Why education must be values-led not exam-led.

Updated: Apr 19, 2021


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We need to reimagine what we place our educational values upon. Currently this is grades, and yet grades tell us little about a student that feels relevant to the world in which they will live and work. In a future dominated by AI, A grades are relatively meaningless. In this respect, we are doing a disservice to our young people because if we just focus on grades as a measurement of their success, skill, and character, we are not preparing them adequately, and we are even setting them up to struggle, if not fail.


I am committed to the teaching of essential 21st century skills. If we consider education as an infusion of the teaching of thinking skills and content, we could get closer to an approach that allows learners to develop simultaneously knowledge and metacognitive skills.


The Hexis21 programmes do not focus directly on foundational literacies, but instead concentrate on the four competencies of critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration and how when teachers guide their students in these, students’ character qualities will develop as a natural consequence.


Let’s begin by exploring the four competencies. It is a misconception that people are born with or without creative ability. It is still alarming that some people believe that creativity means simply being artistic. Of course, this is incorrect.


Creativity is about being able to think.


Creativity can absolutely be a learned behaviour. It can be taught and developed. In order to be a creative individual, you have to be comfortable with ambiguity, or being comfortable in uncertain situations. Teachers need to encourage risk-taking in their students, and this can be achieved by creating a safe environment in which students are not simply searching for the correct answer that the teacher is thinking of. Pushing students just beyond their comfort zone will embolden them to go further of their own volition.

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We must cultivate an online and/or face-to-face classroom experience that has its foundations in innovative thinking.

We need to present our students with complex problems that they need to solve. This could be anything from how to establish more green spaces in a metropolitan city to how to ensure equitable global access to a life-saving vaccine.


The process through which I believe we can develop the four competencies and character qualities is known as design thinking and I want to take you through how we can re-imagine the way in which we construct learning experiences using this strategy which is used widely in multiple industries. Stanford, Harvard, MIT and other Ivy League universities all use design thinking as a preferred strategy to teach innovation.

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The design thinking process requires students to develop empathy in order to understand the needs of the people or organisations for whom they need to design a solution.

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Using this human-centric approach they then work on critical thinking by defining the problems and opportunities for designing solutions. The next stage is the generation of ideas…lots of them, followed by the development of prototypes which can be models or storyboards, for example. These prototypes are then tested and feedback is sought. In this sense, reflection becomes one of the bases of learning for students.

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This is a solutions-based approach which is iterative and non-linear. Students can go back and forth to any stage of the process at any point in order to refine their ideas. Re-design is desirable in this design thinking process.


Students are encouraged to think out loud, listen to others and create multiple solutions based on need as opposed to aesthetic desirability.


Design thinking is a social process which demands courage, collaboration and develops resilience. Students create multiple ideas…some will be reasonable and some will be fantastical. This is to be celebrated as they will develop creative confidence – this is something that we have in abundance as toddlers, but gradually ebbs away if not cultivated. Students become optimistic, empathetic, and responsible citizens that are able to contribute positively to solving real-world problems. This will stand them in good stead for the future world of work and their wider family and community lives.


The educational programmes available on Hexis21 provide a step-by-step approach for students to become adept at design thinking.


View our programmes here and download my free eBook on 21st century education here.


Find out more about our Creative Thinking Masterclass here

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