Our post-lockdown period has shown our teachers and students to be incredibly adaptable and flexible in designing and implementing online learning programmes. Despite being exhausted, many educators are reporting tangible benefits and perhaps surprising increases in engagement from many of their students over this time.
The data on this is still being collected but anecdotal evidence suggests many students have thrived in the self-managing learning environment. They have relished the ability to organise their own schedule and to adjust the pace and timing of their learning. Their teachers took on the role of learning designers and then coaches in their regular zoom hui, which provided a framework in which the students could then self-manage.
Of course, it’s wise to temporarily return to our pre-lockdown practices. But our institutional memories are quite short so there is real risk that unless we rigorously explore the pros and cons of the student-empowered virtual learning, we will quickly dismiss these as a distant memory.
So, are we considering just another tweak or are we contemplating a major transformation of our learning programmes over the next year or so? Schools are generally very good at implementing pockets of change; prototypes that various passionate teachers are trialling within their own classroom and their own zone of influence.
However, implementing these innovations on a larger scale is not easy.
Many of our schools here, and across the globe, have commissioned a rigorous research and development process and are working with their staff to honestly and robustly weigh up the pros and cons of a range of scenarios in order to decide together what significant shifts to plan into the curriculum, pedagogy and structures for 2021 and beyond. One powerful way this is happening is through teachers and students creating hypothetical scenarios, and critiquing and planning based on these. For example:
Tim’s scenario: My school has changed the way my friends and I learn based on some of the good things that came out of lockdown. My subject choices are much the same but my teacher has put all our material online so we can see the whole year plan. For each subject, two of our lessons each week involve our teachers explaining the content of what we are learning. In the other two lessons per week we all work either by ourselves or in small groups with our teacher coaching us on specific areas. In one of my subjects, for these two students-directed periods, we can choose to self-manage in any setting around the school and even off-site if we want to. If this goes well, we will soon be able to do this in all subjects. I love the freedom, responsibility and trust our teachers have given us and I like the way we can work at our own pace in the order we want to.
Awhina’s scenario: I feel my cultural identity is valued by my school as I see my values and language celebrated, and my cultural knowledge incorporated in my learning. We demonstrate our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and also responsiveness to other cultures in Aotearoa. My subject choices are driven by my interests and passions. I undertake new courses, based on traditional subjects, which allow for deeper-level thinking. I opted into the Making Connections course where I demonstrate key competencies and undertake genuine service within my community. These opportunities include organising a raffle for a chosen charity, buddy reading with local primary school children, undertaking initiatives linked to animal welfare, participating in preschool literacy and numeracy projects, making connections with aged care facilities, assisting food banks, engaging with refugee communities and/or partaking in environmental projects.
Dr Cheryl Doig is a leadership futurist who follows leadership trends and research and translates these into practice, working internationally and virtually with organisations, business leaders and educators. Her passion is for challenging organisations to think differently in order to adapt to a changing future – to think beyond their current leadership realities, while still using the best of the past. thinkbeyond.co.nz
Dr Chris Jansen is a director and senior consultant with Leadership Lab and works alongside organisations in the education, health, business and community sectors on a range of projects. Chris is also a senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury, where he teaches the Master of Business Administration and Postgraduate Diploma of Strategic Leadership. leadershiplab.co.nz growwaitaha.co.nz