The traditional goal of any education system is to prepare students for either college or careers. Over the years, I would say that while this view still holds value, the context has changed dramatically. The world has radically evolved as a result of constantly advancing technology and the COVID-19 pandemic. With knowledge readily available and the means to seamlessly engage in digital spaces now the norm, educators need to keep pace and ensure that the strategies they use will serve learners well into the future. While this might seem like a monumental task, it is not as difficult as one might think.
While preparation for college and careers might remain a focus, it is important to understand that there is no uniform recipe for success as this varies significantly between different learners. Herein lies both a challenge and opportunity for educators. As I shared in Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms, our world needs students who have the competencies to replace conventional ideas with innovative solutions to authentic problems. There are many different pathways to accomplish this goal that I discuss in detail in the book. However, a more holistic approach can be taken to set the stage for developing a learner’s ability to accomplish any aim or purpose they set out to achieve.
When designing lessons, projects, or assessments, consider whether or not they empower learners to:
- Engage in problem-solving
- Collaborate with peers
- Think critically and creatively
- Communicate clearly and accurately
- Develop open-mindedness
- Make real-world applications
- Reflect on learning
- Analyze, reason, and evaluate
Setting the stage for learner success requires a commitment beyond just the people that have direct contact with students. It is important to note that administrators play a crucial role in how they support their teachers with feedback on the elements listed above. Pedagogical leadership can pave the way.
While the elements above are undoubtedly essential, it should be noted that not every lesson, assignment, or assessment will include all of these. Hence the need to develop a system of norms that can be implemented routinely that will either directly address or set the stage for disruptive thinking. Below is a checklist of sorts containing questions that can be used to reflect on daily practice and serve as a means for growth:
- Rigor – How are all learners being challenged to think through scaffolded questions and tasks? Is the work that they engage in thoughtful and providing an opportunity for discourse and collaboration?
- Relevance – How are learners applying their thinking in meaningful and purposeful ways? Are they afforded the opportunity to leverage authentic resources and make interdisciplinary connections between various concepts?
- Empowerment – Do learners own their experience in the classroom or school through personalized strategies that promote voice, choice, path, pace, and place? Are they able to access and use a variety of tools to construct new knowledge and demonstrate what they have learned? How has the learning environment changed to respond to individual strengths and weaknesses?
Ensuring current and future learner success doesn’t rely on a technology tool or a passing fad. It is achieved through a dynamic combination of strategies that future-proof learning for all kids so that they can thrive in a disruptive world. Try not to overthink things. Even though the world will continue to change rapidly, you have the knowledge, tools, and mindset to equip kids and put them all on a path towards success.