Thursday, June 15, 2017

Common Principles That Guide The Design of Learning in Furure-Focused Schools

What I Discovered From My Visits on Sabbatical

The purpose of my school visits was to find out if the principles that drove the design of learning in other innovative, future-focused schools were similar.

Please access a fuller blog post for each of the schools:

I’ll attempt to provide some observations by referring to my three focusing questions.

What Principles Have Guided The Design of Learning?
  • Learning should be personalised
“At DesignTech, we believe that students are most successful when their education is personalised to their needs, and they are asked to use their knowledge to improve the world around them.”
“High Tech High teachers practice a learner-centred, inclusive approach that supports and challenges each student. Students pursue their passions through projects, and reflect on their learning.”
  • Learning should be authentic
“At Nueva, Learn by Doing, Learn by Caring permeates everything we do. Nueva teachers craft curricula that enables students to bring classroom learning to life by designing original experiments, running simulations, and solving real-world problems.”
“The NYC iSchool program is designed to offer students opportunities to engage in meaningful work that has relevance to them and the world.”
“[At High Tech High] students engage in work that matters to them, to their teachers, and to the world outside of school.”
  • Learning should be connected
“High Tech High school projects integrate hands and minds and incorporate inquiry across multiple disciplines, leading to the creation of meaningful and beautiful work.”
“With a focus on developing collaborative and cross-disciplinary thinking, the curriculum is designed to engage students in finding and developing their passions.”
  • Learning and design of learning should involve collaboration (between teachers and with students).
“High Tech High teachers collaborate to design curriculum and projects … while seeking student experience and voice. With students as design partners, staff function as reflective practitioners.”
  • Learning should address dispositional development.
“We [] also believe that students must learn not only academic skills such as literacy and mathematics, but the transferable success skills of collaboration and persistence.”
“[Nueva High School] gives students essential tools that enable them to: develop ability to self-regulate, managing their attention, focus and learning; take risks that enhance their growth, both personally and academically; overcome setbacks, both big and small; develop supportive relationships and embrace diversity; collaborate successfully.”

Why Were These Principles Decided Upon?
Julie Abraham from DesignTech High School spoke of her experience in previous, more traditional schools where she witnessed stressed students, university dropouts, conflicted parents, subject siloisation and conveyor belt schooling. She used the analogy of students as cyclists biking faster and faster, competing with the rest of the field, but getting no nearer the finishing line.

Davion from The Nueva High School shared with me that universities had been telling them too many students arrive without being able to write competently, having mental health issues (anxiety around schooling) and little resilience and self-regulation.

Isora Bailey from NYC iSchool was adamant that high school could no longer be about learning a defined set of concepts - that high school for the 21st century needed to emphasise the learning process and thinking skills.

At Nueva, as at all schools, it is a recognition that the rapidly changing world requires a different curriculum:
Our inquiry-based curriculum develops students who are resilient, thoughtful leaders and collaborators with robust problem-solving skills, and the creativity required for success in a rapidly changing global environment.”

Chris, at The Science Leadership Academy, was of the view that deeper learning required subjects to be viewed as lenses and not as silos. Students saw learning as more relevant when it was connected across learning disciplines.

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