Learning for the Future

As society changes, so the emphasis placed upon how and what students learn is also changing.  The way in which technology is being used in society now and how it might be used in the future, is significantly shaping current learning opportunities and the future direction of education.  Ease of access to knowledge through the use of technology has already changed education, away from the previous emphasis upon student knowledge acquisition, retention and retrieval, towards a greater emphasis upon how easily accessible knowledge can be utilised in innovative directions.  Educational institutions at every level need to adapt quickly to an exponential rate of societal change and prepare students for future careers that are currently unknown.

Elena Douglas, founder of Knowledge Society, maintains there are three critical themes that must influence the emphasis of education and direction of adaptation. Moving beyond the learning, literacy and life skills proposed as critical 21st Century Skills, the three themes proposed by Douglas are: encouraging curiosity, creating a desire for mastery and cultivating character.

“The frontier of knowledge has always been extended by those who are curious …” Douglas claims, emphasising the role of curiosity in expanding possibilities in the future.  Ian Leslie, who writes about curiosity, refers to the importance of exercising curiosity regularly in order to maintain efficient cognitive processes related to being curious.  Students who are curious will seek information; identify, test and implement innovative approaches to solve problems and initiate paradigm shifts to shape the future.  Curiosity is an important element of intellectual ability and regarded as a critical trait for academic achievement and future success.

Creating a desire for mastery within learners is related to structuring opportunities for incremental learning. Milály Csikszentmihályi developed Flow, a concept and model that demonstrates how engagement takes place between optimum levels of skill and challenge.  Aligned with intrinsic motivation, an inherent desire for mastery prompts students to become active learners, acquiring knowledge and skills needed to undertake specific tasks.  The increasing use of technology in education will enable students to progress at their own rate of learning. A desire for mastery prompts development of lifelong learning patterns, encouraging individuals to access and master knowledge and skills, as required.

Throughout the ages, the teaching and cultivation of character, values and virtues has been seen as primary focus of parenting and teaching.  The genesis of classical education, in ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese and Egyptian cultures, placed particular emphasis on the development of character. Ron Ritchhart, research associate at Harvard University’s Project Zero and author of Intellectual Character, outlines the importance of developing patterns of thoughts and beliefs that are the foundation of habitual behaviours and form one’s character.

By nurturing students’ curiosity, desire for mastery and character development, parents and teachers will be equipping students for success within an unpredictable future.

© Michele Juratowitch   
michele@clearingskies.com.au