‘Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future’*

As I was unable to attend the Education Future Forum, held in Sydney earlier this year, Dr Phil Lambert kindly emailed me his presentation, 2010-2020: Ten Propositions for the Decade.

Phil’s paper is lengthy and it is not my purpose here to cast a cold eye over it but to take one issue of interest and seek your input, dear readers.

Phil has the following tables outlining some ’false dichotomies in education’ that are of particular interest to those, enthralled with ’21st century learning’, who want to keep the best of what are considered traditional practices.

Figure 1 – old versus new models of schooling and Learning

Old Model New Model
Reform existing schools Create new schools
Larger schools Smaller schools
Delivering education Students learning
Read books, listen to talk Explore the Web
Time-bound/place-bound Any time/any place
Technology as textbook Technology as research
Groups, classes Individualised
Time is fixed Time is variable
Standardisation Customisation
Cover material Understand key ideas
Who and what Why and how
Know things Apply knowledge
Tradition Relevance
Over-reliance on multiple – choice tests Written/Oral demonstrations
Testing for accountability Testing for understanding
“Make ‘em” “Motivate ‘em”
Instructors Advisers/facilitators
Teachers serve administrators Administrators serve teachers
Administrative management Professional partnership
Adult interests dominate Student interests dominate

The second example, developed by Shaw (2009), presents windows into a supposed classroom of last century and that of a preferred C21 classroom.

Figure 2 – 20th Century Classroom versus 21st Century Classroom

The 20th Century Classroom The 21st Century Classroom
1960s typical classroom – teacher-centred, fragmented curriculum, students working in isolation, memorising facts. An architectural firm establishes an alternative school providing internships for high school students.
Time-based Outcome-based
Focus: memorisation of discrete facts Focus: what students know, can do and are like after all the details are forgotten.
Lessons focus on the lower level of Bloom’s Taxonomy – knowledge, comprehension and application. Learning is designed on upper levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy – synthesis, analysis and evaluation.
Textbook-driven Research-driven
Passive learning Active learning
Learners work in isolation – classroom within 4 walls Learners work collaboratively with classmates and others around the world – the Global Classroom
Teacher-centred: teacher is centre of attention and provider of information Student-centred: teacher is facilitator/coach
Little to no student freedom Great deal of student freedom
Discipline problems – educators do not trust students and vice versa. No student motivation. No “discipline problems” – students and teachers have mutually respectful relationships as co-learners; students are highly motivated.
Fragmented curriculum Integrated and interdisciplinary curriculum
Grades averaged Grades based on what was learned
Low expectations High expectations – “If it isn’t good it isn’t done.” We expect and ensure that all students succeed in learning at high-levels. Some may go higher – we get out of their way to let them do that.
Teacher is judge. No one else sees student work. Self, peer and other assessments. Public audience, authentic assessments.
Curriculum/school is irrelevant and meaningless to the students. Curriculum is connected to students’ interests, experience, talents and the real world.
Print is the primary vehicle of learning and assessment. Performances, projects and multiple forms of media are used for learning and assessment.
Diversity in students is ignored. Curriculum and instruction, address student diversity.
Literacy is the 3 Rs – reading, writing and maths. Multiple literacies of the 21st century – aligned to living and working in a globalised new millennium.
Factory model, based upon the needs of employers for the Industrial Age of the 19th century. Scientific management.
Driven by standardised testing.

Phil says:

“What we see here are two separate models suggesting that what happens in all schools and classrooms is one approach that is stuck in the past and must become the other (preferred approach) today. There is no room for a model that incorporates new approaches along with some proven practices. Instead we are presented with what is considered “in” (the “new model”) and what is now “out” (the “old model”).”

Your ideas

Q: Do exponents of the ‘new model’ completely have to reject the current paradigm to evolve?

Q: How is this binary to be resolved positively and our schools evolve?

*Phil’s speech opened with a quote from Niels Bohr, prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future which amusingly sums up the challenges of crystal-ball gazing.

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11 Comments

  1. David Chapman:

    A. It is not so much that the ‘new’ has to reject the old, as much it as it is not possible at this stage. We are in the second year of a 1:1 laptop program and a few of us have in mind much of what is contained in the ‘new’ as we change the way we teach. However, I have been reflecting on the changes across the whole school and have been somewhat dismayed that change has not been embraced nearly as much as I would have hoped.

    I think it is important to recognise the value of the old – as there are many teachers who will remain there. The key is to find the courage to remain on the path to the new.

    Q2. This is even tougher to answer. It comes down to leadership and teachers. As we move away from the industrial approach to education – are we attracting people comfortable to teach in a new way? There are a minority who are able to adapt – but many do not. It is a real challenge to learn, relearn and continue down this path.

    But it is worth it. (And I realise I have not really answered the question).

  2. When I started my PhD (which explored my endeavours to move away from the direct/command style pedagogy that made up my approach to the teaching of physical education) I wanted to follow a change model as suggested above. I wanted to eradicate the old approach and replace it “lock, stock and two smoking barrels.” This was a knee-jerk reaction to the new things I was discovering. However, after five years I came to realise (and still do) that some of the things I had done before were good, effective and inspired student-learning. The changes suggested in the above are comprehensive but aren’t they also a knee-jerk reaction to systemic demands that everything in teaching wrong? The authority of teachers lies at the local point of implementation and while we aspire to change on an international level the real impact will be felt in the classroom. We must hope and work towards such change being considerate of new ideas while maintaining the ‘good stuff’ that has come before. We mustn’t change for changes sake but for the furtherance and enhancement of student learning.

  3. Troy:

    I am smiling. This just makes sense. The first table, New Model, summarises so much of my sometimes feeble attempts.
    The first question…The old model is maintained by the structure of external exams, four walls, timetable, traditional policy, think Homework Policy. At some stage we do have to replace the old. For the vast majority, the old is not working, yet most of our students conform or adapt. To break it down in my area, males succeeding in secondary ‘English’. Consider my advanced English class: 6 males. That is just one basic example. Consider Indigenous education in Australia.
    In regards to the second question: I simply can’t answer it.

  4. Jan:

    Darcy,
    I think that there are some major flaws with both models. IMHO, they both begin with “what is” and almost simply adopt a stance that is significantly different or even opposite in nature. I think this will simply lead to small incremental change that can’t embed or lead to substantial improvement in student learning outcomes.
    From my perspective we need to begin with a consideration of what we are currently doing and extract what is good about that. We then need to put it aside and consider “possibility”, “what might be”, what the future might look like for our students. Then we set about “creating” an optimal learning environment in which this can occur. This may include what was good about the so called old model.
    I don’t see it as a matter of out with the old and in with the new but a consideration of an exciting future that our students have a “right” to access. We then create through connections and collaborations and do this within a Tight Loose Tight construct so that we do have accountability, sustainability, meaning ; “new directions, new meanings, new understandings, new technologies; a new future.”
    There can never be just one approach as we all function within a community and all communities while we live by the same accountabilities, have different needs, opportunities, experiences. Thats why we have a moral imperative to begin with the end in mind, even if we don’t know what that end is.
    From my perspective this is about Planning School, its about CCC, its about Tight Loose Tight and its about the exciting opportunities that technology offers us and our students.
    None of this can work without positive leadership that is focused, which provides strong support and opportunity for learning and growth. Everyone in a school is a learner and everyone is a leader.
    There is so much more to say here, but well…… Perhaps I have complicated your issues, but in many ways, that is part of the excitement of a future that exists only within the realms of our minds, or even beyond…..
    Jan

  5. tony coleman:

    I think nthere should be a natural blending of old and new.

  6. Darcy
    My first reading makes me ask two critical question: 1. “what does this ‘actually’ look like in schools?” 2. “Where is the pedagogical shift in centre of knowledge and creaion?”

    I think the what does it look like address many of the comments before this comment. I am a massive advocate of blended learning. It is easy to say “any time any place learning” but what does that actually look like in a school. Examples like distributed research hubs and global wireless takes what we understand and makes it accessible in a school.

    What is the pedagogical difference between: Read books, listen to talk or Explore the Web and
    Technology as textbook or Technology as research. A 21st century education model should enable students to create and explore concpets in more richer ways not just with richer tools. In this realm the 20th Century veruses 21st century model is far more rigorus.

    What excites me about Phil’s frame work is the level at which this thinking is occuring. If an RD can not only deconstruct what 21st century learning looks like, seek feedback in a 21st century way and lead his region then it is a clear demonstration of the road DET is actively walking.

    Ben :-)

  7. Lyn:

    I don’t think we can ever completely abandon the current paradigm to pursue the ‘new model’. If learning proceeds from making connections between what we already know and understand and the new, unfamiliar and challenging then surely we build on existing paradigms and adapt to new circumstances and situations over time. A self reflective stance that continually renews our purpose and direction must lead to change in both the what and the how.

  8. Hi Darcy
    I think the either/or of these two column models needs further analysis.
    I am pleased that you have published these ideas.
    I think they are worth a thorough critique.
    The 20c v 21c idea has worried me for some time.
    Elaine

  9. David, Troy, Ben, Elaine, Jan, Ashley, Tony and Lyn, thanks you all for your commentary. I appreciate your time and enthusiasm.

    I have always been a fan of sweeping, dramatic, (r)evolutionary changes that brush away the cobwebs. It now seems more sensible to not frighten people with this kind of thinking and make good plans for a sustainable evolution. Increasingly, it seems to me that binaries, like these two, Phil pointed out, are our greatest challenges towards gaining support from all teachers (and parents) for a vision of what a school (and classroom) may look like in coming years. People fear change, sometimes sensibly, but mostly we all want to improve and make our schools better for the community.

    My next post, reflecting on Phil’s presentation, will explore the idea that the school needs to be more and more ‘a social networking site’. I think it will be called, ‘Community, belonging and digital technologies’

  10. Ian Gay:

    Hi Darcy,

    Just came across this (via Yammer) and my first reaction is .. confusion.

    Looking at Phil’s table at the top, he appears to be describing changes (for the better I presume) that are being made to education in the 21st century. I can only presume that these are changes he is either seeing or would hope to see being implemented in the DET.

    Then comes the confusion:

    * Don’t reform existing schools Create new ones? I’m not really sure what this entails but the prospect horrifies me. My son went to a formerly local high school which had been re-created into a performing arts high school. In my experience this creation was a disaster for him and many other local students I know. I also don’t think it particularly advantaged the thousands of students who travelled great distances to attend (at public expense and disadvantaging their own local area)

    * Move away from larger schools to smaller schools? Looking at the numbers of high schools conglomerating into colleges (getting larger) I don’t actually see this as what is really happening. I might add that I also don’t really agree with the premise that the change is a good idea. Having taught in both large and small schools, I preferred the larger schools.

    * Delivering education changing to students learning? Perhaps Phil explained in greater detail what he meant by that but I’m afraid that for me it doesn’t say a lot.

    * Cover material versus understand key ideas? I smiled when I saw this one, I wonder how it sits with NAPLAN and MySchool? similarly with *over reliance on multiple-choice tests changing to written/oral demonstrations; has Julia read this?

    My reaction to most of the other “changes” was similar.

  11. Darcy Moore:

    Hi Ian,

    Thanks for dropping by my b;og.

    Phil is not proposing one model or the other but showing the ‘false dichotomies’ that exist in education by detailing opposing views/extremes in a table.

    Your thoughts on my questions?

    Darcy :)

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