Factfulness and Student Purpose
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By Tobias Joel

“Factfulness” means approaching ideas with an unclouded lense, a viewpoint based on observations rather than assumptions. Author Ola Rosling first coined “Factfulness” when researching historical trends in global poverty. As he began presenting his findings, Rosling noticed widespread misunderstanding regarding the nature of poverty. The gap between general opinion and Rosling’s data-based conclusions was so striking that he refocused his research directly on this information gap itself. “Factfulness” is Rosling’s proposed solution: a style of interacting with information based on analysis rather than prevailing assumptions.

Rosling’s work focused on global poverty. For our purposes at ThinkTank Learning (TTL), we approach education with the same style of thinking. In particular, TTL Master Consultants challenge students to form goals that stretch beyond current thinking. We help students develop personalized, non-stereotypical pathways for breaking into new levels of achievement.

Master Consultants recognize that students face pressure from multiple sources, including from family, peers, and teachers. Depending on how students manage those expectations, the pressure can translate into either encouragement or stress. Between the two outcomes is one deciding factor: purpose. If students have a sense of purpose, and clarity about engaging that purpose, external pressure turns into supportive momentum. TTL Master Consultants use Rosling’s “Factful” thinking to help students explore their purpose.

Similar to what Rosling identifies in his research, the core hindrance to students finding purpose is assumptions. Students receive assumptions from their environments regarding the nature of success, ideas that they use—consciously or otherwise—to define goals. Unfortunately, many of these assumptions are unrefined. Instead of determinations gleaned from observable trends, students often receive convenient generalizations: “engineering is the best way to make a living”; “helping people means studying medicine”; “humanities majors don’t study math.” All of these ideas have elements of truth but do not capture a complete picture. Most importantly, these ideas do not capture the accelerating change seen across higher education as an industry. Still, students find themselves being called upon to make sweeping life decisions based on these unscientific narratives. Justifiably, they can easily become confused.

Pursuing “Factfulness,” TTL Master Consultants are continually researching the higher education industry. Higher education is undergoing exciting changes, with every discipline reinventing itself in relation to new data analysis techniques. Addressing this fluctuating landscape with assumptions can be self-destructive for students. On the contrary, targeted guidance by TTL Consultants helps students define their role in today’s changes. And with Consultant research on the most forward-looking educational programs available, students will find themselves not just adapting to change, but actually leading change. By engaging “Factfulness,” TTL Consultants lead students to imagine and pursue levels of success that they may not have previously thought possible.