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Teaching differently: preparing students in the new work order

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

By 2030, what we do in every job will change.

Workers will spend 30% more time learning on the job. They’ll spend almost 100% more time at work solving problems, 41% more time on critical thinking and judgement, 77% more time using science and maths skills, and 17% more time per week using verbal communication and interpersonal skills.

That’s all according to the Foundation For Young Australian’s (FYA) most recent report on The New Work Smarts. Automation and globalisation will clearly have major impacts on the future of work – which means that our schools will also have to adapt in order to amply prepare students to succeed in the new work order.

At a recent panel event, Teach For Australia (TFA) CEO Melodie Potts Rosevear joined Jan Owen AM, CEO of FYA and Ambassador of TFA, to discuss what the new education landscape will look like. Tony Mackay, a board member for both TFA and FYA, hosted the panel, leading the discussion on how we can adapt at a system level, how the individual can themselves adapt, and, most importantly, what specific actions can be taken to address these issues.

Jan pointed out that, “In the past, we’ve thought you had to do things differently for students who were disengaging, or students who came from more disadvantaged contexts. Whereas what we see [now] is every student actually wants to learn differently. Because in their hyper-connected, digital world, everyone’s doing things differently.”

Considering that advances in technology and access to data will lead to a constantly changing work landscape, students need to be exposed to and become comfortable with innovation now. [Tweet this.]

Therefore, we shouldn’t be asking which students need different kinds of learning. Instead, we should focus on how all children can “get access to new ways of learning, and the new tools”.

Of course, how we do that is a difficult question. Melodie says, “It’s not just what the students want, and how you tap into what will engage them and enable them to do deep learning, but it’s also what the parents think the should kids should want. So one of the biggest challenges we have on the supply side is to be able to show parents, not just the kids, why it needs to look differently than how they were educated.”

Leaders in education will be more important than ever to propel these fast-moving changes. Melodie explained:

“How do you get momentum for change? You need change actors, willing change agents, sitting at every piece of the ecosystem. [Tweet this.]

“As parents who are active in schools and school communities. As principals and leading teachers within the school ecosystem. In ministerial offices working to effect large changes, big radical things that if you manage to pull them off will have sweeping effect. But also starting up a school, or piloting a new way of engaging kids in the classroom and then spreading and sharing that.

“It’s the DNA of leadership: I see something that I don’t accept. How do I make it better?” [Tweet this.]

Jan added that, “Students are already voting with their feet and they’re already making decisions about how they learn. They remember learning a lot more outside of the classroom than in the classroom.”

She mentioned a recent conference where a few students were on a panel. They were asked what educators should do differently. “They said, ‘Stop teaching us, and start engaging with us’ and ‘Just acknowledge your competence and stop trying to prove you’re a teacher. Acknowledge your competence and get on with it’.”

Of course, just because young people will need to learn more soft skills for the future doesn’t mean that subject skills should fall to the wayside.

Melodie pointed out that, “Collaboration, problem-solving, a level of creativity – those things have to sit on top of your ability to read and write and add up. It’s not either-or. Sometimes we get into these conversations about what are these new work order skills, and we forget that they still need to be underpinned by solid basics. They are not going to go away.”

You can read FYA’s most recent report on the New Work Smarts here. The event was live-streamed on Periscope @fya_org.

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