Challenge The Process

How can teachers encourage their students to think ahead?

“Singapore students lack drive and the willingness to try new things to succeed.” These were the comments by Minister Heng Swee Keat on his observations of how employers felt of Singapore students, soon after he became the Minister of Education (MOE). With this insight, MOE embarked on introducing “Critical and Inventive Thinking” as one of the components of the 21st Century Competencies and Desired Student Outcomes since 2010.

Being able to think differently to come up with creative solutions is one of the skill-sets that employers look for in their workforce. Leadership gurus James Kouzes and Barry Posner have conducted over 20 years of research and found this to be one of the key practices to being an effective leader. Through the years of research, they developed The Leadership Challenge® which espouses The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®, which is a key leadership training tool that Halogen Foundation Singapore has been coaching students and teachers in.

The practice encompassing coming up with creative solutions is what they call the practice of Challenging the Process. It is explained in the two following commitments.

• Search for opportunities by taking initiative and
   by looking outward for innovative ways to improve.
• Experiment and take risks by generating small wins and learning from experience.

Challenging the Process is not just about creative thinking. It is about challenging conventional assumptions, finding solutions to problems from various arenas outside of their expertise, experimenting and taking risks, learning from mistakes, and ultimately finding new ways and ideas of doing old things in a more creative yet efficient way.

In order for students to practice Challenging the Process, they need to be in an environment which they feel is safe to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them. Teachers play an integral role in cultivating such an environment to nurture the appetite of students to dare to take risks, fail, and learn from failure. Students need people who trust them, strong and supportive relationships, a non-judgmental attitude amongst peers, and the celebrating of small successes.

“Students need people who trust them, strong and supportive relationships, a non-judgmental attitude amongst peers, and the celebrating of small successes.”
How teachers can nurture a culture and mindset of Challenging the Process

Teachers can help by generating small wins in these ways:

  • Break down big problems into small, doable pieces
  • Make a model version of what you are trying to do so you can see whether it will work
  • Keep things simple even when visions can be grand
  • Do the easy parts first. Help the group discover that they can do it.
  • Accumulate “yes”es. Ask for agreement to do the first thing, then the second, and so on.
  • Experiment. Try, fail, learn, and then try again
  • Celebrate. When you reach milestones, take the time to congratulate one another.

By generating small wins, the cost and consequences of failure is reduced and students will be more willing to experiment and try new things. When we equip students to Challenge the Process, they will be equipped with a valuable leadership practice that experts agree is a much-needed quality to excel in the workforce of the future.

An interesting activity that can be done for all age groups (including teachers) to teach how Challenging the Process works, is the Marshmallow Challenge. One of the key learning outcomes for this activity is that of challenging assumptions. This activity is simple, inexpensive, yet fun for crowds of all ages. For more information, slide presentations on debriefing the Marshmallow Challenge, or a debriefing video, visit Have fun!

Article by Sean Kong
The Leadership Challenge® (TLC) is a leadership development programme created by bestselling authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner. This programme is backed by 30 years of original research and data from over three million leaders. It is a comprehensive suite of products, programmes and services proven to cultivate and liberate the leadership potential in every person, at every level, in any organisation. Halogen conducts TLC workshops for MOE educators at a special price.

If you have attended TLC, you can also up your leadership a notch by joining the Student Leadership Challenge® Certified Facilitator’s Training (SLCCFT) which will certify you as a student trainer for the student edition of the programme.

For enquiries, please contact Kenneth at [email protected] or +65 6509 6700.

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