Moving Up!

It is about making meaning

It was Jean Piaget who uncovered the stages of meaning-making that children move through as they develop.

If you show a child two glasses, one tall and thin, the other short and fat, and ask which one holds most water, a 5-year-old will always say the taller one – even when you show them that you have poured the same amount of water into each glass.  At 5 years old we ARE our perceptions and we perceive the taller glass will hold more.

By age 8 practically every child will say the two glasses each hold the same amount – by that age children HAVE perceptions, and those perceptions no longer determine the child’s response alone, they are one input into the child’s meaning-making

We readily accommodate these shifts in meaning-making for children.

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In the 1980’s meaning-making for adults in broader society moved up a level i.e. to be successful in society you now needed to operate at the “Achiever”* level of meaning-making whereas previously, “Expert” was the highest level, the level that our education systems were designed for.

Education is now catching up – as it must, if it is to replicate society, one of its key roles – and many principals and other senior leaders are now operating at this higher level, the increasing focus on strategy over operations is an indicator of this.

But in society generally, about 30% of adults are at the “Achiever” level of meaning-making (versus about 37% at the “Expert” level).  For the Education sector to catch up fully ALL leaders need to be operating at the higher level.

This will dramatically increase the quality of middle leadership and it will increase the number of role models that students will have that show how to operate at the level needed for success in broader society.

The question is: how do we do this?

*See, for example, this article for more detail on these terms.


John Corrigan is an expert in helping individuals to bring their whole of mind to their daily life and increase their effectiveness and the effectiveness of those around them. This expertise scales from the individual to the team to the organisation. At the core of this work is the practice of encounter.  Earlier blogs can be found here.

John Corrigan