At a recent teachers’ conference, I attended a session on the future of teaching and learning. It was a roundtable discussion session and started with a number of different questions for people to consider. The summation of those questions, which focused on assessment, on teacher qualification, on the relevance of schooling in this day and age, is the question that leads off this particular post. Be it a national school or an international school, the question is pertinent: as a school, are we perfectly prepared for a world that no longer exists?
While a roundtable discussion can be a useful exercise, I did walk out of that particular session thinking how one might actually start a process of investigating this core question of being prepared for a world that no longer exists. Certainly, coming up with an answer is a self-reflective exercise. And starting the process is as daunting as it is uncertain. I would hazard to say that it is also exciting.
Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel’s 2009 text 21st century skills: Learning for life in our times has been useful in my own thinking through issues associated with the question about the place of schooling in the world today. As I work on strategic planning papers and presentations, Trilling and Fadel feature in my thoughts and reflections. Indeed, Trilling and Fadel (2009: xxiii) start with a series of questions, describing the questions as ones that are often aired in conversations about the future of teaching and learning:
- How has the world changed, and what does this mean for education
- What does everyone need to learn now to be successful?
- How should we learn all this?
- How is 21st century learning different from learning in the 20th century and what does it really look like?
- How will 21st century learning evolve through the century?
- How will a 21st century learning approach help solve our global problems?
They then pose a four question exercise which I have replicated here:
Question #1: What will the world be like twenty or so years from now when your child has left school and is out in the world?
Question #2: What skills will your child need to be successful in this world you have imagined twenty years from now?
Question #3: Now think about your own life and the times when you were really learning, so much and so deeply, that you would call these the “peak learning experiences” of your life. What were the conditions that made your high-performance learning experiences so powerful?
Before going on to Question #4, look over your answers to the first three questions and think about how most students currently spend their time each day in school. Then consider the final question:
Question #4: What would learning be like if it were designed around your answers to the first three questions?
The four question exercise, as it is called, is a great way of facilitating a discussion on the state of things in one’s school. It doesn’t purport to provide a strategic plan or some form of roadmap that provides the user with continuous school improvement. It does help leadership teams or teaching teams or those in between to see differences. It walks people through a discussion that will have its end point in: how different a place is the school you work in compared to that which you have just imagined? In light of the answers to the above questions, to what degree is your school perfectly prepared for a world that no longer exists?