Supporting at-risk youth is complex and varied today. As work changes over the coming decades, helping all young people complete their educations and prepare to contribute productively to society could get more complicated. Today’s approaches to, and definitions of, readiness will not suffice for the careers that today’s kindergartners will be launching and developing in the year 2040.
At the National Dropout Prevention Conference, I shared insights from KnowledgeWorks’ The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out and engaged session participants in exploring what the changing nature of readiness for further learning, work and life could mean from their perspectives. I asked them to imagine elements of future graduate profiles that could help learners prepare for a rapidly changing landscape in which many of us will need to be reskilling and upskilling throughout our careers. Participants highlighted knowledge, skills and dispositions that seem important for all learners.
In the year 2040, learners will need:
- Foundational or basic knowledge, including math and reading and the basic structures of core concepts (that knowledge needs to evolve to be relevant to the time)
- The ability to use technologies and to locate and utilize resources, with a focus on discovery over memorization
- Self-sufficiency to navigate a landscape without defined pathways, or with pathways that change rapidly
- The ability to engage in creative processes.
Important skills for learners to develop include:
- Social-emotional skills
- Strong communication skills, including the presentation of information
- The ability to conduct research and interpret the results
- The ability to collaborate and to engage in problem solving
- The ability to manage time, money and social life
- The ability to function in society (which could look different from what that means today)
- Commitment to carrying out tasks.
Learners will need to:
- Be resilient, willing to take risks and able to overcome failure
- Be open-minded, curious and flexible
- Have a purpose and direction in life
- Work well with others and with the machines that will augment their contributions to workplaces and other settings
- Develop their own sense of morality or ethics
- Value differences even when they disagree with others
- Know how to pursue health and well-being throughout their lifetimes.
These wide-ranging and interconnected lists reflect knowledge, skills and dispositions that today’s schools, postsecondary institutions and other learning experiences do not always prioritize – even though we say that we value many of them today. To cultivate more of these kinds of qualities, and ultimately to foster learners’ holistic development, conference participants suggested that educators could engage learners in problem-based learning, as well as in other forms of active learning and in a variety of kinds of learning experiences. System leaders could explore ways of facilitating ongoing professional development that helps established teachers stay current and helps all teachers experience settings beyond the classroom.
We cannot simply add more and more responsibilities and outcomes on already-full education plates: considering what to cut, as well as what to extend, promises to help stakeholders reorient learning for the changing landscape. Some things might also be reframed to fit new environments (for example, as full-time jobs become less common, cultivating a work ethic could shift to helping students form task commitment.) Along with that reconsideration and reframing, education institutions and influencers need to shift their focus from performance to connection, putting relationships at the center of learning.
Explore what the people in your context think about how best to foster future readiness with one or more of the activities from Shaping the Future of Readiness: A Discussion and Facilitation Guide.