Future focused learning embraces ‘soft skills’ including collaboration, critical thinking, curiosity and creativity, which is often achieved through approaches such as project-based and problem-based learning and inquiry. These types of approaches to education, when done well, lead to high levels of student engagement where students feel a sense of purpose in a project they are working on or are passionate about a topic or subject they are researching. You know when a student is passionate and engaged in what they are doing as they are driven to keep learning and working, asking questions and taking a deep dive into a quest to find out more, often beyond the classroom walls. A challenge for educators is to provide a meaningful and authentic opportunity to teach and apply skills and content in a project or inquiry that ignites this passion and provides time and space for students to engage deeply and find their state of flow.
Consider the times you have found yourself in a state of flow as you learn, explore or build, or do whatever it is you are passionate about. You are completely immersed in what you are doing, concentrating with high levels of focus leading to a deep satisfaction and sense of achievement. Now imagine the end of the 50-minute period signaling it is time to stop and move on to the next lesson. Your state of flow broken. Traditional schooling models see a student’s day broken up by timetables that regularly interrupt student flow and deep engagement in their learning. Timetables are also usually separated by subjects, so not only interrupt students flow but also do not optimise meaningful opportunities to integrate content in a transdisciplinary approach. As we consider what is an education worth having and how we can best prepare our students for future success we might just need to start with rethinking the structure and systems that we have in place that potentially limit student engagement and deep learning.
Many innovative schools embrace opportunities to teach multiple learning areas within one structure and in doing so can provide longer blocks of time to not only optimise student engagement with less disruption, but also to create meaningful, authentic learning opportunities. Learning geometry to enable you to effectively design and build a piece of furniture not only helps a student understand why geometry is important but also will see them much more likely to retain the concepts and content they have learnt. Rethinking school structure requires school communities to embrace and participate in the changing paradigm of the purpose of schools, which can be scary and push us beyond our comfort zones. Schools are no longer preparing students for an industrial economy but instead a knowledge economy and therefore we must be bold in making changes in what opportunities we provide students so that they are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge for future success.
The documentary ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ is a good insight into the complexities, rigor, challenges and opportunities that approaches such as project-based learning can provide students and is well worth a watch to consider the purpose of schools and what may be possible.
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