Posted August 30, 2017 in Opinion By Community Relations

Guest Blogger, Mathew Irving, Director of Strategy

In a rapidly-changing world of economic uncertainty, digital transformation, complex relational networks and education reform, schools are compelled to consider the types of transferable skills and behaviours learners will need to successfully navigate an increasing complex world.

We hear much about the careers of tomorrow, the rise of machine learning, buzz words like ‘big data’, growth in the engineering sector, the use of robotics in industry, innovation and entrepreneurial enterprise. The Productivity Commission has predicted that 40% of jobs over the next decade will be lost to automation.

What skills and behaviours will our learners need to be successful in the careers of the future?

Internationally, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has commenced the Future of Education and Skills: Education 2030 project. The project aims to build a comprehensive framework of competences considered essential for student success. Currently, the analysis of education systems across 22 countries suggests the framework could include:

  • Adaptability, flexibility and agility.
  • Compassion, empathy, sympathy and trust.
  • Creativity, creative thinking, inventiveness and curiosity.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Global mindset, global citizenship and social responsibility.
  • ICT skills and digital literacies.
  • Growth mindset, optimism, challenge seeking, self-efficacy and motivation.
  • Ethics, integrity and fairness.
  • Resilience and grit.
  • Responsibility.

The OECD and other writers have suggested that competencies need to be grounded in academic knowledge, skills and understanding for them to have meaning and purpose. But why? Because competencies are skills and behaviours. They encourage students to transfer their knowledge and understanding to new situations. Without knowledge, students don’t have the foundation of thinking and experience that allows them to successfully turn skills into actions.

Source: Future of Education and Skills: OECD Education 2030 Framework. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In their book, Educating Ruby – what learners really need to learn; Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas identify seven competencies for student success. They argue that governments and education systems need to re-think the experience of the learner. Rather than seeing students as recipients of curriculum and knowledge, schools need to focus on what it means to be human. They argue the need to cultivate student capabilities as part of a shift in character education. Parents also have a role to play to engage their children in rich discussions, elevating important capability areas and valuing them beyond traditional notions of academic success.

Claxton and Lucas describe seven desirable capabilities:

  • Confidence – being confident involves developing a growth mindset and being a ‘can do’ person. Children who believe they can get better at things normally can (with practice and determination).
  • Curiosity – curiosity is at the heart of all learning and involves noticing things, reading avidly and asking good questions.
  • Collaboration – collaboration and conviviality are core attributes of human beings. The ability to be ‘social savvy’, listen empathetically, show kindness and give and receive feedback well.
  • Communication – being communicative is very important. So much unhappiness stems from accidental misunderstandings or careless explanations.
  • Creativity – being creative helps children distinguish themselves from others. It involves having good ideas, dealing with uncertainty and being able to link information.
  • Commitment – a commitment to learning is essential in establishing a passion for life, and being persistent is learnable and coachable.
  • Craftsmanship – craftsmanship, although a seemingly old fashioned concept, is extremely valuable and requires children to show pride, learn from mistakes, work on practising the hard bits and making something the best it can be.

Source: Educating Ruby: What learners really need to know. Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas 2016

At a National level, the Australian Curriculum has identified General Capabilities. Though not measured, these capabilities give teachers and learners a strong orientation to the types of skills and behaviours that are important for success.

Source: General capabilities – Introduction – The Australian Curriculum v8.3

How has Wesley responded?

Embedded in Wesley’s vision to be an innovative learning community, in which students are empowered to lead purposeful lives, the College has committed to supporting learners to become strong thinkers, powerful self-activators, positive connectors and purposeful doers.

While it is important to have a sound understanding of ‘global competence’, our focus must remain on how we can best use this understanding to better prepare students to succeed in tomorrow’s world. Wesley’s aim is to afford our students with deliberate opportunities that help them develop important capabilities for success.

In 2015, the College launched a response to the development of competencies or capabilities – ‘The 12 Learning Habits.’ They were designed as a vehicle to connect our notion of holistic student success with measures of student progress. Our Junior School has embraced the Learning Habits by developing ‘I can’ statements that encourage learners to reflect on their work and develop insights into their learning. Our Middle School have embraced the language of the Learning Habits in the classroom, encouraging learners to vocalise their reflections and set learning goals. In the Senior School, students have used the Learning Habits as part of their Student Led Conferences, reflecting on their strengths and areas for improvement.

Whilst it has been challenging developing meaningful measures – a challenge for educators all around the world – we are in the process of evaluating how we can simplify and better align capabilities with our vision for holistic student success, while acknowledging and building on current success. We are working to develop a framework of measures that are assessed as part of the curriculum that involve both student and teacher judgements and insights. Through this we will develop a meaningful reporting mechanism that allows students, teachers and parents to review individual performance and prompt reflections and turn them into actions.

But what does this look like for a student at Wesley?

We endeavour to develop student ability to think critically, present arguments, see multiple perspectives and solve complex problems. We do this by fostering inquiry processes in the classroom, encouraging questioning and developing assessments that challenges students to solve complex problems.

We aim to nurture creativity both in the classroom and through our co-curricular programs, allowing our students to express their individuality by taking risks, fostering curiosity and the generation of new ideas. Our new STEAM Challenge activities like coding and makerspace and our Arts programs are strong examples of this.

We want to empower our students to be clear and positive communicators. We want them to publish work that demonstrates their commitment to learning and their pursuit of mastery.

We want to encourage our students to work collaboratively towards group orientated goals, building positive relationships, empathy, respect and compassion both in and out of the classroom. Our Social and Emotional and Service programs foster strong values and the concept of serving others.

Ultimately, by the time a student leaves Wesley, our ambition is that all learners have self-directed goals with an increasing focus on continuous improvement so they may live a purposeful and committed life in whichever pathway they choose.

 What’s next?

Wesley finds itself in a unique position. We are a school actively exploring the notion of ‘global competence’ and intentional capabilities. Furthermore, we are a school well advanced in terms of its experience and understanding of the many challenges presented when embedding, communicating, measuring and building common language of capabilities.

The College stands ready to make quick and decisive advancements in the development of this area – ensuring our learners are equipped with the skills and behaviours they will need to experience holistic success, and giving them the ability to tackle a global landscape full of opportunity and increasing complexity.

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