Transforming Our Learners’ Experience: Future Focused Learning Design

Karen Melhuish Spencer presented this workshop at a Core Breakfast capturing a compelling argument for why we need to keep moving education forward towards a future focused learning design. The emphasis was not on a specific destination, instead it was about the ever changing education landscape and the need to move with it. Below is a bit of a scatter gun, from quickly jotted down thoughts through to links like Core Education’s 10 Trends, but hopefully it contains a sense of the presentation, and a lot of thoughts I took out of it:

What is ‘Future-Focused Learning’? Why? How? What? … Where to begin?

To capture the language that pervades the idea of future-focused learning, there was a short game of buzzword bingo (zeitgeist bingo)

photo (7)Agency, self-direction, connection, collaborative, co-operative, 21st century, lifelong learning, modern learning environments, confident, self-motivated, beanbags, flipped classroom, 21st century learning, transformation, MOOCs, growth mindset, gaming, anything digital

Lots of language around to describe the process, hard to get a handle on.

PART ONE: WHY? Because of the image of the traditional classroom (which provokes a distinct shudder down my spine). The drivers of the new world is the industries that are adapting, embracing new technologies and developing. Some industries are also fading. What we are preparing students for is shifting. From the Independent: “Firm says it will not longer consider degrees or A-level results when assessing employees” and from Stuff: “Empathy, adaptability key to survival in new-age job market“. We must prepare students for “jobs that don’t exist yet”.

Why change? The need for individual education. We now understand so much about the way students learn and the differences that children present. Like Rosie, the main focus of the BBC piece called “My Autism and Me“.  We have changed the types of conversations we can now have  about learning for young people who bring a whole range of differences. The real transformation comes when we think about systems that remove barriers for learning for all young people. Transformation – does not mean tinkering and improvement; it actually means transformation. It’s a mindset not a destination.

A market economy cannot thrive absent the well being of average people, even in a gilded age

From Jaron Lanier’s, Who Owns the Future. To change we start from the people – identify the strengths and then we challenge the status quo. Key parts of this design:

  • Learner agency is the power to act. Ultimately we are trying to design learning experiences and systems in school where students have the power to act.
  • Global connectedness – we are global citizens – no one sits alone. We are part of a community. The school is part of a network. Schools as part of a cluster/community. Students need to believe they can make a difference. A shifting world that is changing the world around us. Learning is now visible to the world.

PART TWO: HOW? Ways of working is the how: a shared vision, inquiry. It involves a number of key ideas:

  • Learner orientation – designing systems around learners – “whose interests are bring served?” Is it the convenience of the school or the learners. Re-imagine our roles as teachers.
  • Inclusive design – removing barriers to increase opportunities and offer choice. Students who are part of the learning – a collaborative approach. All students have a place at school. How do we help them feel part of the system?

PART THREE: WHAT? Signposts and indicators:

  • 7 Principles of Learning – as also described here.
  • Hattie – another piece of evidence to determine what this might look like.
  • ERO: School Evaluation Indicators 2015 Trial – indicators about what powerful teaching might look like.
  • Networked organisations – distributed expertise, on demand – breakdown the hierarchy – create a cluster on the same level, not waiting for someone else to intervene. Staffing, PL structure all could change.
  • New approaches to assessment – targeted, visible and relevant – UK Report finds exams damaging students’ education experience. (However, on the horizon is national testing ahead for Year 9 and 10).
  • Matt Nicoll – St Andrew’s College – Y11 Science rethinking assessment – his blog is here.
  • Maker Culture – active creation, not passive consumption
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship – fail fast, take risks, take action. How do we innovate? Don’t try and get it right all the time!
  • Learner Analytics – data that is useful and used – harnessing technology. Joining up technology with whanau and communities. Student voice in the data.
  • Digital Convergence – changing roles, anytime access. Let their voice be heard

PART FOUR: Where to begin? There is no compass – there is no there to get to. The mindset is about changing ways of thinking that is highly reflective and considers what was outlined above. When change occurs, fear and the valley of death is inevitable. The key to valley of death is to tell people that it will happen. There are models and methods of change – they are all circles – they all are about reflection and a continued journey, not a destination.

The learners need to have the confidence and the bravery to have a voice be confident and be who they are.


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