Future of Learning Top Reads for week of July 29 2019

“Innovating from the Other Side: Unleashing the Power of Demand-Side Thinking,” by Tim Fish and Jackie Wolking, in Independent School Magazine

“Over the past two years, the innovation team at NAIS has worked with more than 165 schools to understand their unique journeys. One of our greatest learnings and observations is that many schools are innovating from the supply side: They are creating new programs or expanding upon what they already offer in an effort to stay competitive or deliver on what they think their parents and students want. They might launch a makerspace, build a new library, or introduce a new pedagogical model without fully understanding how the innovation aligns with what’s truly driving parents to choose their schools. Focusing on the supply-side of innovation in this way without fully understanding demand can often lead schools to invest in programs or facilities that may or may not increase interest in the school.

“Demand-side strategic thinking, on the other hand, is rooted in Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen’s Jobs-to-Be-Done (JTBD) theory. When applied to schools, JTBD focuses on identifying causal evidence driving decisions to ‘fire’ one school and to ‘hire’ another.”

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

JTBD theory is an important contribution to Christensen’s disruptive innovation framework. Independent School Magazine recently shared this research on the four jobs parents typically “hire” schools to perform.

Many schools try to be all things to all families. As JTBD illustrates, this is a losing proposition.

So what jobs-to-be-done will your school choose not to perform?


“The best bootcamp for soft skills may be the oldest camp,” by Ryan Craig, in The Gap newsletter

“In survey after survey, more than 40% of employers say they’re not seeing the communication and teamwork skills they need. It’s what you might expect since relationships of teens and young 20-somethings are primarily screen-mediated and many Millennials and members of Gen Z seem to prefer phones to people. As a result, high school seniors are now going out less often than 8th graders did as recently as six years ago. And the number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40% from 2000 to 2015. The upshot is a generation less well versed in understanding social cues, less practiced in the art of compromise in order to get along, and less likely to have developed presentation or communication capabilities. And with fewer group interactions, there are fewer opportunities to develop leadership skills. Jean Twenge, a San Diego State psychologist and author of iGen, predicts that ‘in the next decade, we may see more adults who know just the right emoji for a situation, but not the right facial expression.’”

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

The future of learning and work depend increasingly on teamwork. Students can develop effective collaboration skills—but only if we make the space for practice and targeted feedback.

Which means asking: What are we willing to stop teaching?

As the saying goes, “What got you here won’t get you there”…


“College Financial-Aid Loophole: Wealthy Parents Transfer Guardianship of Their Teens to Get Aid,” by Doug Belkin, in the Wall Street Journal

“One Chicago-area woman told The Wall Street Journal that she transferred guardianship of her then 17-year-old daughter to her business partner last year. While her household income is greater than $250,000 a year, she said, she and her husband have spent about $600,000 putting several older children through college and have no equity in their home, which is valued at about $1.2 million, according to the property website Zillow. She said she has little cash on hand and little saved for her daughter’s education.”

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

Now that many colleges have reached or exceeded a 50% tuition discount rate, families expect to pay a lot less than the sticker price as a default. We see that as a leading indicator for independent schools whose tuitions track closely with the average price of an undergraduate liberal arts college degree.

In addition, many affluent families belong to the “emotional middle class”: they are objectively affluent (exhibit A: owning a $1.2 million home), yet are convinced that they can’t afford things that ought to be theirs by rights. (Skeptical about the “emotional middle class”? Consider this study.)

Does your financial aid policy enable you to enroll mission-aligned families?

And are your financial aid processes capable of sussing out who genuinely needs that aid vs. families who ought to make hard decisions?

Pair with “My Upscale NJ District Is a Pipeline to the Ivy League. So Why Do So Many Parents Suddenly Want Alternatives to a B.A.?”


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Christian Talbot