The Learning Powered School

21st Century educationImage by wlibrary via FlickrGuy Claxton today facilitated a webinar entitled The Learning Powered School. One of the first things he started by asking was why is it that the 19th century approach to learning and teaching is so ‘sticky’. He suggested that few people disagreed that education in some way needs to change, and proposed a vision that suggested 21st century education needs to help you people to learn to be open-minded and inquisitive, while also discovering their passions. They should also be encouraged to make and repair friendships, enjoy seeing different sides of a subject, and be unafraid of uncertainty. So, as far as the latter point is concerned this would involve the design of a curriculum that offers, regularly, experiences that are increasingly uncertain.

Guy cautioned against using the academic jargon often used in the writing of vision statements, which are as a result impenetrable and inaccessible to a large proportion of, for instance, government ministers. Values, he also feels should be relevant to life in general, not just for a test. Fancy language gets in the way of being taken seriously!

One of the key points Guy discussed was what does it take to so a 21st century education properly? He advised that eight core principles have been distilled from research:

  1. Broadening the core aims of education
  2. A vision that offers success for all
  3. A strong rationale
  4. Precise and accessible language
  5. Progressive change to school culture
  6. Focusing on teachers and teaching
  7. Honest self-appraisal
  8. Committed leadership

Leadership he advises will really make or break shifts in practice, along with clear, visible endorsement by leaders that reinforces objectives. The traditional education agenda, he argues, will not be changed without strong leadership.

Having an ‘and’ mentality is essential. People who are looking at assessment scores can also be looking at key competencies, but it is reliant on having a complementary set of ways of tracking the key competencies. The government is not stopping us changing by the focus on assessment.

The way in which education needs to change is on a whole lot of different levels. Where the issues are now are in helping and supporting, primarily teachers, but also students, teachers, and members of the wider community how change is going to happen and what it will look like. Where the world is now is moving from “vision to precision”, and it requires clarity around, for instance, the role of parents in their child’s learning experience. Clarity will help address misunderstandings and ‘fogginess’.

While I agree with much of what Guy says (in particular the ‘and’ instead of the ‘one or another’ focus), I did feel that there wasn’t really ‘anything new’ – there was no different strategy  to drive change,  although there was re-affirmation of some sound steps to take. From a slightly more nit-picky point of view, when did curiosity, risk-taking, building relationships, and being comfortable with uncertainty become 21st century attributes??? I’m coming to the conclusion that the whole focus on a 21st century learner is misleading – rather we need to focus on the process human development and the context and circumstances in which that happens most effectively. Although, I guess, much of the problem is the mammoth that is many education systems – and how to enable change in a environment that is often positively glacial.

About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ ( I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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