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Preparing Students for an Unpredictable Future

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” The choices used to be abundantly clear: doctor, teacher, lawyer, scientist. School was designed to provide the type of learning that facilitated kids into these careers.

Fast forward to today and ask the same question — the answer will be different, if answered at all. According to The World Economic Forum, 65 percent of jobs that students embark on today have not yet been created, which sets an unpredictable path into the future workforce. Given this complexity and so many unknowns, how can an educator prepare students for future success?

The answer is to become agile. It used to be enough for educators and learning environments to be flexible and adapt to change that is predictable. Now, educators are teaching to unknown opportunities and unpredictable innovations. In order to respond, we must become more than just flexible, but agile, quick and adaptable in our responses to navigate the unknown.

adaptable educational space 

Agility: The Key to Navigating the Unknown

Research shows that future preparedness — not the attainment of knowledge — is the most essential output for learners. There are three major shifts that must take place in today’s educational framework to successfully help students prepare for the future. One is to change the nature of what students are being taught from knowledge to life skills. The second is for the educator’s role to evolve into that of a facilitator or guide, empowering students to take ownership over their learning; and the third is to reshape the learning environment into a safe, inclusive and adaptable space. These factors are interrelated and together represent how to help learners succeed in a yet-to-be known world.

1. Teaching Transversal Skills — Not Knowledge
Transversal skills refer to a broad set of capabilities, skills, habits and attitudes that are essential for students to succeed today and tomorrow. These transversal skills prepare learners for the future: innovation, enterprise, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, problem solving and digital literacy. These skills can be applied across all subjects, occupations and activities. They are not a learning output; they are the means for staying capable and effective in a rapidly changing environment. They are also the critical element in ensuring future preparedness in a digitally advanced world. Successfully integrating transversal skill growth across disciplines has become the key element in safeguarding the next generation.

2. Redefining the Educator’s Role
Within this new educational framework, the teacher’s role has shifted from instructor to facilitator or guide, and even active learner on their own learning path. Technology is critical in driving the change, as most of the knowledge once imparted by the educator is now available online. This opens up new possibilities for the educator to empower learners to be authors of their learning journey. The way in which we interact with content and curricula has eliminated the teacher’s fixed position at the front of the class. It physically frees the educator to foster transversal skills in learners while creating safe, collaborative and creative learning ecosystems.

3. Step Inside the Agile Classroom
The agile classroom is one that above all else values the growth of emotional intelligence, encouraging learners to take risks and speaking to needs around comfort and safety.

The agile classroom is designed to facilitate collaboration, spark creativity and create opportunities for learners to be a part of a community — while also being able to deescalate when needed. The agile classroom is functional and adaptable to the needs of the curriculum and pedagogy and specific in the way it organizes to facilitate these tasks. At the same time, it is flexible, multi-functional and endlessly adaptable to evolving needs of both task and learner now and into the future.

Teaching Toward the Future

An agile classroom doesn’t happen by chance; it’s created through intentional design, rooted in deep research around evolving pedagogical needs and learners’ EQ. Intentionally designed products and spaces contribute to fostering Engagement and Agency. The learning space itself becomes a key contributor to students’ attainment of future-forward skills and provides an equitable learning environment for every child, meeting every learner’s needs independently. This construct of teaching toward an unknown future has dramatically altered today’s pedagogy, demanding an openness to uncertainty and an acceptance of the unknown.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of Spaces4Learning.

About the Author

Jolene Levin is director at NorvaNivel, a designer, manufacturer and supplier of agile learning spaces

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