Applying your liberal education in the real world? Try ‘directness’!

24 May 2021 — Written by Pugazh Arasu

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How often do we find that learnings from the classroom translate into something marginally useful in the real world? Are these skills “transferable”? “Transfer” is a true problem faced by students and educators alike. Is this situation even solvable? YI believe it is: “directness” is the way.

What really does “directness” mean?

Directness is simply a principle. Okay but why care about learning principles at all?

Let’s look at an example: language learning. There are several stories of “having learnt French (don’t ask me about it) but not being able to use a word of it”. Why is it so? Are languages naturally harder or does it have to do with the way it is learnt? Assuming the learning technique to be at fault, two YouTubers Johnny Harris and Nathaniel Crew set out to find out if there was a more efficient way to “learn” a language.

They found that being pragmatic and personal with learning a language delivers better results. Their goal was simple: to be able to communicate with a native speakers. This might seem naive but is arguably way more pragmatic than the traditional route. This is simply just applying And it shows us that the principle of directness is very personal and is thus also, heutagogical by nature.

TLDR: Directness is a learning principle and it’s all about going straight ahead

But why does it matter?

This seems like a really good coincidence (so good that it lets me write this article?) or does it have some empirical evidence? Yes, indeed it does! To quote from Michelene Chi’s book :

In almost all the empirical work to date, on the role of example solutions, a student who has studied examples often cannot solve problems that deviate slightly from the example solution.”

Moreover, developmental psychologist Howard Gardner in his book “The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach” points to evidence that makes it clear “that even students who receive honors grades in college-level physics courses are frequently unable to solve basic problems and questions encountered in a form slightly different from that on which they have been formally instructed and tested.” This isn’t constrained to just academic institutions! Corporate training also undergoes similar failures too.

Directness matters as it is arguably the best principle to counter this “problem of transfer”. Transfer doesn’t refer to an inability to rep but rather: how much does a particular fact/skillset contribute to real world work in that subfield. This is almost a cliche in today’s workforce. The reason why having directness as a principle can make a difference lies in its focus on what outcomes matter to reality and what doesn’t. But can this be integrated into schooling per say?

Liberal Education and Directness

I honestly believe liberal education provides the backbone for directness to flourish. Firstly, what do I mean by liberal education? It is simply a philosophy or way of learning things that has three distinct characteristics:

1. Being future ready: It prepares you for the challenges of tomorrow by equipping you with the necessary tools and skills

2. Saves you time: It can save you years of trial and error. You’ll still have to learn on the go, but it ensures that your soft skills are strong and refined.

3. No bounds: You are not taught what to think but rather how to think

Liberal education doesn’t just set you up for “success” but provides an environment for you to grow holistically. What does directness have to do with ? If you think about the language learning example, applying directness helps us to: be able to communicate effectively and achieve this feat in a short time span. Directness embodies the spirit of Liberal Education.

In my days of schooling at Headstart Learning Centre, the way we learnt physics was rather different from the traditional ways: when we were learning about angular momentum, we didn’t start with the definition of cross product, but rather Sri Ram sir, our teacher would tie up a weight to a string and ask to swing it in circular motions. We would then change the weight of the object, the length of the string and see how it alters the centripetal force i.e. the force required to maintain the circular motion. So when I’m asked about angular momentum, I know exactly what it is not because I’ve studied cross products and conserved quantities but rather because I’ve felt it in my bones.

To sum it up, I’m reminded of something rather personal: this quote at the backside of my kindergarten report card.

What do you think about the principle of directness? Do you have enough of it in your learning journeys? Write to us about it on or visit us on if you want to know more about how we make liberal education work for our learners.

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