I would be interested since you’re part of these conversations, what has surprised you the most?
LG: I think what has surprised me in a very good way – and this ties into the last couple of weeks, being on the road at a number of different meetings – has been the focus on equity. A very real, clear focus on making sure that we have conversations around equity. How are students being served, especially disadvantaged populations? That is a focus area of the American Youth Policy Forum.
How do we have conversations about race? How do we have conversations around inclusion? How do we have conversations that are often difficult to have? I’ve been very encouraged by foundations, like the Hewlett Foundation that fund us, who really put their money where their mouths are and have sustained focus on issues of equity.
What is encouraging to me is that other foundations are doing that as well. There is much more of a push now to have us not just sweep that aside, but to have it front and center as we think about the best way going forward. We want to make sure that we not only serve the students that are doing fine at schools but those students who need help. We need effective teachers in front of them, and students need the support to be able to thrive and be successful not only in high school but all the way through college. We must make sure they’re getting the support that they want. Unless we have those continued conversations or tons of groups supporting that kind of initiative, I think we will be in a much lesser place. The focus on equity is something that I am happy to see happening.
RB: It is refreshing to know that they’re talking about that. I appreciate when you said that inclusion is a part of that. It sounds good in marketing materials, but to know that it’s actually going on and those discussions are happening, that’s where the real change can happen.
It’s great what you’re doing with the American Youth Policy Forum and that you’re bringing these people together because that’s the first step. We’ve got to bring people together and have these conversations. It’s always when we don’t have them that we assume we know what the other groups are doing and that’s not of benefit for us.
Loretta Goodwin, Ph.D. has been Senior Director at the American Youth Policy Forum since 2007. Her focus is on high school reform, and she oversees field trips and speaker forums on youth policy issues. Ms. Goodwin is experienced in middle and high school reform, experiential education, and international education.
In South Africa Ms. Goodwin began her education career as a middle and high school teacher. At The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars in Washington, DC she served as the program manager for international programs, as well as the faculty coordinator. From 2000 – 2004, she worked as the national co-director of Turning Points, a comprehensive middle school reform initiative. In this capacity, and during her work at the Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement, she provided technical assistance, professional development and resources to teachers and principals. Ms. Goodwin holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Cape Town, master’s degrees from Wesleyan University and the University of Washington, in History and Political Science, and a PhD from Princeton.
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About Rod Berger, PsyD.
Dr. Berger is President and CEO of MindRocket Media Group. Berger is a global education media personality and strategic influencer featured in The Huffington Post, Scholastic, AmericanEdTV, edCircuit and in EdTechReview India.
Audiences have enjoyed education interviews with the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten, Sal Khan along with leading edtech investors, award-winning educators, and state and federal education leaders. Berger’s latest project boasts a collaboration with AmericanEdTV and CBS’s Jack Ford.
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