Head's Blog

I vs We

Our weekly College Assembly on a Monday is time-constrained and mainly focused on information and celebration, not allowing us to engage in deeper conversations, so this week we held our first Community Forum, an initiative to give our community a reasonable amount of time to engage in an open and frank exchange of views and ideas on issues connected to being a UWC, our mission and values.

I led the first session to set the tone and the direction of future sessions, as we will have a couple more throughout this term, ending with one in which our guest speaker will be Faith Abiodun, UWC International’s Executive Director.

I am sharing here the presentation I used to guide the session, which sparked a good discussion. While preparing the session, I remember how Howard Gardner, during the UWCSEA 50th Forum, shared an insight from his research that I found very powerful (the sessions is available here). His team had been analysing texts over time and found out that the ratio of “I” versus “We” had increased to eleven to one. During and after the forum, several UWC educators kept referring to this, as we found that it resonated with our experiences in our campus and a perceived change over time. 

You may remember my previous blogpost (“It is my right!”) and deduce that I have been reflecting on this for some time now. One of the advantages of having been a member of the UWC movement for a bit over two decades is that I can look back and reflect. I fished out my notes from the forum and conducted an unscientific piece of research looking for studies exploring that perceived increasing focus on the individual over the collective over time. Most of my research came out with articles on leadership (such as this one from Harvard Business Review or this one from LinkedIn Pulse). While I found insightful views and a certain common thread, their focus was not completely aligned with what I was looking for.

Some of you have read Educational Experiences and Outcomes at the United World Colleges (UWC): An Investigation of Impact, the longitudinal study that Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education conducted between 2017 and 2022. I am wondering whether a similar study should be conducted: Perceptions of individuality and community in UWC campuses, anyone?