AACSB Annual Meeting (ICAM 2013): Learning, Leading, and Teaching in the 21st Century (Tony Wagner, Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard)

Tony Wagner cover

At the AACSB ICAM 2013 Conference, Tony Wagner, Innovation Education Fellow at Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, talked about the learning gaps that are affecting students across the world, and gave some strategies for how to prepare them for the new global knowledge society. 

tony wagner

Tony Wagner: Nowadays, students come to lectures with more knowledge than professors.

According to Albert Einstein, the formulation of a problem is often far more important than finding the solution.  Wagner considers the whole paradigm of education has changed.  Up until the last twenty or thirty years, it was the professors who had the power, because they were the ones with the books, with the pens, with the classrooms etc.  However, today, it is students that come in with more knowledge than professors.  We therefore have to consider what it actually means to be a teacher in today’s technology society.  Referring to Thomas Friedman, he says that, despite the success of the book The World is Flat, “the pace of change was even faster than anyone had ever thought.”  It is therefore necessary to find seven skills to survive in this new world.  Dr. Wagner lays these out as the following:

7 survival skills

  1. Critical thinking. This is a buzz word in education but we don’t know how to define it. In industry it is about asking the tough pertinent questions.
  2. Collaboration across networks and leading through influence. There is a need to deeply appreciate differences. They are led by peers through influence.  Teaching is very isolated skill, so how do we teach it?
  3. Agility and adaptability.
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurial skills.
  5. Effective written and oral communication. College gradua tes don’t know how to think and to write with voice. You can stack the data up any way, but you need to speak with passion.
  6. Accessing information.
  7. Curiosity and imagination.

In 2010, Tony Wagner wrote The Global Achievement Gap To begin with, nothing really much happened about it, but then Wagner began to get requests from around the world to speak about what he’d written.  The essential message about the book was that the world no longer cares about what you know, since practically all information is open to everyone.  Rather, it cares considerably about what you can do with that information.  Businesses are now asking more and more from students and graduates for capacity to innovate, to be creative problem solvers, and to bring possibilities to life.  This requires critical thinking, but studies that have been done have shown that after several years of college, students are no better at critical thinking than when they began.

This problem should be a great concern, considering that the average American student is $26,000 in debt when they finish their undergraduate program, and that the average income of college graduates has declined 10% in the last seven years.  Having a college degree, therefore, is no longer a passport to success.

Tony Wagner – Overcoming the Global Achievement Gap

“We are born curious, creative, and imaginative,” says Wagner.  Just think about children.  “How many questions does a four-year-old child ask in one day?”

In preparing his book, Tony Wagner interviewed many students and teachers.  He found that the teachers that have made the biggest difference to students, according to both groups, were always those teachers that were outliers.  They were often untenured, and often unlikely to get it.  Here Dr. Wagner emphasizes the success of the Montessori school system, which is able to deal with students not able to succeed in a traditional classroom.  The basic principles are as follows:

  1. Innovation should be a team sport.
  2. Schools should give a generalist education.  In fact, this is not the case today, where we are taught to major and specialize.  Dr. Wagner ironizes on what his PhD supervisor said to him, that his dissertation should be, “a conversation between you and one or two people in the world.”  “Why would I have a conversation with one or two people in the world?” he asks.  
  3. We should encourage people to engage and to be active.  There is far too much passive experience in the classroom.
  4. We should encourage risk and failure.  The successful invention company, IDEO, always says that you should fail early and fail often.  Dr. Wagner considers that in the Design School at Stanford, the grade F is now considered the new A, since a failure is a path to success.  In fact, this is not even designated as being failure, but rather iteration for innovation.
  5. Montessori schools understand that people are intrinsically motivated.  A lot of motivation that we have done in teaching in schools has been extrinsic, basing it on grades, or later on money, jobs, etc. 
finnish students

The motto for Finnish higher education is “trust through professionalism.”

Another pattern that will lead to success is the reinforcement of three things: play, purpose, and passion.  Here Dr. Wagner highlights the success of the Finnish system, which has been built up over the last thirty-five years.  The motto for Finnish higher education is “trust through professionalism.”  Because people are professional, they trust them to do the right thing.  This is not something that happens overnight.

Tony Wagn.

It’s patent making and patent breaking that leads to innovation, and we need to encourage this.

“More of the same,” said Wagner, “will not get us innovation.  More maths and more science will not lead to different projects or scientific breakthroughs.

“It’s patent making and patent breaking that leads to innovation, and we need to encourage this.”

Wagner gives the example of when he visited the military academy, and how scared the students were to ask a question, for fear of looking stupid.  “And yet, says Tony Wagner, “these students’ lives depended on their ability to understand.”

Parents, too, are terrified today, because they see increasing competition, and want to give their children a competitive advantage.  The pressure shows on the students.  40% of Harvard undergraduates are on medication, and yet “it is not by doing more and more of the same,” concludes Dr. Wagner, “that we will get greater innovation; rather, it is through looking at the world through a different angle.”

For Associate Deans of AACSB Member schools you can join the AACSB Affinity Group by Clicking Here


Tony wagner thumbnailTony Wagner

Tony Wagner recently accepted a position as the first Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard.  Prior to this, he was the founder and co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for more than a decade. Tony consults widely to schools, districts, and foundations around the country and internationally.  His previous work experience includes twelve years as a high school teacher, K-8 principal, university professor in teacher education, and founding executive director of Educators for Social Responsibility.

Tony is also a frequent speaker at national and international conferences and a widely published author.  His work includes numerous articles and five books. Tony’s latest, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World, has just been published by Simon & Schuster to rave reviews and will soon be available in Spanish and Chinese translations. His 2008 book, The Global Achievement Gap has been an international best seller and has also been translated into Chinese. Tony has also recently collaborated with noted filmmaker Robert Compton to create a 60 minute documentary, “The Finland Phenomenon: Inside The World’s Most Surprising School System.”

Tony earned an M.A.T. and an Ed.D. at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

For more details see Tony Wagner’s website

See also:

159 Millenials Incorporated Brent Smith main

AACSB Associate Deans Conference: Leadership Skills and Strategies (David Logan: CultureSync & USC Marshall School of Business)

AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012: Millennials Incorporated: Our Student Cohort AACSB Associate Deans Conference: Executive Education: Developing Non-Degree Education for the Future (Brent Smith)s


AACSB Annual Meeting (ICAM 2013): Lead by Choice: Lessons for the B-School (Sheena Iyengar, Columbia Business School)

cover sheena“I am always looking for cool pictures.” said Sheena Iyengar at the end of her excellent presentation on how to “Lead by Choice”. The quote was remarkable in that the director of the Global Leadership Matrix (GLeaM) at Columbia Business School is totally blind.

AACSB Annual Meeting (ICAM 2013): 5 Essential Social Media Practices for Academic Leaders (Dr. Michael Williams, Pepperdine University)

Cover picAt the AACSB Annual Conference in Chicago, Dr. Michael Williams from Pepperdine University gave an excellent, practical talk on some of the strategies we can adopt for using different social media efficiently in our jobs. Dr. Williams recognizes that “we are all trapped in a high flow information world” and struggling to cope with all the different media forms that exist. The meeting was organized by the Associate Deans Affinity Group and was attended by 70 delegates.

AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012: The Many Faces of the Associate Dean

At the AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012, Dawn Hukai, Associate Dean at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Susan Laurenson, Associate Dean at The University of Auckland Business School and David J. Urban, Executive Associate Dean, at Virginia Commonwealth University discuss the many roles of an Associate Dean.

AACSB Associate Deans Conference: Leading in Challenging Economic Times by Karyl B. Leggio

Speaking at AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012, Houston, TexasAt the AACSB Associate Deans conference, Karyl Leggio, Dean and Professor of Finance at the Sellinger School of Business at Loyola University Maryland, led a fascinating discussion on the issues in setting up new programs. The topic of the presentation was centered around generating revenues and “managing costs by benefitting from revenue sharing initiatives.” Given that we are now into the fifth year of the financial crisis with no easy end in sight, this is an important subject to address.

AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012: Lessons from Change in Business Schools

One of the opening sessions of the AACSB Conference for Associate Deans Conference brought together panelists from 4 business schools; Latha Ramchand, Dean at the University of Houston, Lynne Richardson, Dean at the University of Mary Washington, Deborah Spake, Associate Dean at the University of Alabama and Kristie Oglivie, Interim Associate Dean at California State University. The Panel was chaired by Susan McTiernan, Associate Dean at Quinnipiac University and Vice Chair of the Associate Deans Affinity Group.

For the love of learning: 3 Myths about Teacher Quality

The Sharing Tree: “Here are three popular statements about teacher quality. Would you say they are fact or fiction?1. The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. 2. The most important single factor in improving quality of education is teachers.”

Dear Teacher, Learn to Teach…

How is Gonzo?: “A teacher’s TRUE job should be to keep the students on their toes, personalize with their students, talk about the weather and relate it to the lesson at hand.


Filed under Business, Business Schools, Education, Higher Education, Innovation, Leadership, Management, Strategy, USA

6 responses to “AACSB Annual Meeting (ICAM 2013): Learning, Leading, and Teaching in the 21st Century (Tony Wagner, Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard)

  1. One of the best blogs and best video I’ve seen in a long, long time. In one 47-minute presentation, the speaker lays out the most critical education issues of our time. Thanks, Mark, for sharing this!

    • Mark Thomas

      Thank you so much for this comment, Martha. Tony is a great speaker and has some wonderful ideas about how we can improve our teaching methods.

  2. Reblogged this on James Madison University's Be the Change and commented:
    It’s not often I reblog, but when I read Mark Thomas’s blog this morning I knew I wanted to pass this along. Mark is Associate Dean and Director of International Affairs at Grenoble Ecole de Management, France, and he writes one of my favorite blogs. What struck me about his post, and also the embedded video by Harvard’s Tony Wagner, is how well James Madison University stacks up. Read it and view the video and see if you don’t agree.

  3. Pingback: AACSB Annual ICAM Conference 2013: Emerging Markets and Business School Strategies | GlobalEd

  4. Pingback: BOOK REVIEW: “The Art of the Sale” by Philip Delves Broughton | GlobalEd

  5. Pingback: The Smartest Kids in the World are created by the smartest (and bravest) education policy makers. | GlobalEd

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