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Transforming Education: When Unlearning is the Best Strategy for Learning

by Kiki Huckaby


Every once in a while you come across a book that changes the way you think about a specific circumstance, situation, or event, but it is even more profound when you come across a book that profoundly changes the way in which you think about the world. Adam Grant’s book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, did just that for me. 


As an educator, I have always been of the opinion that our job is not to teach students what to think, but to teach them how to think. After reading Think Again, I have come to the conclusion that it is just as important to teach students how to rethink. “The purpose of learning isn’t to affirm our beliefs; it's to evolve our beliefs.”  


We do not put enough emphasis on seeking out information that is different from our beliefs. Instead, we move around the world utilizing confirmation bias to affirm what we already know. In an increasingly polarizing world, we have to be willing to seek out new information, rethink our assumptions, and ultimately, “listen to ideas that make us think hard–not just opinions that make us feel good.” 


In Grant’s book, he explores Philip Tetlock’s 3 P’s (preacher, prosecutor, or politician) of how we approach defending our own beliefs. Too often, we become a:


Preacher - when we feel our sacred beliefs are in jeopardy and protect them with great devotion. We refuse to evaluate the other side because we believe wholeheartedly in our own opinion.  


Prosecutor - when we recognize flaws in other people’s reasoning and highlight them with the goal of “winning” in mind.   


Politician - when we are seeking to sway people with our powerful words, typically saying whatever is needed at the time to win the support.   


Instead of falling in the 3 “P” trap, Grant suggests thinking like a scientist. “In a changing world, you have to be willing and able to change your mind. Otherwise, your expertise can fail, your opinions get out of date, and your ideas fall flat…when you have an opinion, you realize that is just a hunch. It's a hypothesis waiting to be tested.”   


Not only has this book played a significant role in my life, it has drastically changed the MindSpark mindset as well. After adopting this scientific mindset approach, we have rethought ways we approach learning, provide ideas, and are much more willing to truly experiment. We know new ideas will not be perfect but with the permission to learn from mistakes, we make iterative changes in the moment and collaboratively solve problems rather than looking for someone to blame. We have truly, “Embraced the joy of being wrong.”  


Now ask yourself, “What are you willing to rethink?”  

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