How can ikigai help in education?
Students these days may experience career uncertainty, doubts whether they are on the right path, and just generally feel overwhelmed. How can having ikigai help them overcome these challenges?
In this episode of the Ikigai Podcast, Nick speaks with Dr. Caitlin Kight about the connection of ikigai to education, and how it can be helpful to students and educators alike.
Ikigai for birds. Caitlin explains how her love of and fascination for birds began and why she studied them at 2:34.
The vulture. At 10:11, Nick asks Caitlin why one of her favorite birds is the vulture.
Wild Side. Caitlin talks about a radio show that she hosted on Source FM, called "The Wild Side" at 13:27.
Teaching and sharing. At 20:49, Caitlin discusses with Nick the time she realized she wanted to pursue teaching and share knowledge as an educator and not just as a communicator.
Ikigai in education. Caitlin talks about what led her to discover ikigai and how this Japanese concept helped her to educate others at 28:58.
Pedagogy. At 35:59 Caitlin explains what ’pedagogy’ is and shares her thoughts on ikigai as a topic of pedagogical research.
Values in relation to ikigai. Nick asks Caitlin at 40:05, about her work on values related to ikigai and how it was received.
Terminologies. At 47:32, Caitlin touched on the importance of terms and how certain words can organize thoughts better around certain feelings and emotions.
Future projects. Caitlin discusses with Nick her plans for using ikigai at 52:46.
On being part of the Ikigai Tribe. At 58:51, the two talk about Caitlin being part of the first cohort, and being a member of the Ikigai Tribe.
Dr. Caitlin Kight is a former behavioral ecologist and is now an education researcher and leader of the Academic Development and Skills team at the University of Exeter, where she helps academics and support staff reflect on their education-facing activities and improve their teaching and learning techniques. She holds a PhD in applied science and is pursuing a second doctorate in education, examining self study as a reflective practice for educators. She’s also a licensed Lego Serious Play facilitator.
Ikigai for birds
One of Caitlin’s ikigai is her interest in birds. She shares that she did a lot of field jobs related to birds before she became an actual scientist.
She recalls when she was young, she had a vintage bird book from her great grandmother. It was about common backyard birds, with lovely hand-drawn illustrations, and right next to each, her great grandmother had written in dates and comments where she had seen them. Caitlin shares that she was enthralled by the idea that a person could get a nice feeling from seeing a bird.
She also remembers when her dad took her on a guided nature hike, and with them was a naturalist who identified various types of wildlife and plants that they encountered. While walking through the woodland, they heard a bird not too far away, and the naturalist identified it immediately without even seeing it. Caitlin was amazed and wanted to be able to achieve this skill herself.
Why study animal communication?
Caitlin’s encounter with the naturalist inspired her to study animal communication. She wanted to be able to communicate and understand animals.
She shares that when she was taking up her master's studies, she was able to attend a talk by Donald Kroodsma, an American ornithologist and one of the fathers of avian communication research. During his talk, Donald played a slowed down record of a bird which he saw at the natural park, so people could hear all the intricacies of what the birds were saying. That audio made an impact on Cailtin.
For Caitlin, it is not about watching or thinking about the birds; it is understanding that they live in a whole other world, different from the world that people do, they can completely perceive the world differently. What fascinates Caitlin is the idea that people and other organisms exist in whatever world is created by the unique biology of their individual bodies.
Caitlin’s love for vulturesOne of Caitlin’s favorite birds is the vulture. She shares that one of the reasons why she likes vultures is that a lot of other people don't like them. Vultures are not understood very well by a lot of people; there is a misconception about vultures that they kill other animals. According to Caitlin, most vultures don’t typically go hunting, they just eat carrion. They’re serving a wonderful purpose in the ecosystem where they're taking things that have died, and are therefore no longer serving an active purpose, then breaking them down and returning the nutrients from their bodies to the environment. Caitlin thinks it’s such a shame that people don’t understand that vultures help the environment in this way.
“The Wild Side”
Caitlin hosted a radio show called “The Wild Side”. It was aired on Source FM, a community radio station in Falmouth, in the UK. Caitlin shares that the reason why she’s gotten into radio hosting is because one of the lecturers from her department at the University of Exeter suggested she might experiment with this medium in order to gain experience with a different type of science outreach.
She was hesitant at first, but then decided to give it a try and was glad that she did. She finds community radio as a great environment for people to come together and bring forth a diversity of voices.
She did have a hard time during her first few times as a radio host. She was terrified and couldn’t eat for hours before each show, but ultimately worked through her nerves. This helped her to overcome any discomfort associated with talking and doing things in public.
All in all, it was a great experience for her to have her own radio show. She was able to share her interests and had the freedom to choose whatever topic she was interested in talking about.
People recognized her voice in public and showed appreciation for the knowledge that she shared on her radio show. She thinks that it’s fascinating to sit and listen to people. There’s something lovely about tapping into that human tradition of telling stories and learning from others’ stories.
Teaching and sharing
Nick asks Caitlin when she realized her love for teaching and sharing knowledge.
Caitlin mentioned that there are many different educators in her family, her mom being one, and she grew up watching her mom as a teacher and seeing how grueling a job it was. She thought back then that she wouldn't do it, and that she wouldn’t like that type of job.
Back in high school, and during her college years, Caitlin would help her friends with their papers and other homework, and this sort of tutoring was clearly a form of teaching even though she didn’t realise it at the time -- giving people the information that they would need so that they could make decisions that were well informed. She came to realize that all the communication and outreach about science that she was doing, was actually teaching, that she’d been doing it all along even while saying she would never be an educator.
There is something enjoyable about sharing knowledge and things that you learn if you find a sense of purpose in that. - Nicholas Kemp
For her, teaching is trying to give someone the tools they need to navigate through life. Education is the mechanism by which society decides what they are going to pass on, what they need the next generation to know, and that’s closely tied to what they want the next generation to be able to do. As an educator, it’s important to know what is worth teaching, how to make and balance choices across the personal, societal, organizational, realms, while also considering what students want.
Nick also shares something about oshiegai, which means “worth teaching”, that there is something enjoyable about sharing knowledge and things that you learn, if you find a sense of purpose in that.
Ikigai in education
One of the things that Caitlin taught was doctoral supervision. She would talk to supervisors and doctoral students to hear about their concerns such as what they are going to do when they graduate and what if they don’t land a job in academia. Caitlin wanted to help them feel a bit more secure and had this idea of purpose driven life; she thought that ikigai would be a really good thing to take in and share with the students, which the students responded to very well.
According to Caitlin, while she was looking around online about ikigai, she stumbled upon Nick’s website, ikigaitribe, and realized that the things she has seen online about ikigai, the Westernized version of ikigai, looks like it was just the tip of the iceberg. She wanted to dig deeper and decided to become a part of the Ikigai Tribe, to learn more about the philosophy of ikigai and how this can support the reflective practice as an educator.
Nick and Caitlin discuss ikigai as a topic of research for pedagogy.
Caitlin explains that pedagogy is the suite of approaches used for teaching and supporting learning; all the different theories, styles, and techniques used to help students learn.
Ikigai can be one of those approaches to help students learn. For Caitlin, ikigai is the thing that helps students to understand things about themselves, what they want to do, what makes them happy, and the values that they have, which is also applicable to teachers to help them connect better with their students and help them learn better; they have to see each student as an individual and try to give each student what they need in order to achieve learning. Everyone has their own perspective, goals, and interests, it’s important to understand what those are.
Values in relation to ikigai
Caitlin shares that Ikigai gives people a way of putting their values in the center of all things and understanding them. It’s important to acknowledge what are the things that you care about, and weigh up those things so that you can make choices in a deliberate fashion.
As Nick would always say, living in harmony with your values allows you to feel ikigai, but if you live in conflict with your values, ikigai will be elusive.
Caitlin talks about how important certain terms are; how ideas and feelings associated with those areas and knowledge are closely tied with specific words -- which applies to ikigai. For Caitlin, one of the really powerful things in ikigai is with a single word, you've captured this wide ranging realm of different but related things that are all really tightly correlated and so important to living a fulfilling life.
One of the really powerful things in ikigai is with a single word, you've captured this wide ranging realm of things that are tightly correlated and so important, and they are all different yet they are related. - Caitlin Kight
Caitlin shares that when she mentioned ikigai to her colleagues, they were very interested in it. People are currently involved in a global moment of reevaluating everything, and they are looking for tools like ikigai to help them do that. To help support this, Caitlin plans on running short sessions to explain the idea of ikigai and how it can help people reframe what they are seeing and experiencing.
She likes to introduce the framework and the different components of the framework that people could use for themselves, to help them with their own personal reflections, and to structure their own contemplation as they make decisions.
She also plans to do her own research, engaging with a series of self-study techniques, and seeing how this influenced her thinking and practice. Now that Nick has created his final version of the ikigai framework, she’s going to go through all of the activities from scratch. She will then reflect on this and what the outcomes mean to her as a teacher (including seeing how this knowledge affects her teaching practice).
On being part of the ikigai tribe
Caitlin was a part of the first cohort of The Ikigai Tribe. For her it was life changing because of the amount of learning that was happening. It was a combination of ikigai itself and the peer learning that they were doing within the cohort, where they shared their own perspectives; their own engagement with psychology, therapy, reflection, and contemplation; their own personal experiences from various life situations; and their fields of study. She describes it as a masterclass in creating community.
It is important to acknowledge distress when experiencing career uncertainty. Analyze and seek where all these are coming from. Are you doing what you love? Are you doing something that makes you feel good? Having ikigai can be a way of resolving these problems that most students are facing, it gives motivation and life meaning to help people keep going.