As we’ve mentioned, May will be MIND-strengths month at Dyslexic Advantage. Each week we’ll focus on one of the four MIND-strength patterns. Each day we’ll blog on what they are, how they can be recognized, and how they can be used.
Using Strengths In Education
One area where dyslexic people can use their strengths is in education. So today we’ll focus on “strengths-based education”. The more we understand it, the better we can apply our knowledge about the dyslexic strengths we discuss in May.
In this post let’s look at a great paper by Shane Lopez and Michelle Louis called “The Principles of a Strengths-Based Education.”
Before discussing the five principles, the authors list several of their key beliefs about strengths-based education, and cite research to back them up:
We all have abilities that for us are strengths, regardless of how they stack up against other people, and those strengths can be developed and built upon.
Educators should try to discover and create the kinds of learning experiences that help students build upon their strengths.
We get further by enhancing “what is right” with us than fixing “what is wrong”. Or in their words, “Capitalizing on one’s best qualities is likely to lead to greater success than would be possible by making a comparable investment of effort into overcoming personal weaknesses or deficiencies.”
Our ultimate goal should be flourishing, and a life filled with “hope, engagement, and well-being”, not simply survival.
Other goals include “transforming students into confident, efficacious, lifelong learners whose work is infused with a sense of purpose.”
5 Principles Of A Strengths-Based Education
After listing those basic assumptions, the authors then describe their 5 Principles. They are:
Principle One: Measurement
The first key to developing a strengths-based education is being able to measure important factors, like cognitive and personal strengths. This allows accurately understanding where each student is starting from and what strengths they have, so we know where and how to build. This need for proper strengths-measurement is why it’s so important for everyone in the DA community to participate in May as we begin the process of finalizing our MIND-Strength Assessment Tools (see here). With these tools in hand, dyslexic adults and children should finally be able to self-identify their own MIND-strengths quickly and accurately. Tomorrow we’ll send out instructions on how to help with the M-strengths tool.
Once students and teachers understand the students strength’s, they can create an individualized program of goals that use the student’s strengths and interests to personalize and energize the students’ learning. This individualization can involve not only learning itself, but also assessment, where students can be given options for demonstrating their knowledge in ways that best use their strengths.
“Strengths develop best in response to other human beings.” So efforts are made to harness the power of all the people in the student’s environment to create effective learning opportunities. In addition to parents, teachers, and classmates, communities like Dyslexic Advantage, and many of the other great groups that focus on building student strengths like Eye-to-Eye, can become strong accelerators of learning.
Strengths-based educators “draw out the strengths that exist within each student” by helping students understand and recognize those strengths, and by helping them how they can build and increasingly use those strengths to further their goals. Helping students gain understanding and confidence in using their strengths builds confidence and self-direction, which are key parts of well-being.
Finally, strengths-based education requires students to proactively explore new areas and opportunities for learning. This kind of self-directed activity is the best way to expand their understanding of their own strengths and how they can use them most effectively.
First, for those who still think that the concept of “strengths-based” education a fuzzy, feel-good, empty mess, please read this paper. It powerfully demonstrates that strengths-based education is a serious, substantive idea built on an huge amount of research about how people learn and develop. It’s also a better way to building self-esteem, self-confidence, and the host of other factors that constitute life satisfaction and well-being. This is one case where we really can “have it all”.
Second, our ability to use strengths depends heavily on our ability to identify and measure them. So please, everyone, when the Dyslexic Advantage MIND-Strengths Reasoning Scales begin showing up in your inbox or as a link on Facebook, do participate. These surveys are for everyone in the community: adults and kids, dyslexics and non-dyslexics and possible dyslexics.
We can only get this essential information for a strengths-based information with your help. But together we can change the world!
[Hat tip to filmmaker Stephen Polk for bringing this paper to our attention]