Last week I was reminded by our SGDSB Technology Leader that “The future is now”. I had been speaking about the 21st Century Competencies document and was thinking about the skills and competencies that our students will need to be successful. This was a powerful statement for me to hear and created a renewed sense of urgency around the growth work that we are doing through our Board Learning Plan for Student Achievement and Well-Being. Many of you have heard me speak about the need for us to understand that the drive behind the improvement work that we do is grounded in the notion that our world is changing rapidly, and thus our students are changing rapidly. I return often to the Growing Leaders podcast and his book In Other Words whereby Tim Elmore describes education for young people today versus the education that I would have received:
Elmore, Tim. In Other Words. Available free to download from http://growingleaders.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/In_Other_Words.pdf, pg 8.
Elmore’s thinking resonated with me (see an earlier blog) as it helped me to see that we are not changing for the sake of changing, but because our students are changing. We know this, as we have identified our urgent need around motivation, perseverance, engagement and belonging; we know that our traditional teaching methods (those that I grew up with and used when I was in the classroom that Elmore describes in his chart) need to be enhanced to address the changing students. It isn’t that our practices are wrong, it is that we know that they need to be enhanced to truly impact the thinking and learning of our students today. They are different thus our practices must be different. Schools today must be designed to reflect the students of today.
Then I read the Winter 2016 Edition of the 21st Century Competencies: Foundation Document for Discussion released by the Ontario Ministry of Education, and much, much more became clearer to me.
I believe that I understand the rationale behind our Theory of Action one page summary document, which articulates the HOW in terms of the enhancements that we are making, however this new document truly provides a full picture and the foundation to the actions that we have included in our plan. Our plan is fully supported by the document, which is encouraging! It reflect the collective efforts of a number of international governments to “properly identify and conceptualize the set of skills and competencies required so as to incorporate them into the educational standards that every student should be able to reach by the end of compulsory schooling” (Ananiadou & Claro, 2009, pg. 5. in 21st Century Competencies, 2016, pg. 6.). The following chart from the document (pg. 56) summarizes these skills and competencies:
I noticed that there is an important distinction between the terms skills and competencies throughout the document, which truly reflects the notion that our students need to be moving past the discrete acquisition of skills alone. “A skill is seen as the ability to perform tasks and solve problems, while a competency is seen as the ability to apply learning outcomes adequately in a defined context (education, work, personal or professional development). A competency is not limited to cognitive elements (involving the use of theory, concepts, or tacit knowledge); it also encompasses functional aspects (involving technical skills) as well as interpersonal attributes (e.g., social or organization skills) and ethical values.” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 21st Century Competencies, 2016, pg. 9). This reminds me of the notion that we are shifting away from simple knowledge acquisition to thinking globally and mindfully about important contemporary issues, and requiring our students to apply this knowledge in a collaborative and meaningful way. Does this not reflect our Theory of Action? Relevance? Authenticity? Collaboration? Communication?
This is what we must urgently focus on as educators, in order to fully know that our students are prepared for their NOW…and their FUTURES. I don’t believe any longer that any of us can wait…some need to rethink their old “pendulum” argument and their belief that “This too will pass.” By deeply reflecting on the competencies and skills named above, we will increasingly understand our goals as educators and our moral imperative will become clearer – this is the urgency that I speak of. This will also help us to truly understand the environments that we must create in each and every classroom for each student, and we will begin to more deeply understand that our roles have changed. We can no longer maintain the traditional view of “the teacher”…the new view of “the educator” is one whereby we see ourselves as inspiring learning. Dr. Jean Clinton was clear about this with us in the past week – we are “guides” and “facilitators” of learning. What are we facilitating? It is the competencies and skills through our curriculum which must be translated into important conceptual understandings.
More to come next week as I dig even deeper into this document…in the meantime, have a read. There is much in the document to support your leadership work!
Until next week…How are you modelling the 21st Century Competencies in your role? What is your impact? Is your school changing? post thinking to #nmcblog please!