A rich seam of insight
The OECD states in their report “Education Today 2013” that countries need to provide a “good basic education in childhood and adolescence that equips people not just for the jobs of today, but with the ability to learn new skills for the jobs of tomorrow right through their lifetime.” In order to engage young people in their education and for them to succeed in the future, Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy suggest that ‘deep learning’ – the disposition to learn, create and ‘do’– is necessary to stimulate lifelong learning in today’s students. The good news is that that deeper learning is already visible in many schools today, and, according to the authors, likely to spread globally in the near future.
This expansion is due to the convergence of three forces, which the authors have highlighted in A Rich Seam as:
1) New pedagogies – where teaching is no longer about curriculum content, but fosters learning that is more engaged with real life, encouraging students to continue learning outside the classroom;
2) New change leadership – where leadership is no longer about top-down or bottom-up, but rather about students and teachers pushing each other to learn together, driving progress in partnership;
3) New system economics – where learning can be less expensive due to students’ natural inclination to learn as a result of new, more engaging pedagogies.
These three forces are underpinned by the increasingly ubiquitous nature of technology, which allows learning to happen both within and outside of schools. Though the authors admit that up to now, the impact of technology has had a low impact on learning, awareness is increasing about how to support pedagogy in a collaborative, connected manner as opposed to just using it for accessing information. One of the examples cited is Hellerup School in Denmark, where teachers use e-portfolios to track students’ progress in all aspects of their development and where students can access their own portfolio to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, as well as to set their own goals.
The ideas in this report are based on interviews with students, teachers, school leaders, system leaders and policy makers from twelve countries (US, Canada, Colombia, England, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Finland, Singapore and Australia), classroom visits to observe the real interactions between students and teachers in schools, and research across existing other publications. Three case study videos from these visits are included below.
The biggest claim in the report is that with this new model of learning, there can be twice the learning for the same, or even a lower price. The main premise of this argument is that people will voluntarily spend more time on learning that is useful to them and so will become ‘natural learners’ at no extra cost. Approximate estimations were also given for the cost of technology and what it would take to scale-up in large quantities. Given the prevalence and growth of digital tools in the past twenty years, it is not entirely unthinkable for technology to become ubiquitous in school systems in the next twenty years for a minimal amount of money.
A Rich Seam sets out a hopeful future for education, based on the evolving learning partnership between students and teachers. Students, teachers, school leaders and policy makers all need to play a part in this large-scale transformation of learning; students by pushing their teachers and fellow classmates to be learning partners and defining their own learning goals; teachers and school leaders by collaborating with teachers and schools to create a system-wide endeavour to use these new learning techniques. Finally governments should lessen their focus on accountability and instead, foster policies which align with these deep learning goals.
This article is a summary of ‘A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning”, by Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy, published by Pearson and available to download below.
Press release here. Media coverage has been published so far by MaRS Discovery District, ISTE, Times Education Supplement, Association of School and College Leaders, Education Newswire, Education Week, Education Dive, the PIE news, Higher Education Academy, ScoopIt, Yahoo (Singapore), Yahoo (Canada), Michael Fullan, NESTA, Oliver Quinlan and Pearson.
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Hard copies of the report available on request.