Education is at an inflection point. There is an increasing focus on shifting from a system that doesn’t serve the current needs of all students in an increasingly complex world, to one that is driven by innovation and change. Innovation and change is needed because there is not a clear picture of what the new learning goals and pedagogies are that will deliver the Deep Learning outcomes we want for all students, so that they can flourish in this increasingly complex world.
For me, the heart of this change is a focus on supporting the type of system transformation needed to provide a model where all parts of the system are aligned and working towards equipping students with Deep Learning competencies that enable them to be creative problem solvers who can collaborate effectively within and across teams, and who can pursue leadership for action in a sustainable context. Focusing on developing Deep Learning competencies for the ‘6 Cs’, as Michael Fullan calls them (Citizenship, Character, Collaboration, Communication, Creativity and Critical Thinking), and leveraging the increasing digital ubiquity available will require a sustained focus on implementing innovation and change.
While there is an increasing focus on this work, many people are asking ‘how’ this will be achieved. To help answer that question, I am part of a global partnership with education leaders such as Michael Fullan, that is working at implementing such change across several countries, including Canada. The global partnership is called New Pedagogies for Deep Learning, and we are working with clusters of 100 schools in up to 10 countries to identify the new pedagogies that will deliver Deep Learning outcomes for all students, leveraging digital to accelerate and deepen the learning.
Because there is no existing blueprint for the change we hope to enable, we are working with clusters, schools, teachers and other stakeholders in what we call an “innovation implementation partnership.” This means each cluster needs to be willing to challenge current assumptions and orthodoxies, and to learn from the work when answers aren’t always clear. Learning by doing, a willingness to innovate based on collaborative inquiry and a commitment to learning from the other schools and clusters are all key. Combining this with what Michael Fullan’s work describes as the key conditions for Deep Learning at the school, cluster and system level – a clear and agreed vision, focusing on a small number of ambitious goals, building capacity focused on pedagogy, measuring what we value and leadership at all levels – provides new opportunities to extend Deep Learning for all students so they are able to flourish in an ever-changing and complex world.
You may ask, “What are new pedagogies and why do they matter?” We believe that equipped with new pedagogical models, a growing digital ubiquity and new learning partnerships, students will shift from learning about life to learning being living. Driven by the new learning partnerships – the changing relationships between teachers, students, families and communities, with teachers taking on the role of activators – new pedagogies bring together existing contexts with Deep Learning competency development that leverages digital to accelerate and deepen the learning. In this way, education is not about students ‘learning’ answers to the already known, it is about them applying learning to real-world problems that necessitate the creation of new knowledge. This requires teachers to feel comfortable as part of learning partnerships where they don’t know the answers!
Leaders wishing to embark on such a journey will need to have the courage to challenge their current situations, let go of what isn’t working, and focus on collaborative innovation and inquiry that will generate the new knowledge to propel their organizations. There is no standardized approach for this journey, and so being ready to be a leader and learner and challenge yourself and those you work with to ask the difficult questions is critical. It is when we admit that we don’t have all the answers that we can truly become learners.
As programmer and facilitator of CEA’s upcoming Challenge to Change Symposium, I’m thrilled to be able to weave these Deep Learning concepts into the day to inspire a change mindset among participants, and some good ideas about how they can return to work and make this meaningful change happen.