Positive experiences in early childhood are connected with wisdom in older age. According to Senior Researcher Eeva Kallio, the guidance and counselling students receive at university provide plenty of opportunities to develop wisdom skills.

Even though researchers are not unanimous about the meaning of wisdom, there has been an increasing consensus about it in recent years. It is a complex phenomenon, which can be crystallised as a group of ideal human characteristics. Wisdom consists of the following:

Wisdom is an ideal we continuously aspire to. Surprisingly, the research of wisdom in the fields of educational sciences and learning has, to date, been modest.

Dealing with negative issues is related to wisdom

When we talk about practical wisdom, phronesis (in other words, not connecting any transcendental content to wisdom), it presumably develops and matures through learning in the course of one’s life.

It seems that wisdom is strongly related to experiential knowledge and self-reflection on life experiences: the question is about a deep and rich assessment, which enables us to face our negative sides as well.

The psychological paradox of wisdom is that because it is an ideal goal that is hard to reach, it seems to include the processing of difficult, negative and even painful experiences. In other words, at its best it is related to growth after crises.

Scientific studies have shown that, at least in older age, wisdom is clearly connected to the experience of wellbeing. It is also known that positive experiences in early childhood are connected with wisdom in older age.

It is a phenomenon in which education, experiences, learning from experiences, and conscious reflection on learning have a great significance.

University pedagogy can promote wisdom skills in many ways

It seems that wisdom-related skills can, to a certain extent, be taught. Teaching experiments have been made as part of university education. Successful examples of wisdom pedagogy have included, for example, reading great philosophers or classic texts, discussing the texts in the classroom as well as writing different kinds of reflection diaries related to one’s own beliefs and values.

There are various tools to promote wisdom in university pedagogy:

Guidance and mentoring have also been observed to increase the wisdom of those being guided. An example of this kind of guidance relationship is cooperation between an experienced expert and a newcomer, in which the expert shares their experience-based knowledge.

It is clear that the guidance of university students includes plenty of opportunities to develop wisdom skills: the ability to understand broader views such as global perspectives, adopting an attitude of intellectual humility, and basing one’ actions on compassion and other socially constructive emotions.

At its best, teaching wisdom means helping students develop a sense of ethical citizenship. These students can then, as skilful and thriving individuals, contribute to building the future while promoting wellbeing throughout society.

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology, Docent (Adjunct Professor) Eeva Kallio is a senior researcher in the Finnish Institute for Educational Research at the University of Jyväskylä and the team leader of the Wisdom and Learning research team


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