Sunday, 20 March 2016

Contemporary trends and issues influencing education

This blogpost is part of a Mindlab assignment, relating to the evaluation of contemporary trends or issues that are influencing and/or shaping education.

Part 1: The future is unpredictable

It is likely that many of the career paths we value today may not actually exist within the lifetimes of the students we are teaching. Reports state that many of the jobs that occupy us today will be obsolete even within 10 years:
"Almost any job that can be described as a “process” could be done by a computer, whether that computer is housed in a robot or embedded somewhere out of sight.
So if intelligent machines can take over many of the jobs of today, what can you do to ensure your job prospects in the future?" (Washington Post)
So how do we prepare our students for career paths and jobs that do not actually exist? Futurists such as Thomas Frey have stated that looking at skillsets that will be of use in the future provides us with opportunities:

The interesting take on these skills is that they are interdisciplinary, transferrable skills or capabilities that will allow our current day students to become experts in their fields, rather than training them to leave educational facilities already experts. Many of the skills listed above also lend themselves towards a mindset as opposed to being standalone skills in their own right.
I feel that at HPSS, we are supporting the development of student capabilities for the future in several ways: Blending learning areas together, to allow for the visible and explicit transfer of skills that are traditionally silo'd into their respective learning areas; giving students the opportunity to bring skills and knowledge together to find and solve problems through Big Projects and now Impact Projects with our Year 11 students; and emphasising the importance of a dispositional curriculum that underpins so much of what we do.
Other relevant sites: 

Part 2: Changing the paradigm from standardisation

In a 2010 talk, the brilliant Sir Ken Robinson talks about moving away from the idea of standardisation, and standardised testing in particular:

The aspect of this that appeals to me most is the idea of divergent thinking - the concept that rather than having one set answer to a given problem, or one way of thinking about things, there are instead a multitude of ways of approaching issues and questions, and using creative thinking to provide possible solutions. 
(Screenshot from Ken Robinson's talk)

Strategies that can promote divergent thinking are detailed well at this site and include such things as deferring judgement - so generating ideas without immediately dismissing them; brainstorming both individually and in groups - as a way of not limiting the potential answers to just one response; combining ideas - using ideas from others and building on them.
"Divergent behavior is discouraged in school when students are scared to say or do the "wrong thing" in class. This is not surprising since schools often tolerate environments in which both teachers and peer groups keep in-check those who say and do things that are off-script, incorrect or inappropriate. This system of overt-convergence is enforced by a grading culture that systematically penalizes students for being "wrong," and by allowing a school environment in which students tease those who exhibit non-normative behaviors. So, if divergent thinking is key to being creative, it becomes clear why our students find being open with their imaginations and divergent ideas inhibited." (Edutopia link)

Although there are certain restrictions in science, especially as pertains to NCEA external achievement standards, there is certainly a strong correlation between divergent thinking and the nature of science, where ideas are built upon, and alternative methods and approaches are tested without judgement.

I do believe that I encourage this type of thinking, and in the combining of learning areas such as social science with science, or visual arts with science (as I am teaching this semester), you gain the benefit of having different ways of approaching problems and thinking outside of the usual silo'd learning area toolset.

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