Reflections on a professional reading – Take 1

I am in the process of reading through this research report: Supporting Future Oriented Learning and Teaching – NZCER.

I have read the executive summary twice, and find the ‘teacher friendly’ curriculum update really accessible: NZC Update 26.  I actually read the executive summary as almost the first piece of initial exploring I did into this area and upon recently re-reading it, it’s amazing how much more sense it makes now!  Thus, I’ve been inspired to read the whole kit and caboodle.

The introduction seeks to define ’21st century’ or ‘future’ learning and to capture what the current educational situation is like in New Zealand.  While only being a third of the way through the report as a whole at present, something I’m finding consistent and striking is a call for a “system transformation” (p. 9) in order to support every single student to “develop the skills, competencies, knowledge, and understanding required to participate in, and contribute to, our national and global future” (p. 9).

The metaphor that is used to capture this need for systemic shift is that of ‘unbundling’ – taking apart structures in order to reassemble them in newer, more meaningful ways.

Acknowledgement: https://plus.google.com/109042623230585069530/posts

I like that the report directly addresses the why of change, and that this response is not just about economy or changing careers, but also about the fact that more is known about how learning occurs, and that there has been a fundamental shift in the way “knowledge is thought about and used” (p. 11).  The two supporting tables which explore these latter two concepts on pages 13 and 15 I find particularly useful.

For example: “It is no longer possible to accurately predict exactly which knowledge people will need to draw on as they move through life in the 21st century.  It has been argued that students need, among other things, opportunities to build their sense of identity, become self-reliance, critical and creative thinkers, be able to use initiative, be team players and be able to engage in ongoing learning throughout their lives” (Table 2: Old and new views of knowledge, and the implications for schooling, p. 13)  for me, this is real confirmation and justification for my focus on what I’ve been calling the ‘3Cs’ of creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.

And: “To learn, people need to be actively engaged – they need to be doing something, thinking something and/or saying something that requires them to actively process, interpret and adapt an experience to a new context or use.” (Table 3: What we know about learning, p. 15).  This is calling for thinking and having experiences to think with.

Speaking of thinking – something I need to do more thinking about is the concept of ‘wicked problems’ – I almost certainly will come back to this at a later stage.

Finally, I have just finished reading the section on ‘personalising learning’, which is the first of six “themes” that the report deals with as those “linked with contemporary views of learning for the 21st century” (p. 9).

The distinction that is made between ‘deep’ and ‘shallow’ practice of personalisation has struck a chord with me.  I can see that staff in my school are genuinely making steps towards the ‘shallow’ end of personlisation pool: offering “choices about which activity(ies) [students] will undertake to master the knowledge determined by the teacher” (p. 19).  This report suggests, of course, that we should be working towards ‘deep’ personalisation where “students’ learning activities and the curriculum/knowledge content they engage with are shaped in ways that reflect the input and interests of students, as well as what teacher know to be important knowledge” (p. 19).

My gut reaction to this was one of guilt – I’ve been kidding myself that offering ‘shallow’ choices to students was allowing for the personalisation of learning.  However, I see that we all have to start something – and the intention behind the choices is a genuine one.  We can’t go from zero to hero in one fell swoop (to mix a metaphor).  I’m also reassured – but need to make sure I don’t use this as an excuse to try ‘deep’ personalisation within my classroom – by the concrete examples of deep personalisation supplied in the report from two New Zealand schools.  I particularly like the model outlined on page 23 that comes from Albany Senior High.  Here we can see the recurring call for a transformation at a systemic level in practice – ultimately this is what is needed to create genuine transformation.

Now, to keep reading…

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