This post is the last of five in a series exploring the future of teaching.

Katherine PrinceWhat might teaching look like in ten years if a diverse set of learning agent roles and activities supported rich, relevant and authentic learning in an expanded and highly personalized learning ecosystem that was vibrant for all learners? In this scenario from my recent paper on the future of teaching – which represents my ideal future – such learning agents working in multiple settings and capacities could help ensure that all students have access to high-quality personalized learning.

My Ideal Future: Diverse Learning Agent Role 

As the learning ecosystem expands and diversifies and the formal K-12 school system no longer dominates the learning landscape, many new learning agent roles emerge to support learning. Some learning agents support students in creating customized learning playlists that reflect their particular interests, goals and values. Other learning agents help students attain success within their chosen learning experiences. Learning agents operate both inside and outside traditional institutions, collaborating to adapt learning for each child and to support learners in demonstratinoutside the classroomg mastery. Some learning agent roles resemble the traditional teaching role, while others vary widely.

With “school” taking many more forms, educators trained in the industrial-era school system have redefined their roles to match their strengths, creating more differentiated and satisfying career paths. Professionals working in museums, libraries, art centers, scientific labs, hospitals and other settings have also recast their roles to reflect their organizations’ increasing contributions to learners’ playlists, including the playlists of learners in other communities. Some adults contribute to learning in part-time, even micro ways, either as part of diverse career portfolios or through mechanisms such as business-education partnerships.

Sophisticated learning analytic tools help learning agents target learning experiences and supports to match learners’ academic performance as well as their social and emotional conditions. In addition, new forms of infrastructure, such as data backpacks that follow the child and flexible funding streams, help learning agents collaborate across learning experiences and organizations where appropriate and help learners and their families manage and access their customized learning playlists.

With so many options for supporting learning, a diverse system of professional branding and validation has emerged to help ensure learning agent quality. Communities also play a vital role in creating vibrant local learning ecologies, in monitoring both learning agents’ contributions and learners’ success, and in helping learners access resources that are not available locally. Schools that receive public funding place particular emphasis on brokering learning opportunities so that all young people can benefit from the expansion of the learning ecosystem.

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This is my ideal scenario for the future of teaching based on my understanding of the potential for education stakeholders to use future trends to transform today’s education system into a more distributed learning ecosystem that is vibrant for all learners. I recognize that it might not be yours. Indeed, your preferred future might contain elements of several of the scenarios I’ve developed or might draw upon different key drivers of change.

Whatever your ideal future of teaching, the important thing is to engage in strategic foresight – to step out of today’s reality long and far enough to plan for how you and your organization might make best use of future trends and to prepare for how you will meet your objectives and support learners no matter what the future of K-12 teaching ends up looking like.

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. For job descriptions and videos illustrating possible future learning agent roles, see KnowledgeWorks’ learning in 2025 resources.

 

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Matt WilliamsLots of ESEA Waiver news bouncing around these days from Washington losing its waiver to the continual twists and turns with teacher evaluation (the principle reason that Washington lost its waiver). There is uneven implementation of states’ waivers across the country and what seems to be inconsistent monitoring and enforcement from the Department of Education. For example, Washington had its waiver revoked because of teacher evaluation issue and then the Department announced a more flexible timeline for implementation. This was also an issue that kept Illinois in waiver purgatory for nearly three years. To be fair to the Department, it is difficult to monitor nearly 50 separate state and district education systems versus enforcing one across the nation. But this was both a policy choice and political calculation by the Administration.

As a reminder, Secretary Arne Duncan introduced the waiver opportunity in a letter to state chiefs on September 23, 2011. He provided an overview of the progress that states had made over the past few years to enact reforms, launch innovations, assemble systems to turnaround low performing schools and evaluate teachers and leaders; and, of course, hailed the adoption of Common Core State Standards. With that, the Secretary built his arguments (pursuant to the authority in section 9401 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965) for increased flexibility for states by laying out that many of the current innovations and reforwaiver statesms being put forth by states were not anticipated when NCLB was enacted nearly ten years before. Duncan went on to outline NCLB as a barrier to the transition to “college-and career-ready standards and assessments; developing systems of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support; and evaluating and supporting teacher and principal effectiveness.” Thus making the argument not only for waivers but also for outlining the areas states would need to address in their applications.

While the waivers offered flexibility to states, there were issues as well. The top two Republicans in Congress on K-12 Policy – Rep. John Kline (R-MN) chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee – have called on the Government Accountability Office to examine the waivers. The Republican leaders added that they don’t have a clear grasp of how the department is implementing the program or how states have changed their laws to comply with the waivers or how states can modify or change their waiver plans as they implement and make course corrections. These are good questions. What processes are in place to make clear, consistent decisions to approve, deny, renew or revoke waivers? Sit in a room long enough with state chiefs and you will begin to see some of the inconsistencies.

Lately, the question of innovation has also been brought up. Kentucky’s Commissioner of Education, Terry Holliday two weeks ago offered the following, “the current waiver process is stifling innovation and intruding on a state’s ability to implement state requirements contained in state legislation.” First, Commissioner Holliday is hardly a firebrand. Second, he is absolutely correct. Kentucky is one of the most innovative states in the country and it has struggled to align its state laws, waiver expectations, and its Districts of Innovation work. New Hampshire, a leader in competency based education, struggled to gain a waiver. Two other states, which are viewed as being innovative, Iowa (denied) and Vermont (withdrew), do not have waivers. The waivers had a promise of innovation. KnowledgeWorks put out ESEA waiver recommendations to assist states in capitalizing on the opportunity to think outside the box. Instead the waiver process has unfortunately become “innovation-in-a-box.”

The waivers have always been a slippery slope to some degree. This was pointed out both humorously and poignantly by my edu-friend Rick Hess back in 2011 in a post about an administration run by President (Gov.) Perry and his Secretary of Education (Rep.) Bachmann. Beyond the obvious satire and political ramifications of a waiver process, Rick hits on policy truth. I believe that the federal government’s role is to define the outcomes and allow states to achieve those outcomes. The level above should define the “what” and allow the level below, in this case the states, to define the “how.”

In the coming weeks and months, I will be examining the ESEA waivers in more depth via the World of Learning Blog. I believe that the President’s signature program may not be Race to the Top (RTTT), as we all thought, but in fact the ESEA Waivers. When the final chapter is written, the amount of funding behind the waivers will exceed the total for RTTT (think Title I, Title II, SIG, etc). Moreover, the significant opportunities and the equally significant challenges for ESEA Waivers will extend far beyond January of 2017.

 

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Will Learning Agents Outside Schools Form a Supplemental Profession?

by Katherine Prince September 18, 2014

This post is part four in a series of five posts exploring the future of teaching. What might teaching look like in ten years 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 […]

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Will Teachers Take Back the Classroom?

by Katherine Prince September 16, 2014

This post is part three in a series of five posts exploring the future of teaching.   What might teaching look like in ten years if public educators reclaim the learning agenda by helping to shape the regulatory climate to support their visions for teaching and learning? This scenario from my recent paper on the […]

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Will Teaching Become A Plastic Profession?

by Katherine Prince September 16, 2014

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 […]

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What Might Teaching Look Like in 10 Years?

by Katherine Prince September 12, 2014

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. […]

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