This post is part two in a series of five posts exploring the future of teaching.
What might teaching look like in ten years if we do not alleviate current stressors on the profession and do not make significant changes to the structure of today’s public education system? This scenario from my recent paper on the future of teaching projects that, as the federal accountability system continues to emphasize narrow measures of student and teacher performance and districts face daunting fiscal challenges, many public school teachers could find their creativity increasingly constrained.
Expected Future: A Plastic Profession
As educator evaluation systems aligned with student performance mature, many teachers remain uncertain about the impact of these systems on their profession. Furthermore, the now long-established “new normal” of constrained government resources, combined with public distrust of educators, limits districts’ scope for innovation. With reauthorization of the nation’s major K-12 education law long overdue, state legislatures and special interest groups work actively to change the K-12 education system at the state level. This combination of heightened political activity and shrinking education budgets causes distraction for many teachers, making it challenging to set compelling visions for the future of learning.
Without strong visions for the future of learning, public will for change remains limited even as anxiety over whether the U.S. will be able to educate a future-ready workforce reaches new heights. Schools and districts continue to pursue limited school reform – including limited differentiation of teaching roles – in the context of the existing educational paradigm. Likewise, teacher preparation programs make minor changes in an attempt to improve their programs and attract more candidates. However, nothing makes a significant impact on learning or on teachers’ job satisfaction as the fundamental design of the education system remains unchanged. Some new learning platforms emerge, offering learners new options, but they remain largely self-organized and on the fringes and do not yet offer full-time educators remunerative career pathways. Many learners who see and have the means to exercise better options – in their local communities, via distance learning platforms, or from a mix of sources – exit the public education system, especially in those places where the system has long struggled to turn around low-performing schools.
Similarly, many teachers leave not just the public education system but the field of learning in order to pursue more lucrative and satisfying careers. Those who remain feel increasingly disenfranchised. Just as students in the system are treated largely as cogs moving lockstep through an industrial machine, many teachers begin to feel as if they have become production line supervisors.
This is just one scenario for how the future of teaching could play out. I don’t regard it as a positive one, but I see it as being the likely baseline if we don’t make significant changes to the education system. For key drivers, signals of change and additional scenarios on the future of teaching, as well as a guide to making use of these scenarios to guide strategic decision making, see the full paper.
What might teaching look like in ten years? How might choices that we make about teaching today affect the design of learning? Teachers’ experiences of their profession? Most importantly, the extent to which we are able to support all learners in achieving their fullest potential?
Of late, much attention has been focused on teachers’ effectiveness. As we face dramatic changes to the fundamental structures of education, we need to be intentional about how we design for adults’ roles in supporting learning. In doing so, we need to look far beyond today’s debates to examine how decisions that we make today might impact the profession.
Education is facing a crisis point as it continues to operate largely according to an industrial-era design that no longer reflects societal or economic needs. This crisis point is not one of teacher or school performance. It is one of system design.
In June I released a paper exploring four scenarios for the future of K-12 teaching in the United States. Each of these scenarios represents a plausible future for K-12 teaching reflecting different drivers of change that are at play in the world today. When we emphasize one set of key drivers versus another, thereby changing our fundamental assumptions, we get very different narratives about how the future might look. We could end up with:
- An expected future, “A Plastic Profession,” which extrapolates from today’s dominant reality to project what teaching is likely to look like in ten years if we do not alleviate current stressors on the profession and do not make significant changes to the structure of today’s public education system.
- An alternative future, “Take Back the Classroom,” which explores what teaching might look like if public educators reclaim the learning agenda by helping to shape the regulatory climate to support their visions for teaching and learning.
- A second alternative future, “A Supplemental Profession,” which examines what teaching might look like if today’s public education system does not change significantly but professionals from other organizational contexts become increasingly involved in supporting young people in engaging in authentic and relevant learning opportunities outside of school.
- My ideal future, “Diverse Learning Agent Roles,” which explores how a diverse set of learning agent roles and activities might support rich, relevant, and authentic learning in an expanded and highly personalized learning ecosystem that is vibrant for all learners.
Over the course of this week, I’ll be highlighting each of these scenarios through a series of blog posts. I hope you will join me in exploring how the choices we make about education today could create dramatically different scenarios for how teachers teach and how learners learn.
Last week, I finally had time to read, Fixing Our National Accountability System by Marc Tucker. I first heard about the report at a conference a few weeks ago where Marc spoke and was excited to dig in right away but decided to save it for an exceptionally annoying travel day (lucky for me that day was last Thursday).
In the report, Marc lays out his ideas for a new accountability system for our schools. Some of his ideas really resonate with me, some I would love to see happen but are politically untenable, and some I just down right disagree with.
So, here are his big ideas:
- Develop a state curriculum for all subjects (not just math and English Language Arts)
- Develop extremely high-quality tests (consisting largely of performance items) to be administered no more than three times throughout a student’s academic career
- Administer multiple-choice tests each year to a sampling of students, ensuring that the population sampled are over-represented by traditionally underserved students
- Publish data on the school (not the student, subgroup or teacher) level and use that data to identify struggling schools
- Employ an inspectorate model of education reform using experts provided by the state education agency (SEA).
In addition to the changes in accountability, Marc advocates making teaching a high-status profession by establishing career ladders, incentivizing outstanding performance and enabling this performance by changing the way teachers spend their time, and introducing peer-to-peer accountability.
Here is where I agree with Marc:
- The NCLB-era accountability system is completely and totally busted.
- The inspectorate model could work in the U.S. and a key function of the SEA would be to manage inspectors.
- The teaching profession should become a high-status profession.
While I would love to see it happen, the practice of testing every student, every year isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The Obama Administration and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have made this clear. To me, wasting political capital and time on this is just that: a waste.
Now we come to where Marc and I disagree: teacher accountability. If teachers want to be treated as high-status professionals, as suggested in the report, there needs to be increased accountability. In my job, I have peers who will let me hear about it if I am not doing my share, as Marc suggests teachers would do, but I also have a boss to hold me accountable. I have measurable goals, set every year, for which I am held responsible. There are consequences if I don’t meet these goals. That same should be true for teachers.
Make no mistake: Fixing the education accountability system is no easy task. It’s complicated work that requires changing an education system that has been perpetuating itself for over 100 years. I am a firm believer in solving difficult problems by getting the smarted people you can find in the same room to talk about it; this is what it is going to take to solve a problem like this.
What do you think of this report? Where do you agree with Marc? Where do you disagree?
It felt like a scene from The Jetsons… but instead of hanging out in Orbit City with aerocars and flying saucers, we were lunching around the conference table in the KnowledgeWorks board room, trying out the revolutionary Google Glass.
Thanks to Northern Kentucky University’s Center for Applied Informatics, KnowledgeWorks staff had the chance to try out Google Glass and explore possible ways it could be used in education. While Google Glass isn’t widely released yet, it could eventually be a classroom staple in the future of learning.
Imagine if teachers could easily record lessons or learning tutorials to share with students as a first-hand experience (think: science lab or nursing school clinical); or if students could easily access digitally recorded notes from home. Google Glass could send friendly homework reminders to keep students on track and focused, or help with translation while learning another language. Students could even attend virtual field trips to faraway places.
And it could help in leveling the playing field for students. For school districts with less resources, such as inner-city or rural schools, this forward-thinking technology could provide virtual experiences that otherwise wouldn’t be available.
Google Glass fits nicely into the KnowledgeWorks Forecast for regenerating the learning ecosystem. Already, Google Glass users are noting the potential for streamlining processes and improving communication for teachers and student, noted Katherine Prince, Senior Director, Strategic Foresight. In the future, learning will no longer be defined by time and place, but rather on when a learner wants to learn. Google Glass creates an opportunity for learning in and out of the classroom.
For now, Google Glass’s impact on the classroom has yet to be revealed. But as we explore the Future of Learning, which includes personalized learning experiences in and out of the classroom, it seems like a plausible option.
And one that proves the Jetsons’ futuristic utopia might not be too far off.
What do you think of Google Glass? How could it be used in the classroom?
In my home state of Ohio, the General Assembly is currently advancing a Common Core repeal and replace bill. We’ve seen these in other states like Oklahoma and North Carolina. The bill in Oklahoma led to the repeal and replacement of the Common Core in the Sooner state and the loss of the state’s NCLB Waiver last week.
Ohio’s bill, HB 597, calls for repeal of the Common Core and proposes adopting Massachusetts’ standards that were adopted 14 years ago (and consequently dropped in favor of the Common Core). The old Massachusetts standards would be in place until new Ohio standards can be developed. This is problematic on many fronts, obviously from implementation to textbook alignment, teacher professional development to teacher evaluation, student assessment to textbook alignment. On top of that, there’s the fact that the new school year just started, and the fact that students and teachers would have their third set of standards in a very short period of time. This, too, is simply about politics on the eve of an election.
In the 1990s, Massachusetts was widely considered one of the leaders in implementing high standards and aligned assessments, when former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education David Driscoll led an effort to raise the standards. But are 14-year-old “high standards” high enough for students in today’s world? How many of us would give up our current iPhones for 14-year-old Nokias? Of course not. Life moves on and advances and so should our knowledge and skills.
Last year I heard Mitchell Chester, current commissioner of education in Massachusetts, discuss why his state adopted the Common Core Standards and is currently implementing them. Chester offered that the state has extremely high passage rates on its end of course exams in math, ELA and science that are based on the state’s high standards. However, 40 percent of students from Massachusetts schools who matriculate to public universities in the state need remediation. Massachusetts, again viewed as having high standards, needed to raise its standards because students weren’t prepared for college and career. Do legislators in Ohio really think that if they adopt the “high” standards from Massachusetts from 14 years ago that Ohio will have the highest standards in the land? (See: post hoc ergo propter hoc) So what does this really mean for Ohio? And selfishly, my three kids who are in Cincinnati Public Schools?
The Ohio business community has recently gravitated to the standards because they raise the bar for all students and focus on developing students that are college and career ready and, most importantly, globally competitive. Michael Hartley of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce said the following in testimony in support of the Common Core, “Turning back on a set of standards that have been benchmarked with the best of the best would not only be detrimental for those in education, but also for … the 1,600-plus business owners in the Columbus region that rely on a highly skilled workforce to compete in a global market.”
Developing and implementing educational standards is tough work. I’ll write again as I’ve written before: We still are not asking the right questions as we remain wrapped up in politics and demagoguery. The questions include:
- Are our teachers and leaders prepared and ready?
- What does high quality professional development look like?
- Is our technology infrastructure ready and able to support the assessments?
- How much better, if any, will the new assessments be?
- Will more states migrate away from the aligned assessment consortium tests to one developed by ACT and College Board?
- How will our students perform?
- Will the standards and the implementation fears thwart movements such as competency education or deeper learning?
- Will it be a boon for more innovative practices and pedagogies?
- And very importantly, what sort of interventions and supports will be in place to support our most vulnerable learners?
These and many more are viable questions that are actively being addressed. Ohio must turn its attention away from politics to focus on what’s best for children and the competitiveness of the state’s economy.
StriveTogether’s new paper, “The Role of Investors: Lessons Learned on Critical Roots that Drive Quality Collective Impact,” focuses on how investors can best contribute to the work of cradle-to-career partnerships. Read it here.
Throughout my career, I’ve played both a funder and an investor role in collective impact work. I’ve seen examples of good – and not-so-good—investors and the impact they can have on the work, outcomes and community as a whole. The new StriveTogether paper calls on investors to adopt and embrace a different mindset and become actively engaged with community partners on initiatives focused on long term solutions to difficult community problems. This is a much different role than that of a “funder” who writes a check and sits back waiting for a report.
As a business leader in Portland, Oregon, I had the opportunity to co-chair the start-up of the local cradle-to-career partnership. There, I saw the importance of being not only an investor, but a leader who committed to the shared outcomes and used my cross-sector contacts to help build the civic infrastructure needed to achieve the desired results. I couldn’t just sit passively at the table or write a check; I needed to dive into the work along with the rest of the community partners.
That’s what quality collective impact is about: Working with people for people. Investing in the work can’t be just about the money. It’s about advocacy and action—rolling up your sleeves to work on the ground with other cross-sector leaders who are dedicated to shared outcomes.
Now, as CEO of KnowledgeWorks, I once again have the opportunity to embrace the role of investor, supporting the work of the local StrivePartnership and the national StriveTogether organization, a KnowledgeWorks subsidiary. As a long-term investor in StriveTogether, KnowledgeWorks has made the commitment to invest in collective impact work, giving the StriveTogether team an opportunity to dive deeper and provide a level of quality that is critical to the success of the work.
Our sustained commitment has also encouraged other foundations and funders to partner with StriveTogether on work throughout the country. The future of this work relies on investors embracing a new mindset, diving in and rolling up their sleeves as full partners dedicated to achieving shared outcomes.
StriveTogether, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks, works with communities nationwide to help them create a civic infrastructure that unites stakeholders around shared goals, measures and results in education, supporting the success of every child, cradle to career. Communities implementing the StriveTogether framework have seen dramatic improvements in kindergarten readiness, standardized test results, and college retention. For more information about StriveTogether, visit www.strivetogether.org.
The forum, which took place last week, focused on “Strengthening Partnerships Across K-12, Higher Education, and Communities for College Access and Success.”
It’s no secret that communities can boost education initiatives through innovation and community partnerships. For years, we’ve been doing this work through our subsidiaries, EDWorks and StriveTogether.
And now, the White House and U.S. Department of Education (ED) are not only noticing, but also expanding efforts in this work. They are calling on communities to work together toward ambitious college success goals through shared plans and commitments.
Last week, KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of National Policy Lillian Pace, EDWorks President Harold Brown and StriveTogether Managing Director Jeff Edmondson traveled to D.C. to meet Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and attend an ED working session, “Strengthening Partnerships Across K-12, Higher Education, and Communities for College Access and Success.”
The session invited 10 communities, including three StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members, to Washington, D.C. for breakout sessions and conversation, all revolving around college access, continuous improvement and collective impact. They discussed how to break down silos and barriers to collective impact, ensuring that school districts aren’t working in isolation, but rather collectively with the entire community. Communities were asked to take what they learned during the event to identify goals and key commitments that will help their community improve college access and success.
“The event highlighted challenges and opportunities in bringing together K-12, higher education and community leaders to focus on key objectives and priorities,” Brown said.
Visiting with community partnerships during the day, including several StriveTogether cities, Duncan heard about their on-the-ground work. White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz and ED Under Secretary Ted Mitchell also participated throughout the day.
Here are some insights from the day in D.C.:
- Collective Impact | There is a growing awareness that we need to move from collaboration to collective impact. To deepen resources to help them understand the complexity of moving to true collective impact communities learned more about tools like the StriveTogether Framework and Theory of Action.
- Data to Inform Continuous Improvement |Data can be empowering if used correctly. The White House and ED are stressing the use of data – not to “admire the problem,” but to improve outcomes over time. “They didn’t speak of evaluation, but of continuous improvement,” Edmondson said.
- Cross-sector Leadership | Everyone recognizes the need to work together toward common goals. Attendees were an impressive cross-sector of community leaders, including superintendents, business leaders, and college leaders. “There was a strong presence of cross-sector leadership that could really begin laying some important groundwork,” Pace said.
Participating communities included: Albany, New York; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Spartanburg, South Carolina; Providence, Rhode Island; Denver, Colorado; Kansas City, Missouri; Camden, New Jersey; Rio Grande Valley/McAllen, Texas; Riverside County, California; and Baltimore, Maryland.
KnowledgeWorks— through its subsidiaries StriveTogether and EDWorks— plans to work with the White House and ED to support communities, while helping to mobilize additional communities to join the nationwide effort to improve college access and attainment.
Last week, several of my favorite blogs wrote about Race to the Top’s (RTT) five-year anniversary: Education Week’s Politics K-12 and Rick Hess Straight Up. Because the data on the program is still inconclusive, I think it’s too soon to tell whether the program “worked” or not.
What I do think is interesting to look at is the competency-based elements contained in the winning applications. If you’re familiar with KnowledgeWorks’ policy work over the past 18 months, you know we have more than a passing interest in competency education. In fact, my super-smart and talented colleague Lillian Pace has published several papers on the subject including a piece examining the federal government’s early investments in competency education through competitive funding programs, such as, you guessed it, RTT.
Our research showed that, despite not specifically including competency education in the grant application, many states included elements of competency in their winning applications. Here’s a look:
Comprehensive State Assessment Systems
While all applicants were asked to adopt new high-quality assessment systems, many applicants proposed comprehensive assessment systems with the capability to measure deeper learning skills, provide real-time data to inform instruction, and ensure multiple formats to improve the utility and flexibility of assessments. Some states even proposed to give students multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery on summative assessments throughout the school year. Almost all states incorporated plans to help expand district and classroom access to formative assessment tools so educators can personalize instruction.
Emphasis on 21st Century Professional Development
Nearly every applicant proposed significant changes to its professional development system to ensure educators have the expertise to deliver high-quality instruction. Many states proposed the creation or expansion of digital platforms that give educators real-time access to professional development experiences, resources aligned to college and career ready standards, assistance developing instructional plans, and the ability to network with other educators throughout the state. Many states also emphasized the importance of preparing educators to analyze data in real-time to inform the development and continuous improvement of personalized learning plans.
Provision of Multiple Learning Pathways
Many states included proposals to provide multiple learning pathways to increase relevancy and student engagement. These proposals would empower students to design their own educational path based on individual interests, learning preferences, and proficiency-level. Some states also emphasized the importance of integrating community partners to provide students with opportunities for experiential learning.
The fact that the grant applications containing competency-based elements were funded even though the application didn’t specifically request those elements tells us two things:
- Though the folks designing RTT didn’t write competency into the application, many of the innovations they were seeking are best operationalized through the implementation of competency education.
- States writing the applications have an appetite to implement elements of competency in their work, regardless of whether the application called for them.
As I said before, it is too early to judge whether RTT has been, or will be, successful. What is clear is that the federal government, states and districts believe that transforming education through personalized approaches is the best way to ensure each student receives the education he or she deserves. What is also obvious, from the amount of competency-based elements included in states’ applications, is that one of the most effective ways of operationalizing personalized education is through competency education-making learning the constant and time the variable.
To learn more KnowledgeWorks’ competency education work, visit our competency education page and sign up for our newsletter.
Waterbury, Conn., had cause for celebration last week.
With engagement from business, philanthropy, civic, non-profit, faith-based, early childhood, k-12 and post-secondary education, healthcare, parents and students, the entire community has bridged cross-sector gaps and joined hands to support their students from cradle to career.
Last week, I attended a Bridge to Success Community Partnership event, welcoming the partnership into the Cradle to Career network. With the mayor, three school board members, superintendent and 70 other community partners in the room, the group publicly announced their goal to be the 10th StriveTogether sustaining community.
Part of what is making Bridge to Success productive is the dedication of partners and the community. Already, the partnership has made huge strides in garnering community-wide support.
- They’ve established six outcomes that partners have agreed to work toward.
- Every community council member has signed a partnership agreement for Bridge to Success.
- The local school district has given their support, which builds and maintains trust across the partnership.
- And the active Bridge to Success collaborative action groups bring together like-minded and passionate public and private partners, parents and caregivers to improve the lives of children in their city.
It’s easy to see that the entire community is energized and committed to the work, proving the possibilities in working collectively for student outcomes.
Congratulations to Bridge to Success and Waterbury, Conn., for your strides in this work. From our experience, we know it’s not easy. It takes a high level of engagement. It’s complex. But through the work of a dedicated community, change can (and will) take place.
We look forward to working with and learning from your community. Keep up the good work.
What better way to learn about moving local-level student outcomes than asking people who are striving to move student outcomes in local cities across the country?
That’s exactly what StriveTogether has organized during their first-ever Expert Convening, which takes place today and tomorrow in Salt Lake City, Utah.
During the next two days, StriveTogether and six of the most advanced cradle-to-career partnerships will explore innovative ways attendees are using data to drive action and results to help kids throughout the country. With less than 25 participants at this invite-only event, StriveTogether will facilitate focused, dynamic conversations and interactive exercises to draw on participants’ knowledge and experience.
The conversations from this event will ultimately help inform future StriveTogether tools and resources that help the nationwide network in its collective impact efforts.
“This convening is the first time in which StriveTogether is bringing together its most advanced cradle to career communities to explore the innovative ways in which partnerships are using data to drive action to improve student outcomes,” Cradle to Career Network Senior Director Jennifer Blatz said. “Unlike other convenings on collective impact, this one doesn’t focus on building the partnership or creating a shared vision, but instead focuses on what are the actual actions that move outcomes.”
StriveTogether will use its Annie E. Casey Foundation results-based facilitation training throughout the convening. And, most excitedly, they will learn from and engage the cradle-to-career network in a new way.
“The goal is for participants to really connect with each other and learn from one another,” Cradle to Career Network Director Jennifer Perkins said. “At the same time, we’re looking forward to the opportunity to learn from these sites. We will leverage the knowledge and insight from this Expert Convening to help the network as a whole.”
Participating cradle to career partnerships include: All Hands Raised in Multnomah County, Oregon; Milwaukee Succeeds in Wisconsin; E3 Alliance in Austin, Texas; The P16Council of Greater Bexar County, Texas; The Commit! Partnership in Dallas County, Texas; and StrivePartnership in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
To learn more about what’s happening on the local level, join the conversation on Twitter by following @StriveTogether and #actionSLC, and check out the StriveTogether blog for updates.
Is climbing a rope really an effective measurement of physical endurance? I may be dating my public school education, but these are the kinds of questions educators are asking.
With a growing movement in competency-based education and personalized student learning, innovators are exploring the future of education and our ability to provide meaningful learning opportunities for each individual student.
Last week at a conference with Iowa ASCD and Iowa Department of Education, educators, higher education representatives and policy makers took a deeper dive to discuss Katherine Prince’s new paper, “Forecasting the Future of K-12 Teaching,” and our future of learning infographic, which both paint a picture of a learning ecosystem entirely focused on the individual student.
In an ideal future, education will be entirely focused on the individual student. There will be multiple learning platforms and more forms of school. Communities will take ownership and accountability of learning, and we will create new innovative educator roles to support all students in more creative, personalized ways. These learning agents will work with parents and students to develop individualized learning playlists in formal and informal contexts, based on each student’s values, aspirations and dreams.
At the conference, Katherine discussed this vision for the future of learning during the keynote address. Participants also engaged in an activity designed to help “imagine breakthrough change toward a diverse learning ecosystem that is vibrant for all learners,” she said.
Katherine also hosted a breakout session to discuss the future of K-12 educator roles, focusing on teachers, diversifying learning agent roles, and plausible futures for the profession. The session ran twice.
Lillian Pace, KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of National Policy, also hosted a twice-run breakout session, “From NCLB to CBE: Identifying a New Federal Policy Framework for Competency Education.” The session explored major policy barriers for competency-based education and explored solutions to give communities and states the flexibility to study and scale this work.
“I love engaging with educators about federal policy because they bring new and important insights to the conversation,” Lillian said. “Iowa’s educators will be an important voice as we work to create a new federal K-12 policy that supports the growth of competency education.
“After two days working alongside educators in Iowa, I can see why the nation’s eyes are on the state. They have a focused vision and a tremendous amount of energy to make competency education a reality for Iowa students. I believe their leadership will create some compelling proof points that will move the national dialogue forward in an impactful way.”
Hopefully toward a discussion about creating opportunities for personalized learning, helping kids climb their own ladders to reach their aspirations, hopes and dreams.
Iowa ASCD serves more than 1,100 educators, including teachers, principals, superintendents and principals, while collaborating to impact learning for every student in Iowa. “Competency-Based Education: Define! Design! Deliver!” brings together thought leaders and educators to focus on competency-based education, while building capacity to transform the current education system in Iowa.
Last week I had the opportunity to engage in Grantmakers for Education’s 2014 Education Grantmakers Institute at the Harvard School of Education, which aimed to “get all of us thinking about how education and our learners are changing, and, as result, how our organizations need to change to have the kind of impact our missions demand.”
The conversation ended on a broad note, with emphasis on the need to cultivate large-scale systemic change to help the current education system transform into a vibrant node within the expanded learning ecosystem that our forecast on the future of learning projects. Of course I was pleased to hear this call, as I’ve been speaking and writing for some time now about how we’re facing much greater disruption, and much greater need, than incremental improvements within the existing educational paradigm can address.
But the conversation when beyond emphasizing the striking need to redesign our education structures to focus on learning for and in a world of anytime, anywhere access to knowledge and the continuous remaking of the conditions in which we live and work. It also explored the equally strong imperative to create new cultures of learning. Without them, my fellow participants observed, people operating in new structures will risk simply rubber banding back to the cultures we have always known.
The need to cultivate new cultures of learning has arisen in other recent conversations as well. In collaborating to design Grantmakers for Education’s June 30 event, “Transforming the Learning Ecosystem: Putting Personalized Learning Within Reach for All Learners,” I learned of Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s A New Culture of Learning. It argues that we need to design learning – even more flexible learning experiences than characterize today’s typical public school – not around specific learning objectives but around a process of inquiry that fuels a broader set of skills and dispositions for lifelong learning.
During a tour of MIT’s Media Lab, Mitch Resnick, who leads their Lifelong Kindergarten group, described that group’s focus on fostering creative learning for the world. In so doing, they create learning cultures characterized by projects, peers, passion, and play. As he put it, “Learning particular content is not the answer; people need to find creative solutions to the problems we know they’ll encounter.” Within our current education system, he said, kindergarten comes the closest to embodying this kind of learning, although it is increasingly becoming more regimented and more like the rest of the school system.
I hope we can reverse that kind of trend and strengthen the trends that are opening up learning to include many more possibilities for how, when, and what young people learn. That we can open ourselves to exploring fully not just new structures for learning such as competency education but also new cultures for learning that can support truly personalized learning. Learning that is not just paced to the individual but which is driven by his or her interests in meaningful collaborative contexts.
I’m delighted to be releasing a new paper on the future of teaching! “Forecasting the Future of K-12 Teaching: Four Scenarios for a Decade of Disruption” examines how the disruptive changes shaping education might affect teaching in the next ten years. I wrote this paper given the crucial role that teachers play in young people’s lives. As we face dramatic changes to the fundamental structures of education, we need to be intentional about how we design for adults’ roles in supporting learning.
To help education stakeholders around the country create positive futures for the teaching profession, this paper presents four scenarios for the future of K-12 teaching in the United States:
- A baseline future, “A Plastic Profession,” that extrapolates from today’s dominant reality to project what teaching is likely to look like in ten years if we do not alleviate current stressors on the profession and do not make significant changes to the structure of today’s public education system.
- An alternative future, “Take Back the Classroom,” that explores what teaching might look like if public educators reclaim the learning agenda by helping to shape the regulatory climate to support their visions for teaching and learning.
- A second alternative future, “A Supplemental Profession,” which examines what teaching might look like if today’s public education system does not change significantly but professionals from other organizational contexts become increasingly involved in supporting young people in engaging in authentic and relevant learning opportunities outside of school.
- An ideal future, “Diverse Learning Agent Roles,” that explores how a diverse set of learning agent roles and activities might support rich, relevant, and authentic learning in an expanded and highly personalized learning ecosystem that is vibrant for all learners.
Each of these scenarios represents a plausible future for K-12 teaching reflecting different drivers of change that are at play in the world today. Emphasizing one set of key drivers versus another leads to different fundamental assumptions about how the future might play out, and therefore to very different narratives about how it might look. Even today, any one of the scenarios might not be equally likely in all places.
While it is unlikely that the future of K-12 teaching will unfold exactly as articulated in any of these scenarios, engaging with them can help us surface key issues facing the profession today, develop visions for what we would like teaching to look like in ten or more years, and create strategies for pursuing those visions while at the same time mitigating against less positive outcomes. We have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to look ahead and channel the forces of change at play in the world today toward outcomes that we want to create.
The choices we make about teaching today will affect not just teachers’ experiences of their profession but also the very design of learning itself and, most importantly, the extent to which we are able to support all learners in achieving their fullest potential. What future of teaching do you want to create?
Earlier this week I had a chance to chat with Larry Jacobs of Education Talk Radio and Elizabeth Merritt of the American Alliance of Museums’ Center for the Future of Museums about AAM’s Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem (see my excerpt on two scenarios for the future). As the learning ecosystem expands, we see the potential for learning experiences to extend throughout community landscapes – both geographic and virtual – and for museums to play a key role as learning institutions and agents of change.
As I put it in my essay:
In the vibrant learning grid scenario, all learners would be able to move seamlessly across many kinds of learning experiences and providers, with learning agents from a variety of backgrounds supporting them in customizing and carrying out their learning journeys. In the fractured landscape scenario, museums and other cultural institutions could help fill gaps left by the public education system, providing alternatives for at least some learners who might otherwise have access to few good opportunities.
Museums are great at fostering passion-based learning, which I’d love to see characterize the whole learning ecosystem. They have much to share around cultivating inquiry, creativity, play, and other attributes that could support learners in following their interests in meaningful collaborative contexts. And there is great scope for museums and other cultural institutions to extend how they contribute to local and worldwide learning landscapes.
What if we fostered community-wide ownership of learning, with learners moving seamlessly across place-based and virtual experiences as they followed their passions and pursued their learning outcomes? What if urban mapping tools such as the fictional Community Learning Resources site helped surface and connect a community’s learning assets? What if new kinds of learning agents, such as this learning journey mentor from the year 2025, helped guide and support learners in creating and pursuing truly personalized learning playlists?
We think that leaders from the education and cultural sectors can work together to integrate the nation’s assets into a vibrant learning grid that makes such possibilities work – and work well – for all students.
Field trip! My kids loved them. It was a chance to get out of the classroom, experience what they read in a textbook or on a ditto (did I just date myself?) and experience learning in a meaningful way that inspired curiosity, thought and imagination. They crave more hands-on, inquiry-based opportunities to learn.
Museums. They’re educational powerhouses.
- Museums spend more than $2 billion a year on education. The typical museum devotes three-quarters of its education budget specifically to K–12 students.
- Museums receive more than 55 million visits every year from students in school groups.
- Museums create educational programs in math, science, art, literacy, language arts, history, civics and government, economics and financial literacy, geography and social studies, often tailored to the needs of state and local curriculum standards.
- Each year, museums provide more than 18 million instructional hours for educational programs such as guided tours for students, staff visits to schools, school outreach through science vans and other traveling exhibits, and professional development for teachers
As KnowledgeWorks further explores the Future of Learning and expand the very idea that learning can and already does happen outside the classroom, we invite you to listen-in to this week’s EduTalk on
Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem.
When: Tuesday, June 10
Time: 9:00am (eastern time)
Our very own Katherine Prince, Senior Director of Strategic Foresight, and Elizabeth Merritt, Founding Director of the American Alliance of Museums’ Center for the Future of Museums will be discussing the American Alliance of Museums recently published a report, to which KnowledgeWorks contributed, sharing ideas coming out of a convening organized with The Henry Ford in September 2013. Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem explores how leaders from the worlds of education and museums can work together to integrate the nation’s assets into a Vibrant Learning Grid in which all learners have access to the best of the expanding learning ecosystem.
Listen in and tweet #futureoflearning. Think of it as a… fieldtrip.