Looking out ten or more years to explore changes on the horizon can be exciting. We get to imagine possibilities for how the world and learning could be different. We also get to articulate our aspirations. Looking ahead can also be challenging. We have to navigate uncertainty and contend with possibilities that could have negative implications or at least shake up the status quo to which we’ve become accustomed. I’ve had times when I’ve felt deeply destabilized by some facets of KnowledgeWorks’ forecasts. I’ve also had time when I’ve felt eager for new developments to shake up the status quo.
To help people sift through those kinds of responses and consider how they might wish to shape the future of learning, KnowledgeWorks explored future possibilities from our fourth comprehensive forecast with a wide range of stakeholders. The five opportunities below, along with a strategy guide, capture stakeholders’ key insights.
We see great potential in using these opportunities as a starting point for considering how best to respond to the changing nature of work and readiness. The “Leveraging Cross-Sector Opportunities” activity in Shaping the Future of Readiness: A Discussion and Facilitation Guide© helps participants explore ways of working across sectors and boundaries to support learners’ college and career readiness and meet the needs of their regions. The activity invites groups to examine one or more of these future-shaping opportunities in their contexts, asking:
- What is already underway to address this opportunity locally?
- What could be leveraged to address this opportunity?
- What might get in the way of being able to address the opportunity fully?
- How might you address the opportunity if you had no limits?
Some possibilities for responding to these opportunities include:
Use a learner lens, considering learners’ points of view when evaluating potential changes, ideas and solutions so as to identify truly learner-centered approaches and align institutional priorities and structures.
Connect personal and community interests, connecting learners’ needs, interests and goals with those of the community to make education both personally and publicly relevant.
Pilot new approaches, taking initial steps toward larger goals by finding manageable, small-scale ways to test ideas within existing systems and school models while maximizing partnerships and community assets.
Design for equity, considering how proposed changes or new developments might work for traditionally underserved learners, including those learners in decision making, and genuinely engaging diverse stakeholders.
Look beyond the next life stage, broadening definitions of success by taking into account not just what it means for learners to be ready to move from one stage of school to the next, but also what they might need to be prepared for a more distant future.
It’s one thing to imagine such changes in a workshop or in a blue-sky conversation with colleagues. It’s a lot harder to pursue them day after day. To help address that quandary, the “Leveraging Cross-Sector Opportunities” activity in our discussion and facilitation guide asks groups to consider what stakeholders would need to do differently to address one of these opportunities and to reflect on what they themselves might do to influence local readiness.
Navigating the future is always challenging work. Charting a course forward is like aiming for a blurry horizon that shifts constantly as forces of change swirl together in different ways and as people’s decisions and actions change the landscape along the way. During this time of rapid change and increasing complexity, with profound changes on the horizon for the future of work and readiness, the course can seem especially challenging. But stakeholders must be willing to exercise courageous leadership to address the crucial issues of our time. We need to develop strong future-facing visions that will guide our efforts to overcome the inertia of the status quo, form effective strategies and bring others along on the journey. We must collaborate to help everyone be ready to navigate the new employment and readiness landscape on the horizon.