Within the Australian Defence Force (ADF), the four C’s – critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication – are viewed as the cornerstone for successful learning. However, education philosophers and theorists – from the Dewey era to more a contemporary 21st Century (Pratt et. al 2022) – have all agreed that for successful learning to occur, the fundamental pillar of motivation needs to be the foundation from which all other educational constructs spring forth. The main reason for this is that without motivation the learner can choose to not communicate, collaborate, be creative, or think critically (Jean-Baptiste & Maher, 2022). As such, like a baby taking its first breath, so too does successful learning draw its first gasp for knowledge by depending heavily on the learner’s motivation in the learning environment (Coyle, 2013). Moreover, the term ‘successful learning’ – although contentious – has been widely regarded as learning which motivates persons and where they know they have learned and understood new things (Coyle, 2013).
Even if motivation were not the cornerstone of successful learning, throughout this essay I will make the argument that the four C’s should regardless not be considered the cornerstone of successful learning, formed from my professional lens as a Doctor of Philosophy (Education) and motivation specialist. Moreover, I will end this essay by offering my perspective on the use of motivation to bolster capability in the context of my current role as a Training Systems Officer.
“Motivation is not only the spark that ignites learning, but it also serves as the driver to and sustainment of successful learning.” – Griffith Jean-Baptiste (2022 n.p.)
A significant problem for the four C’s to be considered the cornerstone of successful learning is that the concepts themselves are immeasurable and subjective. For instance, in 2009 Paula and Elder attempted to define critical thinking by first labelling it an art. As an educator, while I understand and appreciate art, I know that art is subjective and difficult to measure, and so too is the concept of creativity (another of the four C’s). Moreover, many contemporary educators have introduced the concept of cognitive fatigue (Mc Morris et.al. 2018) to highlight the detrimental effect that sustained critical thinking has on the body. This is viewed differently to motivation because although one may be motivated to learn a task, they will be naturally averse to stressing their brain and will pace themselves as they inch toward the learning goal.
Furthermore, while it would be seen as difficult to measure a student’s critical thinking capability or creativity, their motivation can be directly observed based on their level of enthusiasm and work produced in the learning environment (Griffith Jean-Baptiste, 2022 n p). Have you seen a baby literally run or climb out of a crib with a sleep sack on, not caring how many times they fall down getting to their parent holding their favourite book? Would the baby’s drive for wanting to learn the contents of the book be because of critical thinking? No, it is because the baby is motivated to do so. As a matter of fact, development theorist Jean-Piaget (1960) asserted that it is only when humans reach the formal operational stage (mid-teenage years) that they can engage in hypothetico-deductive reasoning; to think critically about abstractions and events. This therefore solidifies more than ever, that the first C – critical thinking – cannot be considered a cornerstone of successful learning since a lot of learning occurs before humans reach their teenage years.
Concerning the second of the four C’s – collaboration – I ask that you ponder on the following: if a student is placed in a group and hands their work to another student to copy, is that seen as collaborative learning? According to Barros (2011), a major disadvantage of collaborative learning is that it can cultivate a lazy culture amongst students who may depend on other students to do work for them. This revelation by Borros (2011) is shared amongst many other education researchers who also believe that while collaborative learning is an important element in the learning journey of students, it cannot be considered a cornerstone, or as part of a cornerstone, that facilitates successful learning at any age.
All one must do is cast their gaze upon the number of self-paced academic programs that were offered to students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Within those programs students worked mostly isolated and in their own time, with little or no distractions from other classroom members, to discover concepts through the processes of assimilation, accommodation, and adaptation (Piaget, 1975). Education researchers Dunlosky et al., (2003) and Tullis and Benjamin (2011) have suggested that students can benefit from little or no collaboration in the learning environment. Tullis and Benjamin (2011) suggested that this benefit is vital as it helps students become more resilient, especially when they succeed, and the students display a more intrinsic/long-term motivation and interest in the subject.
“Paralysis by Analysis” – Knight (2022, n.p.)
Despite being one of the largest registered training organisations, Defence still does not have an effective student management system even after many years of trying to foster critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication amongst its members. The quote by Knight (2022, n.p.) is current proof that the Royal Australia Air Force (RAAF) at least is aware of the importance of the four C’s but falls well short in actioning the results of analysis. Therefore, it is high time for a greater motivation for action within the learning space of the organisation.
The RAAF and its perspective on the topic at hand is inescapably clear as it follows years of Defence at large fostering critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication. It is therefore with a heavy heart and a steady, unwavering soul that I pitch this contemporary argument to you today. I have to ask: how are we meant to foster critical thinking and creativity from within Defence members when we are constantly told time and time again that we are to follow orders from our chain of command? For instance, while I understand that any commander’s intent has room for flexibility in how it should be executed, it must be noted that the junior officers and non-commissioned officers are usually the ones tasked to carry out that intent. By the time the intent reaches those lower-level ranks, there is usually a rigid manner – normally stipulated in one of the thousands of Standing Instructions (SIs) – in which it should be carried out. Despite assertions as to the importance of creative thinking and creativity for learning, it must be noted that those SI’s do not allow members to think outside the box and as such, it is tough to see how the 4C’s can begin to serve as a cornerstone to enable successful learning.
Gone are the days when it was easy to say that employing the four C’s as the modus operandi for training and learning in every aspect would lead to successful learning. With the various ongoing modern initiatives reshaping Defence, it has become harder to ignore the evolving nuances that keep employees motivated to succeed. This means that a greater awareness of motivation is needed in the learning space, in the context of the educational concepts of the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ and the ‘sustaining expectation effect’, to ensure that our capability is bolstered as our eyes are set on the future of warfare. “Per Ardua Ad Astra. Through adversity to the stars. It starts with you” (Clarke p.32). In keeping with the premise of successful learning, Clarke’s quote could not be more accurate. One’s impetus to learn successfully ultimately falls on their own shoulders to be motivated (whether intrinsically or extrinsically) to grasp intended learning outcomes in the learning environment. It is only after this bit of motivation that one can begin thinking – consciously or subconsciously, via the overtly and hidden curriculums – along the lines of the 4 C’s to further sustain their learning journey.
In conclusion, although it may be that the 4 C’s are deemed by educators as vital enablers for successful learning at any age, they cannot be viewed as the cornerstone for successful learning. From my personal and professional experiences, I can say with 100% certainty that a student would not learn successfully if they were not first motivated to learn the intended learning outcomes (Bang and Archer 2018). Moreover, in the context of the ADF, learning is paramount to every capability acquisition and sustainment. Therefore, Defence needs to emphasise a sustained expectation for the learning of new capabilities, meaning personnel carry the responsibility of an education continuum – in the context of initial training and professional military education – throughout their careers. This kind of sustained expectation enables the self-fulfilling prophecy to become realized as persons implicitly stay “switched on” and motivated to learn successfully (Jean-Baptiste et. al 2019) since they have always and will always strive to overcome any adversity and reach for the stars.
Dr. D Jean-Baptiste
Dr. Jean-Baptiste joined the ADF in February 2022 as a Training Systems Officer. He is currently Flying Officer and the OIC for DEOTS and FP Design. He is posted at HQ Ground Academy at RAAF Base Wagga.
Dr. Davis Jean-Baptiste is a holder of Ph.D. from University of Technology, Sydney Australia, and a Master of Philosophy, (Ph. M) (Science Education) University of Newcastle, Australia; Master’s in Project Management (MPM) University for International Cooperation (UCI) Costa Rica, (Mexico Campus); Bachelor of Education (HONS) in Testing, Measurement and Evaluation from the University of the West Indies; and a diverse range of diplomas and certificates in teacher education, research, and professional training in different fields from Pharmacy to Health and Safety and Innovation.
Dr. Davis Jean-Baptiste has been nominated for the UNESCO Al Fozan International Prize for the Promotion of Young Scientist in STEM. Dr. Jean-Baptiste excellent academic qualifications, ongoing professional development, outstanding work performance, research expertise, and committed engagement at the community level have contributed to outstanding performance in a wide range of areas locally, regionally, and internationally. In the Education space, Dr Jean-Baptiste has been a secondary school science teacher, a University Course Developer, Course Reviewer/Examiner of Bachelor and Master in Project Management (PM), University Lecturer (PM), Research Supervisor (Master in Education and Master in PM). Moreover he has worked as a Project Coordinator/Manager with the UNDP and with companies within Australia.
Dr. Jean-Baptiste has received the People's Choice award from University of Technology Sydney, for his PhD thesis entitled "How are pre-service teachers developing their espoused theories and theories in use for motivating students to learn science.” He has attained many international scholarships and local scholarships for study in the Caribbean, Canada, Costa Rica, USA, and Australia. Before joining the ADF, Dr. Davis Jean-Baptiste also held the commissioned rank of Second Lieutenant from St. Lucia.
Bang, T. C., & Archer, J. (2018). Examining the motivation and achievement of Vietnamese university students as they undertake English classes. In English Tertiary Education in Vietnam (pp. 145-157). Routledge.
Barros, E. H. (2011). Collaborative learning in the translation classroom: preliminary survey results. The Journal of Specialised Translation 16(3), 42-60.
Clarke, A. (2022). From Self Mastery to National Power. Australian Air Power Today. Winter 22, Vol 4 No 2
Coyle, D. (2013). Listening to learners: An investigation into ‘successful learning’ across CLIL contexts. International journal of bilingual education and bilingualism, 16(3), 244-266.
Dunlosky, J., Kubat-Silman, A. K., & Hertzog, C. (2003). Training monitoring skills improves older adults' self-paced associative learning. Psychology and aging 18(2), 340.
When Interviewed, L. Griffith Jean-Baptiste (personal communication, October 2022). Confirmed.
Jean-Baptiste, D., Maher, D., (2022). Preservice Teachers’ Strategies For Motivating Students To Learn Science. Australian Journal of Teacher Education. (Submission number 5829)
Jean Baptiste, D., Archer, J., & Palmer, D. (2019). Preservice teachers’ self-efficacy for enhancing students’ long-term interest in science. Global Journal of Educational Studies, 5(1)
When Interviewed, M. Knight (personal communication, October 12 2022). Confirmed.
Piaget, J. (1975).L’équilibration des structure cognitives: Problème central du développement [Equilibration of cognitive structures: The central problem of intellectual development]. Presses universitaires de France
Pratt, J. M., Stewart, J. L., Reisner, B. A., Bentley, A. K., Lin, S., Smith, S. R., & Raker, J. R. (2022). Measuring student motivation in foundation-level inorganic chemistry courses: a multi-institution study. Chemistry Education Research and Practice.
Tullis, J. G., & Benjamin, A. S. (2011). On the effectiveness of self-paced learning. Journal of memory and language 64(2), 109-118.