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Ep. 161: Camille A Farrington - Transforming Children Into Well-Prepared Young Adults

August 19, 2021 Sucheta Kamath Season 1 Episode 161
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Ep. 161: Camille A Farrington - Transforming Children Into Well-Prepared Young Adults
Show Notes Transcript

When the New York Times in a student opinion piece asked “How do you think American education could be improved?”, Skye Williams from Sarasota, Florida wrote, ”I think that the American education system can be improved by allowing students to choose the classes that they wish to take or classes that are beneficial for their future. Students aren’t really learning things that can help them in the future such as basic reading and math.” Skye’s comment captures the fact that schooling experiences of American children is far from homogenous and the multitudes of factors that shape their beliefs, behaviors, performance, and identities vary dramatically based on the context, systems, and learning environments. 

On this episode, Senior Research Associate and Director of the Equitable Learning and Development Group at the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, Camille Farrington, Ph.D., discusses how school structures and teacher practices can and do empower young learners to make sense of their daily schooling experiences and help transform them into well-prepared young adults. 

About Camille A Farrington
Camille A. Farrington is a Senior Research Associate and Director of the Equitable Learning & Development Group at the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. Her work focuses on understanding learning environments as constructed, developmental spaces in the context of systemic racism and inequality. She seeks to understand how young people make sense of daily schooling experiences and how school structures and teacher practices shape students’ beliefs, behaviors, identities, performance, and development.  As a principal investigator for the Equitable Learning & Development Project/Next System Learning Collaborative and the Building Equitable Learning Environments (BELE) Network, she collaborates with educators, scholars, students, and families to reimagine and transform public education to support human learning, development, and well-being. Camille’s publications include Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework (2015); Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners: The Role of Noncognitive Factors in Shaping School Performance (2012); and Failing at School: Lessons for Redesigning Urban High Schools (2014). Camille’s research draws on her 15-year experience as a public high school teacher. She holds a BA from the University of California Santa Cruz and a Ph.D. in Policy Studies in Urban Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Website:
https://consortium.uchicago.edu/equitable_learning_and_development

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About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.

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Sucheta Kamath: Welcome to Full PreFrontal, where we expose the mysteries of executive function and talk about personal success personal agency, how do we become goal oriented and persist towards goals in an enlightened self-interest way, not in a selfish way. And executive function is the driving force that allows you to manage your behaviors, thoughts, actions, emotions, so that you can produce results for yourself that benefit you, but that that benefit everyone else around you. However, this is not intuitive, as we have talked a lot about and today, I'm going to have a very special guest, Dr. Camille Farrington, who is going to really unveil the secrets to student success. But before I talk to you about that, I thought I'd share a quick story about my own personal journey of becoming an effective student. I grew up in India and my K to 12 and my undergraduate degrees and master's degree one master's degrees was in India, and one of the approaches that was very evident was brutal honesty, regarding student performance. So what I was telling this story to somebody, but when I was growing up, the teachers would display the marks that you get on the door. And so the, of course, the marks were ranked by the highest with the name and the lowest, pass fail. And of course, the fail all would be in red. I cannot tell you I've never was in the last category always would be the top one or two. And it was I cannot tell you, I felt the same pain as the people who were in red. And one of the things as I even I remember, as a ninth grader thinking, Why are teachers doing that? It was quite painful. And but I think they were thinking this will motivate kids to never be on the on the list, so to speak. But it this list never did the job that it was supposed to do, or they thought it will do. And it became the most sore point in everybody's. So not only your classmates knew, but any Tom, Dick and Harry that passed by the class knew. So the reason I'm sharing that is some of the approaches in dealing and excavating the skills and talents in young people is misunderstood. And the efforts that people make may be misguided. And that's why I'm very curious and keen to talk to a very special guest today and Welcome, Dr. Camille Farrington. She is a senior research research associate, and director of the equitable Learning and Development Group at the University of Chicago Consortium on school research. Her work focuses on understanding learning environments, as constructed developmental spaces. In the context of systematic racism and inequity. she seeks to understand how young people make sense of daily schooling experiences, as I just shared mine, and how schools structures and teachers practice. The practice has shaped student beliefs, behaviors, identities, performance and development, which is such a profound ways to conceptualize education. She's also a primary investigator for Equitable Learning & Development Project/Next System Learning Collaborative and the Building Equitable Learning Environments, which is also known as BELE Network, and she collaborates with educators, scholars, students, families, to reimagine and transform public education, which is so needed. And finally, there are two seminal reports that I have benefited tremendously and my audience, if you haven't, we'll be linking those in our show notes. But her publications include foundations for young adult success, a developmental framework that was published in 2015. And teaching adolescents to become learners the role of non cognitive factors in shaping school performance, which was published in 2012. So with that, I know there's a one amazing element which I'll ask you as a question, but Welcome to the podcast. How are you?

Camille Farrington: I'm doing well. Thank you so much for having me. I'm looking forward to our conversation. 

Sucheta Kamath: So you know your journey as a teacher, which is the piece that I'm very interested, you know, before you became a researcher, you were a high school teacher, I understand. And you spend over 15 years or close to 15 years teaching youth. And so what are the teaching and learning barriers you encountered that informed your research perspective?

Camille Farrington: That's a great question. So I taught in three different states. I started in Oakland, California, and taught there for two years, then moved with my husband to Madison, Wisconsin, a very different place from Oakland and taught outside of Madison in the small district, with one high school in Wisconsin, and then moved to Chicago and taught in Chicago. So three very different contexts with very different groups of students. But the thing that, that I saw over and over really was that a lot of what was most challenging was not students or their learning, it was the structure of school in which I was trying to teach. And, and so I think that's what eventually led me back to, to go back to school to become a researcher was thinking more broadly about the systemic conditions and structures in which we're asking young people to learn and and what can we do to try to create better, better context to support young people's learning and development.

Sucheta Kamath: And it's totally our gain, those few students may have lost you as a teacher, but you have profoundly influenced the way educators need to conceptualize educating the youth. So I want to start with the framework that, particularly the you're the first research paper, that teaching adolescent to become learners, and where you talk about non cognitive factors and so interesting, because from where I sit, and where I come from my training, we would not describe them as non cognitive skills. So I'm very curious to first talk about an in this paper, I think you describe factors such as persistence, you know, resilience, grit, goal setting, help seeking cooperation, contentiousness self efficacy, self control, self discipline, and so on, and so forth mindsets? So tell us a little bit about first the definition of non cognitive functions? And is it a uniquely placed in the context or to juxtapose in the context of education? Because in education, we are talking about academic learning, which inquiry requires cognitive abilities?

Camille Farrington: Right, right. And so that paper, as you said, that paper was published in 2012. And at that point, in time, the phrase non cognitive skills was a very hot topic I see. And we were asked actually to do a review on non cognitive skills. And, and, and so that term non cognitive as always kind of stuck. Not sat well with me, because I think that, you know, as I've often said, in presenting this work, you know, that the only thing non cognitive about about human beings is when they're dead, you know, that, exactly. Like, every aspect of everything we do is a combination of our cognition and our emotion and our spirit then, and our physical energy, and that you can't really separate those things out. So. So in that way, I think non cognitive is pretty horrible word. But where it came from, was distinguishing between things that could be measured by cognitive tests, and things that could not be measured by cognitive tests. And I think that the phrase developed because it was saying, like, Okay, well, we know that cognitive differences, as tested by cognitive tests, don't account for some of the differences in life outcomes that we see for people. So it must therefore be, quote, non cognitive things that contribute that make these differences and so that that's where the, the term came from. But as you say, you know, it's, it's, it's actually not not a very good term, and anybody who, who understands human development would know that that's not not a very good term. And since 2012, I have pretty much never used it. 

Sucheta Kamath: Okay. So I appreciate that distinction, because I think when and I can draw such a parallel with executive function. So executive function, as you know, is goal setting, you know, prioritization process, your organization planning skills, your ability to think about the future perspective taking, none of these skills are measured in the academic context, but the entire academic success, which heavily depends on self management requires these abilities. And I do want to also ask you now the new term social emotional learning is become an avalanche of a term that is completely bearing executive function, one once again, so before it was non cognitive, and now it's the social emotional learning so So just to kind of finish up that thought about that particular research, there were a lot of key questions that you all had raised, which is, what are these factors that are associated with academic performance? And what is the relationship between these factors ADD the teaching process and the outcome that we see. So can you share the results, you found this deep research that you did before you set out to do actual the measurement? So talk to us about that.

Camille Farrington: Yes. And your point about social emotional learning or non cognitive, I think that a danger of a catch all phrase is that we think that everything in that bucket is somehow the same or or similar. And I think in both, in both cases, that there that it contains many, many, many different kinds of things. Yeah, that that are important to differentiate, because how they're developed, how they're measured, how they matter, differs from one thing to another. So the first thing we did in this work in 2012, was to say, Well, what are the different kinds of things that fall under this umbrella of non cognitive factors? We, we refuse to use the word skills, because they aren't all skills, some of them are things that are innate, some, you know, some are, right, you know, so we, we substituted in the word factors just as a kind of a vague term that could have applied a lot of different kinds of things. And so the five things that we identified, that contributed to academic performance, but that aren't tested by cognitive tests. First, our academic behaviors, academic perseverance, academic mindsets, learning strategies, and social skills. And then for each of those five different kinds of things we looked to see, well, first of all, like, what, what's the definition of these things? What's the evidence that they're related to student's academic performance? Are they malleable? Or? Do we know how to change them? Because things can be malleable? And yet, we don't actually know how to intentionally impact them. So we were looking for evidence, are they malleable? Do we know how to change them in schools? And then we're also really interested in in disparities, of academic performance, by gender, and by race. And so we also ask the question, is there evidence that if you could further develop one of any one of those five categories? Would it? Would it eliminate differences by race and gender? So in other words, do they operate different differentially? Or is there evidence that boys versus girls has more of one or the other, for example? And so we applied those five questions to those five categories. And also, we were really interested in the relationships between those five categories. So how do mindsets affect learning strategies? Or how does social skills affect behaviors and trying to look at to see the evidence of how these things were put together? Because one thing that became really clear, as we were looking through all of this is that the folks who study belonging, don't talk to the people who studied grit, who don't talk to the people who study executive function, who don't talk to the people, you know, who study you know, interpersonal empathy, or something. So, so we also wanted to see, where could we? Where could we draw on existing research to understand how those things might be connected?

Sucheta Kamath: You know, I think I can say, when I started this podcast, that was one of the biggest goals I had is to really show the intersectionality between neuroscience cognitive psychology, psychology, education, anthropology, social cognition, and what I found that when we are talking about fundamentally how people learn to learn, there has to be some emphasis given to self knowledge. And and secondly, those who are in charge of other people learning by following the lead, there has to be some onus on the people who are delivering the learning to understand the impact or the mindset as you're saying, or strategic development, like how do I become strategic thinking? And lastly, I'll say what was so shocking to me since I come from a place where we work with you know, my my area of expertise was brain injuries, concussions and one of the frameworks there is impairment and skill building. So if you lack the ability and skill because there was a setback, then how do you develop them. And I found that then same principles are not at all used in normal learning circumstances. So strategic learning is in this side somewhere and intention, teaching people who don't have an impairment. They're not teaching strategic learning at all. And that gap to me was very, and so the first time in through your frame framework, I found all factors of human condition are addressed in such a profound ways. And I really congratulate you and your team for doing such a beautiful job. And so can we take a minute? And maybe you can walk us through? What are you seeing? If we want to improve student's academic performance? How can we what can can we change in the way we address development of academic behaviors, development of academic persistence, developing the mind says, because, as you mentioned, the same dilemma I see in the psychology field, where character and personality, you know, nobody touches it, because you're wired or whatever. So sorry, for this long rambling, but I would love to see how you inform you want people to be informed by this research.

Camille Farrington: Thank you for the opportunity to talk about that. So one thing to just say about that particular study is that we were, we were trying to understand what created academic performance as measured by students grades and classes. And so that was a kind of a narrow outcome, we were looking specifically at academic performance in subsequent work, we looked more broadly at young people's development. But if you focus in on just what makes for better academic performance, that was the primary question that was in front of us, for the work in 2012. And there, so one thing that we know for sure, is pretty, pretty clear is you can't improve academic performance grades in classes, unless you change behaviors. So students, student behaviors, academic behaviors, such as coming to school, paying attention, studying, turning in work, participating in discussions, like that's, that is the way that students produce grades, at least in the way, you know, our normal grading system was captured. And, and so whatever you do has to improve young people's actual behaviors, if it's going to show up as as an academic performance, they might learn things, but you wouldn't know it if they aren't, you know, engaged in the behaviors that then show what they've learned. And so behaviors are that are a critical thing to change. But it's really hard to change behaviors directly just by trying to get people to act differently. And so you have to kind of, I think about it as move kind of farther upstream to think about, well, what shapes behaviors. And tied into the idea of behaviors is this idea of perseverance, and perseverance expresses itself through behaviors. So if you're very persistent at something, we see that you keep trying, or you keep working on something, despite setbacks or despite barriers, and so that trying to support young people to be more persistent perseverance in their work, is kind of the goal of every teacher, you know, they, as it as a teacher, I know that when you see young people give up, you want to figure out okay, how can I get like this students giving up this students keeping at it? How do I get the student who's giving up to want to keep working at something, and they're again, cajoling them or shaming them or punishing them or trying to incentivize them just to act different or to keep working at something doesn't get you very far. And so we have to keep going farther back stream. So what, what, further upstream what contributes to young people being persistent tend to engage persistently in good behaviors. And that's where we start getting to some really interesting things. And what we found was that there were there's kind of a why and how that contribute to perseverance. The Why is why am I engaged in this in the first place? Like why do I want to do this rather than motivational factors for this? And then the How do I know how to engage If I don't know how to do something, then I might really want to. But I can't make progress because I just don't know how to do it. So paying attention to both? are we setting up the the? Does students feel the things that would motivate them to want to do work? And did they know how to do that? And so we call those academic mindsets or the Y pieces. And then learning strategies are the how pieces. And I'll start with learning strategies, which is straightforward learning strategies are learned behaviors, they're, they're not innate, we don't, you know, we don't come onto the planet, knowing them. It's learning being explicitly taught how to do something, or strategies for retaining like, now how do I read something and then remember, the key ideas of this, there's strategies for doing that, that teachers can teach to students, and that they can get better at doing that through learn strategies. But the academic mindsets are not things that you can teach somebody, what we found was that you have to kind of create the conditions that make those academic mindsets true. And in that report, we talked about four mindsets for which there's, at the time in 2012, was a lot of evidence around and subsequent to that, in the last nine years, there's been more and more evidence to support the importance of these four mindsets, and we talked about them in the first person from the point of view of the learner. And the first is, is belonging, I belong in this academic community. And if I feel like I belong in this community, then I'm motivated to do the kinds of things that connect me to other people in this community and keep me connected in that honor those relationships. So if I feel connected to my teacher, then I want to do something that makes the teacher feel positive towards me. And if I feel connected to my classmates, and part of what we do, as being a community of learners is that we help each other learn, then I want to engage in that kind of behavior, because I belong here. And I feel good to be connected to the people in my, in my community, like my learning community. And so that motivates me to work hard at things that motivates me to stick with things to, to try and master things that are difficult. So I belong in this academic community is the first really important mindset. And then there's a second, and these are actually in no particular order. A second mindset is self efficacy. And we phrase that as I, I believe I can succeed at this. And this is a two facts about any human being, we don't invest energy in things that we don't think we can be successful. And that's smart of us, because we only have so much energy. And there's a lot of things that demand our attention. And if something right off the bat seems hopeless, like this is an impossible task, then we withhold our energy from it. So believing that we can succeed is foundational to us wanting to invest energy and time in something. And so so that that notion of I can succeed at this is that is a really critical mindset. A third one is growth mindset. I know you talk to David Yeager, growth mindset, and so that the idea that my ability and competence will grow with my effort, it's not something that's limited, and that there's a fixed end to end. So that's really important for when young people hit up against what feels like the edge of what they're able to do. If they think if they interpret that edge as, okay, well, I hit the ability of my you know, the limits of my ability, then it doesn't make any sense to keep pushing because, you know, I've gone as far as I can. But if you really believe that, that sense of a pushing up against an edge is the place where if you really lean in, you can get better and that's in fact, how you develop yourself. Then when you get to that edge, you're gonna lean in instead of leaning back. And so believing that my ability, my competence are going to grow with my effort, at the place where it's hardest for me is again a place is a belief, a mindset that motivates perseverance and and good behaviors. And then the fourth of mind sets is relevant. This work has meaning to me. And, again, I think every adult can appreciate. When you're asked to do whether it's in a job or in some kind of a setting where you're asked to do something that you think is worthless or meaningless, it's really infuriating to have to have to do something that doesn't hold any personal meaning to us. And, in fact, cognitively, we can't force ourselves to pay attention to things that aren't interesting to us. It Like It, we literally cannot force ourselves to attend to things that have no interest to us. And so seeing work as meaningful, understanding that engaging in this is going to be rewarding. For something that we care about, again, is that a motivating belief that gets us to persist that gets us to engage to lean in when things are hard, and to pick up again, when we don't do well, the first time. So. So those four mindsets are just really, really critical. Energy or fuel, to motivate persistence and perseverance toward schools. And that's true and in any kind of goal. But it's, it's absolutely tied to academic performance.

Sucheta Kamath: Thank you for spending a minute on that. So critical and what I love the distinction there. When you talk about the four mindsets, a growth mindset is part of it, because or other growth mindset is not the entire set of mindsets, right, because I think I'm seeing another little, you know, we all tend to be like really leaning towards what's popular and happen, whatever seems to be top of the cultural mind, so to speak. And growth mindset is something I hear a lot and people are talking explicitly about teaching growth mindset by talking mindset. And one distinction that your work and your ongoing work talks about these are inculcated through being and at the heart of that is action and reflection. So can you talk a little bit about that? As as even parents may be but educators are teaching Institute's such as classrooms and schools, or maybe entire districts or a whole us educational system thinks about these are just the aspect of mindset? How can we cultivate an environment where these mindsets are self evident? Right, that's how they need to be. Because you cannot tell a kid to become that with that mindset. So talk to us about because this gets lost. Sometimes I find that there's too much of cliched versions, you know, putting posters on the wall, when the teacher doesn't even address failures as a normal, normalizing failure is not even part of the classroom environment. But then they're saying, pick yourself up.

Camille Farrington: Right, right. That's exactly right. And, and yet, mindsets cannot be taught. So I'm like learning strategies, which have to be taught, yet, mindsets cannot be taught, they can only be fostered. And so and if we, if we think of mindsets, as beliefs that a young person or that any any, excuse me, if we think of mindset as a belief that a human being holds about themselves, about other people and about the world. And it's how we interpret our experience, and, and mindsets become a series for the mindsets become automated. Because once we start believing something, we continue to believe it unless something interrupts interrupts that belief and kind of makes us reconsider that. And so the, the things that. So the environment, like if we hold it as a belief, and what I say to educators all the time, it's easier to believe something if it's true. And so if you create an environment in which it is true, that your ability and competence will grow with your efforts. So for example, if you do work that falls short of what the teacher expects, and then the teacher just puts a grade on it and moves on to something else, that doesn't help you cultivate the idea that if I keep working on this thing, I'll get better at this thing. And so giving people giving students the opportunity to develop competence in something not just grading the competence It currently have helps to cultivate that mindset, that my ability and competence will grow with my effort. Likewise, I belong in this learning community. if, if, if I'm in a place where people are mean to each other, and that is okay and let stand as a norm, or that people get ostracized or treated differently, depending on who they are, then that's it's hard to believe that I belong in this place, because I'm always on alert that something's gonna happen to me. And so again, if you can cultivate an environment in which people actually care about each other, actually are happy to see each other, understand and get to know each other. Like, that's the kind of place where people start to feel like maybe they really belong. And I'm thinking back Sucheta about your story about the the list on the door of the ratings of all the students. And I'm thinking about the mindset about I can succeed at this. For students who perennially show up on the very bottom of that list, it's pretty hard to believe that next time, I'm going to be at the top of that list. And so young people are always looking for, for clues and hints about what are the what's the likelihood that I'll be successful here. And so they, again, if we set up an environment, for their learning, that makes it true that in fact, they can succeed. And again, that's like, giving more opportunities, if they didn't succeed the first time, it's setting up the rules, so that it's not, you know, grading on a curve, you know, and that that kind of thing, then all of all of those conditions really make it possible to believe the mindsets. And again, like relevance, this work is meaningful, understanding what students care about, and trying to connect the work that they're doing to things that care about in the world, things going on in the world, things, knowledge that they bring into the classroom. Again, all of that makes those mindsets just a lot easier to to believe.

Sucheta Kamath: You know, the, the story there, as you're saying is, children are likely to gauge beliefs through demonstration of the way a demonstration of it. And as adults, if they are valuing, like the the way I think about the display of the marks to them. I know one value as our school valued was brutal honesty, they failed, it is what it is. But to me that was emblematic of fixed mindset that children are like rolling dice, sometimes you get both a dice, dice the dice showing six, sometimes you just get one one, you know. So there was no sense of agency built into that there was no sense of value built into it. There was brutal honesty that you suck, and I'm sorry to inform you, you suck. And the caveat there being it's up to you, where the teacher and the schooling institution took no responsibility. And I'm being facetious here, because I also learned many, many wonderful things. But I just never understood this little piece of it. But there was, and I've seen many parts of Indian upbringing, and even here, I guess, but there's some brutal honesty being at the heart of telling the bad news of us sucking as a way to motivate you.

Camille Farrington: Right. Right. And, and that actually, and it can be motivating for some people if some of the other things are in place. So like, I've heard many, many stories of people who persisted at something to prove somebody else wrong, who told them they can't do it? Right. So if you care about the thing, you know, if there's some kind of thing that motivates you that you care about, yes, then you can, you know, you can press through that, but it's not a good for like it. It doesn't work for a lot of students and particularly for students who don't see the value in engaging in the work in the first place, then being told that you're at the bottom of the heap is not actually a motivating thing at all.

Sucheta Kamath: And that is not a relationship with failure because i when i because I worked with children and adolescents and adults who are struggling, or one fundamental my lesson to them is learning by definition is not Knowing so to you not knowing is default. And if you not know, you're not going to know. So not knowing is not same as doing poorly. And that's the real distinction to help children understand doing poorly is lacking effort, lacking commitment, lacking skills. But all of those, those parts are learnable. And and so if you frame it that way, I think that can really help children tremendously. So the second part, I wanted to quickly see where you saw where the student agency fit in these five factors that you describe, and particularly as you read the, you might must have read the article by Pedro Noguera, and Anindya Kundu, as a response to Angela Duckworth article about grit, that children from poverty and children from low socio economic background, they may be blamed to have less grit, but they just lacked the opportunity. And that distinction. And so would you take a minute to also see how these factors shape out differently based on the socio economic disparities in this country? 

Camille Farrington: Yeah, no. So I, I think that if we think about mindsets, the those four mindsets are powerful, regardless of who you are. But your likelihood to develop those mindsets, or put another way, the likelihood of the environment to support you to develop those mindsets is going to be different depending on your social identities. In some, you know, it might be different depending on your social identities, then in schools, generally speaking, it is different. And in the intervention research around mindsets, what findings consistently come out to be is that mindset interventions, sometimes don't make any difference for white students, but make a big difference for black students, or depending on the context for female students. So if you're in a, if you're in stereotypically males advantage discipline, then then female students would be the ones who benefited the most from a mindset intervention, for example, the notion of do I belong here, interventions that help students reframe their experience in a way that  reaffirms their belonging, that those kinds of interventions have big impacts on female students in traditionally male disciplines, or on black or Latino students in, in academic areas that we hear a lot about, quote, unquote, racial achievement gaps. So the notion that, that a long history of, of black and Latinx students as not being intellectual, for example, not having intellectual capacities equal to white or Asian students, like, those stereotypes are pervasive. And in you know, it's in the air as Cloud Steel says, and so it's, it informs their, their beliefs that they can be successful, for example, so. But I want to get bring this back to the question about agency. And so I think a goal of education broadly and in the work that we did in 2015, around the foundations for young adult success, we said that the goals of education should be young people's agency, development of agency, a development of socially valued competencies, and an integrated identity. And so if we think of academic learning, on one hand, academic learning in school contributes to our socially valued competencies, because we have an academic competencies that we can utilize in, in all kinds of different contexts. But those should but academic concepts. competency shouldn't come at the expense of agency or identity. We want all of those things to grow together. And, and so and so. We want young people to feel not only that they have these skills, but that they're able to use them in a way that advances their goals, their the goals of their community, things that that They see need to be changed in the world, all of that as that the point of gaining skills is so that you can engage in the world in a way that, that moves things. And, and, and then identity pieces is critically important as well, you want people to feel whole and healthy, and to understand who they are, where they came from, and to be able to hold pride in that. And, and so again, we don't want to denigrate people's identities at the cost of trying to build their their competencies. So those things really kind of need to need to work in tandem and, and agency again, if we want people to grow up, go through school, and then be agentic. Adults, then we have to give them opportunities to exercise agency all the way through their lives right? at the appropriate level. You know, three year olds can exercise the agency 10 year olds can exercise agency, it looks different, looks different from what a 24 year old would do. But there there has to be multiple opportunities for people to exercise agency and express and explore their identities at the same time as they're developing their competencies.

Sucheta Kamath: It's a funny story, if you allow me to indulge in a sidebar here, but I was at a friend's place. And she had a she has a 12 year old and a nine year old. And the kids after lunch wanted came to mom to ask, can they have candy? And how much? So there was like a Smarties, you know? And this all transpired in front of me and I just asked her why are they asking you? And oh, so then she proceeded to say to and then the other kid wanted not Smarties but something else. And they asked how much how many. And then she said, if it's a larger than one, you know, whatever the math she had. And this just, I just asked her, why are you deciding this? She was taken aback and she said, What do you mean? I said, they're nine and 12? Like, why can they decide what they can have? Well, what I don't want them to eat, candy can be bad. So I said don't keep it in the house, like agencies to be able to decide what's good for me and what's not good for me. But if you're so concerned that they can't even decide, you know, like, so even that simple sliver, like I find that the teachers are deciding how much work they need to do, the students do not have the autonomy to start with the hardest, come to the end, or like one of the things I altering the homework policy, even for the kid who has dysgraphia could be a simple thing that I need. These are five very important, you know, important problems, but 10, I'm giving you some good more practice. Now the agency can be that as long as you tackle the five most important problems, additional practice, I allow you based on the time it takes you now this becomes a student becomes agent of their own learning. Right. Right. And and so that brings me to this question then, you know, talking about the way we prepare our educators? How do we build the capacities of the teacher workforce to deliver the kind of transformative educational experiences for adolescent that you're advocating for? Your you're talking about this very, very powerful internal mechanisms that need to be like, activated I feel at different junctures of their development. But if the teachers don't show a psych wise, or, you know, knowledge of these complex components, which is not necessarily part of their training, either. How do you see that change for us?

Camille Farrington: So, the, it's, it's, it's interesting, I, so if we think for a minute about what we were just talking about for young people, and we said that what drives them to do their best work, and their best learning is creating an environment that makes these mindsets true, and that moves them towards agency, an integrated identity and a set of socially valued competencies. And the exact same thing is true for adults, the thing that's going to motivate them to do their best work, like we have to start with the assumption that actually anybody's capable of anything. And so young people are capable of doing anything put in front of them and you It's a question of setting up the circumstances and providing the supports that allow that to be possible. And I believe the same is true of adults and adults, working in schools or working in any setting, that if you set up the circumstances and the conditions that support them to do their best work, and it would be the same kind of mindset, I belong in this community. You know, I, my work is an integral part of what we're trying to do here. I believe we can be successful at this. And I believe I can be successful with this. Yeah. And so like, what are the things that are barriers to adults success as being educators or supporting young people, and oftentimes, it's structural things like I know, as a, as a high school teacher, I would have 160 students a day, it was really hard to develop deep relationships with 160 students a day when I saw them for 45 minutes, a very scripted kind of time. So like, how would we How might we restructure things and, you know, schools are considering these questions and trying to think about how do we restructure adults work so that they have more time to actually build relationships with young people, and feeling like the work is meaningful and relevant? Again, I think a lot of teachers, particularly when we saw the shift towards tested skills, and like, all you, you know, that your job just has to be to improve these test scores. And we're going to do these drills. And like, that was demoralizing for a lot of teachers. And they didn't feel like their work was meaningful, because nor did they feel like it was necessarily possible for them to be successful. Oh, that's really de motivating for the adults. So again, how do we set up the conditions so that they feel belonging, they feel self efficacy, they feel the relevance of the work, and that and the growth mindset idea that they believe that collectively, particularly, that if we work on this together, we can create a different kind of environment, we can change the trajectory of, of students lives, and that that like, what would it take? What would the structures need to be for that to be true? And so I think if we approach adult development from that frame, and, again, valuing adults identity and their identity development and developing their agency, how much control do we give over to them, because I think your example with the mother and the candy and the child is very much oftentimes how adults, adult educators or professionals still are told, like you will do this, you will spend this much time like there's very little agency they have over their own time and decision making. So So I think it we have to apply the exact same understanding of our human development for the adults in school settings, or any kind of any kind of work setting that works with you.

Sucheta Kamath: I'm going to ask you this last question, which kind of sums up your big overarching ideas, but you know, you talk about that most people are interested in success of the the young, young ones that they're either raising or guiding or teaching. And what they want most is much broader range of outcomes, not just college and career readiness. It's not like can you go to college and take a test, but they, as you have heard you talk about and write about is this support kids to become these healthy and happy individuals who eventually they themselves become the ones who create stable families and navigate the social institutions or advocate for themselves and advocate for their loved ones, those are dependent on them maintain vitality, and even become enterprising, so to to do all that, you know, we all have to get this right. So, so what what do you think about the you know, broadening the goals of education beyond academic skills is to prepare such kind of individuals and this is a positive development in that direction. But is there anything that the social emotional advocates have gotten wrong as there first of all, I don't think they are defining the development in such broad sense but what are they not getting right and and it's really frustrating honestly, between you and I, that so much of there was a recently something I came across was six minute SEL or something, you know, and how do you even accomplish these deep value-based internalize ways of being in on a fly by shooting kind of mode, you know? So what advice do you have for all of us?

Camille Farrington: Yeah, well, I think you put your finger on it in some way, it's that, that the going back to what we were talking about at the very beginning of our conversation about broad categories, like social emotional learning, and, and then thinking that everything that we bucket under that category is the same kind of phenomena as the next thing under that category. And so, as we were talking before, learning strategies is something that you can teach, but academic mindsets is not something that you can teach, it's something that you need to foster by setting up the conditions that are going to bring that forth in young people. And so I think that the social emotional, some social emotional learning advocate, who thinks really specifically around skills and social emotional skills, and think of those as taught things, you know, like things that that are taught and learned. And so yeah, there's a six minute, you know, skill lesson. That that's all well and good as a small piece of what it means to develop as a social and emotional being. Because part of social, our social emotional lives are learned, learned skills, but there are huge other parts that are not learned skills. And so understanding that it's not as simple as lessons where we're going to teach a thing. And then the other pieces just is to understand the development of to trajectory of young people, that things that you would teach explicitly to little kids, you know, as they're first developing. So if we think of executive functions and, and self regulation, in preschool age children, that there we really are going to teach specific things we're going to model we're going to kind of show what we mean about sharing, and we're going to set rules around those things. But as young and in elementary school, there's good reason to teach really explicit skills about how do you make a friend and how do you work with a group and those are things that can be aided by having particular skills and strategies. But once young people start moving into middle school and high school, the thing that that really comes to the fore is their identity development and their understanding of how did they fit in with the world? And how are they making meaning of their experience? How are they? How are they quoting their place that in the world, what the world is, like how that all fits together? And and they're, you can't teach him anything. In fact, the more you try to teach adolescence, something explicitly, the less, they're gonna think that's a valuable thing. So, so it, it really is important, if we think about supporting the social emotional development of young people, that we shift our tactics over time to recognize the developmental stages that young people are in at different times and to and to kind of work with their natural developmental tasks of early adolescence and later adolescence. So for example, helping young people to reflect on their identities, what kind of people do they want to be? Where, what kinds of world do they want to live in? What are the values that they really hold? What are different kinds of values that different people hold? And what kinds of conflicts come up in that? And how do we resolve those, like, all of those questions are not something you can, you know, it's not a skill you can teach it's a it's a, it's a opportunities for reflection, for having experiences and reflecting on those experiences, making meaning of things that I think it's just a really critical but way too often neglected piece of supporting holistic social and emotional development in human beings.

Sucheta Kamath: I love that. And recently I had Darren Graves who is a developmental psychologist, but he talks about, you know, youth critical consciousness development in you then, one of the examples he gave as the children were studying in their schools, the location apparently one of the foreign countries combat counselor was in had a an advisory to people coming from that country to not go to the area of the city where their school was, because it was dangerous, but mainly it was predominantly black and Latino population. And so these children investigated the population of their area, they, they actually read the policy or the advisory, they wrote a letter to the council, you know, Counselor General, and they took action. So it's it's, it's exactly what you're talking about that something is not even part of the curriculum, if children are not given an opportunity to investigate the environment in which they are acting as agents, but agents of what learning what somebody else's agenda and I think that's I always like to conceptualize that transition from pre adolescence, adolescence into young adulthood, is this passing the baton? I'm teaching you how to learn to learn, and then you teach yourself, whatever it is that you need to learn. Right, right. So as we come to a close, this has been a fantastic conversation. And with your brilliant mind, I'm sure many, many things have shaped your thought processes, are they anything that you have read, that has power been powerful, influential or meaningful to you that you can share with us?

Camille Farrington: Yeah, it's, it's so hard to pick a thing. And I'll say that in part because because so, so much of my own thinking, gets woven together across reading of a broad number of things. And, and so more than any given book that I would recommend, is that I would just really encourage people to like to read broadly across any, any, any particular area. And so, for example, my a lot of my thinking comes from reading history of education, and like the history of high schools. And 100 years ago, what was going on when high schools first went from being a very rare thing that, you know, two or 3% of the population, attended high school to a place where most people were high school educated. And so reading history, reading philosophy, reading neuroscience, I think that the more people can read, even just short articles about those various pieces and put those together that that certainly is, is how any of my own understanding of the world has has come as bike like reading very, very broadly across the perspectives on things.

Sucheta Kamath: I really appreciate that I think that's become a polymath is what you're saying. I think it's really broadens your perspective. I'm a big fan of you know, same as you said. One other interesting Vivian Zalzar I don't know if you have read her book, Economically Useless and Emotionally Priceless. I think that's the title that that has been a very interesting book. She's a sociologist about when did children become so priceless? And, and, you know, before that, we were actually children were losing limbs and children were like dying, because they were workers, in the fields in factories. And then the, I think, anyway, so I think those kinds of things give you a perspective about what is even the purpose of education was is to not necessarily, you know, enlightenment, it was mostly getting them to become workers. 

Camille Farrington: So that's right, though, I was I was fortunate in in my undergraduate studies, well, first I had a string of different majors. So I saw a lot of different things. But but I ended up with a degree in women's studies, which is an interdisciplinary subject and so, so, I think I have always have always taken a really inter disciplinary approach to, to my work and that is certainly helped helped inform my thinking and develop my kind of intellectual tradition as well as as to understand how I think that historical perspective as well, so like things that were grappling with now, like what are the various places both the the antecedents to this and then the various places in history where folks have grappled with some of the same issues.

Sucheta Kamath: Well, that brings us to the end of this conversation. Thank you, Camille, you've been absolutely fabulous. This has been a great conversation. Thank you for tuning in everybody. Keep listening. If you love what you listen, please share and subscribe to our newsletter, like us on our social media. I hate to say that, just letting you know we are on social media. And keep in touch. Thank you for taking a deep interest in preparing the youth and really understanding the deep factors that contribute in shaping or that has shaped ourselves and you know, and maybe we can be influential in the development and growth of money. Thank you again for being here and with that, see you until next time. 

Camille Farrington: Thank you so much.