Diagnosing the Cohort Effect: “Daring Greatly”

I’ve been curious about what some of us have referred to as “The Cohort Effect”. Those under the Cohort Effect report changes in behaviour as it pertains to risk-taking and increases in emotion as they pertain to a sense of belonging and vulnerability. In fact, the most complete diagnosis of the Cohort Effect was witnessed at our final F2F session at Holy Trinity by Danielle Ganley (@danielleganley) – read her self-diagnosis HERE.

The Cohort Effect Begins with Vulnerability:

I’ve been doing some exploring and research on what causes the Cohort 21 effect, and I’ve found the greatest resonance with Brene Brown. After her incredibly well received TED Talk in 2010, she has been considered an expert in Vulnerability. I think that it is vulnerability that instigates the Cohort Effect.  Here’s why:

In a Forbes article from 2013, (also the year Cohort 21 was born!) Brene Brown writes:

Vulnerability is basically uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. I was raised in a “get ‘er done” and “suck it up” family and culture (very Texan, German-American). The tenacity and grit part of that upbringing has served me, but I wasn’t taught how to deal with uncertainty or how to manage emotional risk… My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.

At Cohort 21, we put our selves and our participants into the position of uncertainty, questioning what they have done in the past through new lenses, and eventually to take risks and try something new. This causes us, as a group to lean into uncertainty (what if this new pedagogy fails? what if integration results in confusion?  what if this new technology becomes more entertaining than education?). In our profession of teaching, which is so personal , leaning into discomfort brings emotional vulnerability because this is a profession that teaches from a position of love and care.

The Cohort Effect is Sustained through Belonging:

When we are emotionally vulnerable, when we are leaning into risk, we need to know that we are supported, that there are others who are on this journey with us. What Cohort 21 provides is a shared journey and a sense of belonging.  From that same Forbes article, Brene Brown says:

Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen…When we’re fueled by the fear of what other people think or that gremlin that’s constantly whispering “You’re not good enough” in our ear, it’s tough to show up…The good news is that I think people are tired of the hustle – they’re tired of doing it and tired of watching it. We’re hungry for people who have the courage to say, “I need help” or “I own that mistake” or “I’m not willing to define success simply by my title or income any longer…The phrase Daring Greatly is from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic.” The speech, sometimes referred to as “The Man in the Arena,” was delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910. This is the passage that made the speech famous: It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly . . . who at best knows the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Our F2F sessions our when remind ourselves that not only are WE in the arena getting dirty, but we are the succour for the others who in this same situation. We are all in the arena, we are all needing help, and none of us have the answers. None of us are perfect.

Cohort Effect is about Imperfection as a Mindset:

We can take emotional risks if we know that these risks are about stepping into a space of learning, or role modelling learning, and stepping out of the space of knowing, or having all the answers. Many of us can feel that we teach the way we were taught, or we engage in a pedagogy because it will provide us a framework to rationalize our practice. Evaluations at the end of units, course planning, lesson planning is about mitigating risk – about charting a path that is stable, predictable, and has preconceived results. Ironically, this is the opposite of what our world is now.

We need to prepare our students for multiple futures.

Brene Brown says it best:

Perfectionism is also very different than self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval. Most perfectionists grew up being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule following, people pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the way, they adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system: “I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please. Perform. Perfect.” Healthy striving is self- focused: How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: What will they think? Perfectionism is a hustle.

Last, perfectionism is not the key to success. In fact, research shows that perfectionism hampers achievement. Perfectionism is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis or missed opportunities. The fear of failing, making mistakes, not meeting people’s expectations, and being criticized keeps us outside of the arena where healthy competition and striving unfolds.

At Cohort 21 we put ourselves in positions to really take this to heart – that having a growth mindset, seeing challenges as opportunities, and fail as an acronym (First Attempt In Learning), are assets to our schools and to our students.

So, there is the Cohort Effect as best as I can describe it. This also served as a way for me to put down my thoughts about how Brene Brown influences my stance on education. I hope you enjoyed!

1 thought on “Diagnosing the Cohort Effect: “Daring Greatly”

  1. Garth, this statement really resonated with me:
    “Evaluations at the end of units, course planning, lesson planning is about mitigating risk – about charting a path that is stable, predictable, and has preconceived results. Ironically, this is the opposite of what our world is now.”

    Teachers are trained to start their planning with curriculum content expectations, and are then to plan backwards from there. However, coverage of content is often the greatest enemy of learning (Howard Gardner). I hope that teachers, Faculty of Ed programs, and the ministry see the value of having more aspirational learning outcomes as a starting point for lesson planning (rather than content strands). Indeed, Growing Success (procedural curriculum documents in Ontario) has provided a roadmap to assess and evaluate observations, conversations, and products. However, curriculum content documents still seem to take precedence in planning processes province-wide. Although content standards are necessary, preparing students with the learning skills and tools to confidently react to unpredictable circumstances should be the paramount aim of education.

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