It is widely understood that advances in technology have created a rapidly changing world. We’re globally connected, life is more complex and uncertain and there are increasingly challenging questions for us to grapple with.
We can appreciate, therefore, the difficulties that this must create for schools. Keeping up with this pace of change and ensuring that students are being taught in a way that reflects the current world they live in is challenge enough, let alone educating them for a future world of which we have little conception.
In the past, education served both a social role of keeping students off the streets and an economic role of providing a workforce for a narrow range of known jobs. With the advent of technological change, these sorts of roles are no longer required; the growth of the knowledge age has brought with it the need for urgent educational change.
So looking to the future what will be important for students to know? And, how can we make sure that all students are able to access this knowledge? What content and what skills will support all students into a future quite different from ours? Recent research suggests:
- knowing oneself
- understanding how to learn
- collaborating effectively with others
- working in teams on worthwhile authentic tasks
- having a choice
- having a voice
- being creative
- being able to problem solve
- making use of effective technology.
Bolstad et al in Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective suggest we need to adopt a much more complex view of knowledge, one that incorporates ‘knowing, doing and being’. 21st century learning principles such as ‘a commitment to personalized learning, embracing diversity, rethinking learners’ and teachers’ roles and forging new partnerships are also mentioned (Bolstad et al., 2012).
For me an image comes to mind of students immersed in learning, where they have the opportunity to behave as mathematicians, scientists, writers, artists and musicians exploring their topic of interest to their fullest capacity, drawing on the support of peers and experts and sharing their new learning out into the community. ‘Being’, ‘doing’ and ‘knowing’, in other words.
Guy Claxton (2008) points out that we ‘can continually develop our portable capacity to learn in new and challenging circumstances throughout our lives.’ And I would argue we are more likely to be able to do that if we experience rich future-focused learning opportunities. However I wonder where our current model of ‘accountability’ assessment sits with all of this.
What sort of ‘knowing, being and doing’ might then support students to function, participate and thrive in a complex future world, and what pedagogical lens can we critically apply to learning activities and events to ensure that they equip students for their future?
What questions could we use to ‘future proof’ learning in our schools? Perhaps we could ponder the following when planning work for students to do:
- Why will it be important for students to know this?
- Where could students be expected to make use of this knowledge in the future?
- How does this knowledge link to a student’s current context and community?
- What ‘future – focused’ skills are built into this activity?
- What opportunities and technological tools are there for students to access and reshape this knowledge in a new way?
- What impact will this knowledge and artifact produced have on the student and their community?
I wonder what else is needed to enable schools to think more critically about what learning practices should be stopped, what should be continued, and what ought to be started in order to better prepare all students to be effective and knowledgeable participants and contributors in their future.
Bolstad, R.,Gilbert, J., McDowall, S., Bull, A., Boyd, S., & Hipkins, R. (2012). Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective. Report for the Ministry of Education. Wellington: Ministry of Education
Chambers, M., Powell, G., Claxton G. ( 2008) Building 101 Ways to Learning Power. Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education
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