Written by Rhea-Leigh O’Shea
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines being open-minded as “receptive to arguments or ideas.” It is considered a positive quality as open-mindedness helps people to think critically and rationally. So, we will explore how being receptive to innovative ideas and diverse ways of thinking has many benefits for both students and teachers. We will discuss the educational benefits of a broader mindset. And how students can apply the positive qualities of open-mindedness to their studies. Looking at these qualities, we will focus on how they help students and educators think rationally, and not become misled by irrational behaviours that disrupt the learning process. Our focus will include the use of critical thinking, which is essential to both children and adults. This encourages a broader, more analytical mindset. Where people can use this critically and independently to gain their desired results. Thus, to discuss the benefits of having an open mind, we break this down into four sections. (1) A healthier mindset – if people are less restricted and more open to different views, they have a healthier and more resilient outlook. (2) A more creative students-teacher dynamic. When educators lead by example, students feel more comfortable facing educational challenges. (3) Happier learners and educators. When openminded, we can approach academic tasks with enthusiasm and without intense fear or anxiety. (4) A global outlook, in which children and adults have a broader sense of how to adopt the positive qualities of open mindedness. Thus, preparing them for the context of the 21st century and its challenges.
When we hear that a person is open-minded, we associate this with a positive mindset. Data confirms this, stating that people benefit through having a broader mindset, which is less rigid and more open to different ideas. Hare (2003, p.4) argues this point, further explaining how “Open mindedness is an intellectual virtue”. This idea is useful when understanding the challenges which people face. The author uses historical figures and events to illustrate this point. Such as the scientific achievements of Galileo and developments of the civil rights movement in the United States. Hare (2003) explains how our perception can change at various times throughout history. Thus, something radical at one time in the past, may be widely accepted now. Yet, a common thread in any of these historical events is the use of an open-minded approach. He argues that these achievements were a result of being receptive to innovative ideas. Studies such as these, show us that we should not place limitations on ourselves. We also should not rush to place limitations on others. As educators, we should not have such rigid expectations of a child’s educational outcomes. Instead, our aim should be to encourage, not inhibit their academic potential. Our minds need to be free and receptive to explore different options and we should be open to any eventual outcomes. To maintain a healthy mindset, we should avoid placing an unhealthy amount of pressure on either the student or the teacher. Israel Scheffler (1989) argues this point. He explains that there should be a flexible exchange between the two groups. Scheffler (1989, p.3) explains that the teacher presents their ideas to their students, in a way that allows students to provide them feedback. Thus, the teacher-learner experience is not a singular transaction. As the teacher can learn from the students’ reactions to the information presented to them.
Understanding this dynamic can help both children and educators. Further, this lesson can take place in formal or informal education settings. Whether this is in school, with the traditional dynamic of teacher-students. Or guardians at home, who wish to broaden a student’s outlook.
More Creative Student-Teacher Dynamics
One of the main questions on this topic must be, how can we become more open-minded? This has become an important academic issue in recent times. Combs et al. (2009, p.3) state that “critical thinking and creative thinking have surfaced as essential skills for all students, regardless of level or ability”. Fortunately, open-mindedness has links to critical and creative thinking. These are invaluable skills that we can teach in formal educational settings and outside of the classroom. Further, being receptive to innovative ideas is something that we can all take part in. It does not always have to be complicated, nor does it have to be too structured. Adults can lead by example and create fun and dynamic learning experiences. These experiences should harness the child’s interest and inspire creativity in the learning process. Our main aim is to encourage critical thinking. As we want students to process information independently and develop their own learning strategies as they grow. Students should discover what methods work for them and how to best achieve their desired outcomes. Children are often more willing than adults to break out of their comfort zone. Especially if the teacher is confident and relaxed in their approach to teaching. Through creating a more relaxed environment, we can help children explore new and different approaches to learning. Kids should not be afraid to make mistakes or attempt unknown challenges. In fact, this dynamic should allow freedom so that students can test their rational skills. It should be an environment for students to determine their own academic outcomes. Students can then analyse how they perform in lessons and how they should approach further studies. This is a healthy test of their critical thinking skills and tests their capabilities. Allowing them to explore their own academic potential in new ways. Further, it allows teachers to also challenge their own ideas and see how their students react to the information presented to them (Scheffler, 1989).
Happier Learners and Educators
People would associate having an open mind with beneficial qualities, such as positivity and happiness. Cherry (2022) confirms this, noting that “Being open can help inspire a more optimistic attitude toward life and the future.” She also warns us that “One of the problems with staying closed-minded is that it often leads to a greater sense of negativity.” Thus, we must not underestimate the psychological aspect of openness. As we can feel its impact beyond the confines of the classroom. Further, both students and their educators can openly tackle new challenges. So, we must have a flexible mindset towards what we think we already know. To be “open-minded is, after all, to be critically receptive to alternative possibilities, to be willing to think again despite having formulated a view” (Hare, 2003, pp.4-5). Theories such as these encourage the use of rational thought. Thus, avoiding more rigid and close-minded approaches. This ensures that we experience more positive outcomes, which benefit both sides of the teacher-learner dynamic. Hare (2003, p.4) explains how this is possible to achieve. As he stresses how we should develop characteristics of “genuine enquiry, together with such related ideas as considering all sides to a question…then the attitude of open-mindedness immediately presents itself as having fundamental significance.” When we apply this to the educational setting, both the educator and learner can experience personal growth and achievement. This is a key benefit from openness and avoiding close-minded behaviour. As we create a happier learning environment, with all parties free to test what they believe to be correct and fully develop their ideas and answers in the process.
We have outlined three key benefits to being open-minded and receptive to innovative ideas and information (healthier, more creative, and happier mindsets). These positive qualities combine to help form an individual’s global outlook. When we speak of this global outlook, we are referring to an individual’s ability to think objectively. Also question any ideas presented to them – which can challenge local or regional customs, practices, or ways of thinking. Thus, to use critical and rational ways of thinking. Cherry (2022) explains the psychology behind open-mindedness. As she (2022) states that from “a psychological perspective, the term is used to describe how willing people are to consider other perspectives or to try out new experiences”. So, we must encourage receptive teaching and learning methods to create more open-minded individuals. Globally minded people can better understand ideas and knowledge outside their own communities. We need this now that we are more connected to others around the world. And we need skills that help us navigate our present-day conditions. As Combs et al. (2009, p.3). explains, “Critical and creative skills are essential for students who plan to work and excel in the 21st century workforce.” As we have discovered, open mindedness is linked to a healthier mindset. This helps us use rational thought processes and avoid such rigid ways of processing information. Globally minded students and teachers can use the same processes in their teaching-learning approach. Combs et al. (2009, p.3) confirm this point. They argue that it is not enough to only show students how to complete a task. The modern-day context means that students must develop their own skills if they want to compete with their peers. They explain this as “the challenge among schools is to develop within students the ability to engage with 21st century thinkers.” Thus, we must use analytical and critical teaching methods so that we equip students with the tools needed for their future.
Open-Mindedness as a 21st Century Tool
We have discussed how there are four main sections of open-mindedness. And they have universal characteristics, which are beneficial to both adults and children. Further, we can apply these to different settings. These ideas are not limited to the classroom with a strict teacher-student dynamic. They are flexible and we can apply them anywhere. Our previous discussion noted how an open and receptive mind can be more creative, happier, and healthier outlook on life. This can result in providing individuals with a more rational and analytical mind and a stronger global perspective. We have discovered the benefits of having an open mind as it provides (1) A healthier outlook as people question the ideas presented to them. They are less restricted and more open to different views. This results in healthier and more mentally resilient individuals. (2) A more creative student-teacher dynamic. Where educators can lead by example, encouraging students through different educational challenges. Teachers can also learn by their students’ reactions. Creating a fuller, more dynamic learning experience for both parties. (3) Happier learners and educators. Where we can lessen anxiety through creating an open learning environment. This ensures that we can test ideas with freedom and enthusiasm. (4) Finally, we can create a greater global outlook in both educators and students. As both children and adults will have a better ability to challenge ideas and gain knowledge. They can engage in tasks using critical and rational tools, which will support them in the context of the 21st century. Through having an open mind, they benefit from a more creative, happier, and healthier mindset. And combined, this can provide people with a global outlook. As a result, we can all experience the positive qualities of open-mindedness.
Rhea-Leigh O’Shea been a teacher since 2011. She worked in Argentina, Italy, Sweden, Spain and throughout the United Kingdom. She has a Master’s in Global Political Science from Malmo University.
Hare, W. (2003). The Ideal of Open-Mindedness and Its Place in Education. Journal of Thought, 38(2), 3–10. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42589737
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Open-minded. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/open-minded
Cherry, K. (2022). How to Become More Open-Minded. Very well Mind. Retrieved 26 July 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/be-more-open-minded-4690673.
Combs, L. B., Cennamo, K. S., & Newbill, P. L. (2009). Developing Critical and Creative Thinkers: Toward a Conceptual Model of Creative and Critical Thinking Processes. Educational Technology, 49(5), 3–14. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44429711
Scheffler, I., 1989. Reason and teaching. Indianapolis (IN): Hackett Publishing Company.