Why we need Agile Learners

Agile Learners thrive in the most challenging and unpredictable environments.

Whether it’s academic success in schools, increasing the bottom line in business, improving parenting skills or triumphing in any other challenging task, the Agile Learner achieves more.

Why? Because the Agile Learner recognises that they can develop their most basic abilities. They know they can increase their talents and intelligence. They understand that becoming comes before being. They have a Growth Mindset.

More importantly, the Agile Learner understands how to translate their Growth Mindset into actual growth. They recognise that a Growth Mindset is simply an invitation to grow. To achieve growth, they constantly step beyond their best and engage in Virtuous Practice.

Agile Learners frequently challenge themselves. Their focus is on becoming better, not simply doing more. This means constantly tackling things beyond their current abilities. Agile Learners accept that this will result in mistakes, but they don’t see these as limitations. Rather, they view their mistake as signposts for future learning.

As Albert Einstein said, “Today’s problems won’t be solved with the same level of thinking that created them.” Agile Learners embrace this. They understand that to succeed at increasingly difficult tasks, they must learn to become better thinkers. By developing their Habits of Mind, they learn how to behave more intelligently.

But getting results is only one reason why we need to develop Agile Learners. Perhaps the greatest reason is that Agile Learners are “antifragile”.

In his book Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, Nassim Nicholas Taleb describes systems that thrive on disruption as antifragile. Unlike robust systems that survive change and fragile systems that break, antifragile systems flourish, adapt and grow in the face of change.

Students in our classrooms today will live in the Age of Disruption. The future they face is predictable only in the sense that we know it will be characterised by change and unpredictability. Taleb argues that it will be antifragile systems that thrive in this future.

Agile Learners are antifragile. Change fuels their growth. Being in an environment that constantly challenges them causes them to grow. These challenges – and the growth that results – make them better able to succeed when the next, more demanding challenge comes along. Agile Learners are the ones who will thrive in this future of disruption.

Taleb says we shouldn’t try to predict the future, but we do need to prepare for it. If our job as educators is to prepare our students for an unpredictable future, then perhaps the best preparation is to ensure students become antifragile by developing Learning Agility.

Learning Agile students will not only cope with the challenges of the future, their antifragility will allow them to thrive!



James Anderson is a speaker, author and educator who is passionate about helping fellow educators develop students as better learners. James’ work combines Growth Mindset with Habits of Mind and Practice to create Learning Agility. He puts the growth back into Growth Mindset. And through creating and describing the Mindset Continuum, he provides the cornerstone for effective Growth Mindset interventions.

James is a Certified Speaking Professional and speaks regularly at conferences around the world. He has published several books including Succeeding with Habits of Mind, The Agile Learner, The Mindset Continuum and The Learning Landscape.

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