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5 Big Ideas for the Future of Education

Keller Current Educational Issues, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Mind Brain Education Science, Play 1 Comment

How will we prepare the next generation for a rapidly changing world?

In 5 years, from 2015 to 2020 the Top 10 Skills required for the job market changed dramatically. The next 10 years are going to require even a greater leap as we prepare the next generation for a rapidly changing world. Let’s look at 5 big ideas for the future of education.

The Top 10 Skills required for the world of work. 2020 comparison to 2015.
The top ten skills required in the world of work. Comparing 2015 to 2020.

Complex problem solving has held its place at number one.  Sadly, the national curriculum seems to have removed complexity from the problem solving item and focused on regurgitation.  Critical thinking jumped a few spots, but  creativity climbed from 10th place to 3rd place.

The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 is a good assessment on how well the Top 10 skills have been mastered by those leading the global response.  Perhaps our politicians could do with a bit of re-schooling.  But preparation for 2020 is long gone – and now we are looking at the tectonic shifts that need to be made as we prepare students for the world of work in 2030.

What are the BIG IDEAS for the future of Education?

The following 5 Big Ideas for the future of Education need to inform the tectonic shift that must be seen in the teaching and schooling system:

Idea 1: Cognitive Flexibility

Number 10 in 2020 has jumped to first place in 2030.  Although subject disciplines remain important, interdisciplinary cognitive flexibility is now a non-negotiable.  Schools will have to include a thematic, cross ‘silo’ integrated curriculum to prepare students for this multi-faceted world.  Neuroscientists are telling us that the brain does not learn explicitly or implicitly in subjects.  The brain learns in what we call CROPS – the fruit of memory.  Categories – Relationships – Order – Patterns – Symbols.  Educators are going to have to rapidly learn the art of collaboration as they look for interdisciplinary themes that will produce the CROPS required for 2030 leadership.

Idea 2: Digital literacy and computational thinking

Artificial Intelligence and robotics is going to be big.  During the last decade we have heard a lot about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Digital literacy, artificial intelligence (coding and robotics) and the internet of things (IoT) is now required for employment. SMAC is the new catch word (Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud). 

Blooms Taxonomy used to be a pyramid with knowledge and remembering as the base.  Knowledge was the foundation. And regurgitating what you have been able to embed in your declarative memory was an indication of your capacity.  Those days are over.  In a knowledge society, the quantity of knowledge is a click away.   

Bloom's Taxonomy

Way back in the 1950’s, a group of psychologists and Benjamin Bloom collaborated to design the Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Their design had six levels.  The lower level of cognitive gain was on the knowledge that they wanted students to acquire, remember and understand.  The middle level of the pyramid was on the ability to apply and analyse the knowledge that had been acquired in the lower level.  The top level involved evaluating the application and the analysis of the knowledge.  The pinnacle was to create something with it.  Notice how the pyramid design emphasised knowledge as the broad base.  Knowledge in the 1950’s was the foundation stone of learning.  This base of knowledge was essential.  Mastery, therefore depended on a declaration of that knowledge.  Testing proved to be a very effective way to determine if students could REMEMBER the knowledge.

The layout has been redesigned many times with new words and verbs added to make it a useful tool for teachers and students.  Perhaps one of the greatest re-designs of the original was to do away with the pyramid design and reinvent the taxonomy in an ice-cream cone shape.  

The Derek Bok Centre for Teaching and Learning at Harvard produced this graphic to represent the Blooms Taxonomy.

The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning redesigned Blooms Taxonomy
Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning – Harvard University

It better represents our approach to deep thinking in the 21st century.  Finding and remembering data is still at the  base, but the base is smaller and less of the focus.   The goal is not only to declare what has been remembered, but to display the knowledge by analysing it, creating something with it or evaluating its worth.   We are now wanting to generate a schooling environment where the goal is to create, evaluate and analyse.  Regurgitation is of little value in cognitive gain.  Showing evidence of understanding is important, but the application in the real world is vital because this will lead to the ability to ACE it (Analysing – Creating – Evaluating)! 

A moving child is an ACE child
We want to create an ACE school environment

Our goal as educators and parents is to make sure that our children know how to find the information and apply it effectively. They need to ACE it.  A moving child is an ACE child.  Movement is what makes us grow.  Movement is orderly and predictable and one developmental stage leads to the next. Cheatnum and Hammond in 2000 noted that “While each skill may be recognisable and separate, a child may be involved with developing several skills at once.” Gone are the days of traditional schooling and rote learning. 

“We need a revolution and it must start now.”

Gavin Keller

Idea 3: Judgement and decision-making

Robots and automation is going to play a huge part in the next decade, but the human touch cannot yet be managed by a robot.  Essential analytical decisions based on the ability to evaluate the data and apply creative responses is still going to be the work of humans.  Schools need to prepare this ability in every student.

Idea 4: Emotional and social intelligence

This remains a dominant Big Idea for the 2030’s.  Emotional intelligence is a uniquely human capability.  Much can be replaced by technology except social and emotional intelligence.  The ability to know and regulate your own emotions and work effectively with others is a vital big idea.  This is going to require a massive investment in developing the emotional intelligence of bureaucrats leading system change as well as the coherence of school leaders and the professional teams.  Self awareness, understanding the power of our own emotions and those with whom we work and interact, self regulation of the emotion and using emotions effectively in our relationships with colleagues will be essential.  This is not a new subject to add to the overloaded curriculum.  These skills have to form part of every lesson in every inter-disciplinary activity.  It will certainly require cognitive flexibility by the educators.

Idea 5: A Creative and innovative mindset

This too, cannot be replicated with artificial intelligence.  The science behind creativity and innovation is PLAY. 

Unlock creativity and innovation through play

The more we include play in every aspect of our schooling the better these 5 Big ideas for the future of education will be mastered. There is a plethora of research to support the argument that play is an essential part of learning.  We never have an Aha! moment sitting at our desks!  Those moments occur when we are out playing or moving.  When the brain “Does nothing!” it files all the explicit and implicit memories of the day and while it is busy filing, it makes connections, sees links and generates great ideas.  Our schools need to model playful curiosity – where brains are regularly allowed to switch off so that  creativity and innovation can naturally be produced.  

It is time to re-imagine schooling to prepare the current cohort for a world of work in many jobs that haven’t even been thought of yet.  And it is just 9 years away!

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