School as a Place to Learn Knowledge Work Practices

19th Century Classroom

I was usually good at the  stuff that gets rewarded in school. Good enough to  get away with also being a bit of a smart ass. The problem was that school came easily enough that I rarely had need to develop good study habits. Not a problem that I worried about at the time. The bigger problem was that I never saw the connection between study habits and effective work habits after you left the classroom and wandered into real life.

For a long time, this wasn’t actually a problem because there wasn’t a deep connection between schooling and real life. The only habits taught in school that mattered for later were to show up on time and do what you were told.

An odd thing about the knowledge economy, however, is that almost everything you do in school is a form of knowledge work. It’s a place where you could be laying down habits and practices you can call on in the future. Instead, we’re evaluated and rewarded for demonstrating our mastery of content. No one pays attention to how we developed that mastery.

Today, there’s increasing attention to the notion of learning how to learn and there’s lots of advice and material on note-taking techniques, or memorization tricks, or thinking habits. But, it’s all secondary. We let the superficial differences between the classroom and the real world obscure the deeper alignment we could be exploiting.

That’s a missed opportunity. The content we learn will become obsolete, but the practices will retain their value. The classroom should be where we develop the habits and practices we could continue to employ when doing knowledge work for a living.