A-Z of Ethical Education: I is for Ideas


“Ideas are thoughts or suggestions as to a possible course of action”Ideas are the product of thinking and it is arguably the major goal of education to teach or enable children and young people to think.  There is a sense in which schools, colleges and universities should be cauldrons bubbling with ideas.  If after a topic has been introduced in a lesson or in a meeting in educational settings, people are bursting with ideas, there would be much to celebrate. 

Having ideas implies thinking creatively and originally however, it is unusual for ideas to descend fully formed from out of the blue.  Rather, the ability to have ideas is cultivated by having varied experiences in life, exposure to examples of thinking and other people’s ideas as well as opportunities to problem solving.  As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention” and inventions start with ideas. In an ethical educational setting, all ideas, from pupils, students and staff would be invited and welcomed.  Positive and constructive feedback would encourage self-confidence and a willingness to keep trying to refine ideas.    Both our self-belief in our ability to have ideas and our confidence to share ideas are underpinned by positive and reinforcing feedback from others.  There are some people who seem to be naturally ‘ideas people’ but would a look at their experience in life reveal that this was a feature in them which received a great deal of nurturing?  If so, could we all be ‘ideas people’?  Certainly, children and young people should experience an education which enables them to feel that they are ‘ideas people.’  Hopefully they would value that even if they do not regularly produce grand ideas, they might produce small ones which contribute to bigger ideas, and that this is o.k. 

Having ideas is the starting point for expressive language.  Children developing language need to know what to talk about in particular situations or how to answer questions they have been asked.  Their ability to do so will be limited if their experiences are limited.  It is not enough to have a wealth of experience – from physically visiting places or through reading books or seeing films – it is crucial that these experiences are reinforced by discussion of what has been visited, read or seen.  This way children and young people build up the vocabulary and sentence structure needed to talk about what they have experienced, which in turn helps them to formulate their ideas more coherently.    

Time to think and a calm, supportive environment would encourage the formation of ideas.  Sometimes it helps when during a lesson or training course, a challenge is set followed by a few minutes to think to yourself before turning to discuss the answer with someone else or a group.  Cultivating the habit of recording ideas also enables their growth.  Recording could be by regularly having to hand a notebook, diary, Post It notes or an audio recording devise.  It would be even more productive if the way the ideas are recorded suited the person’s learning style e.g. writing, drawing or mind mapping.

Enabling and encouraging everyone involved in educational establishments to have ideas is the gift that keeps on giving.  Ideas can lead to growth, progress and sustainability in both the students, the staff and the organisation. 

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