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We’re almost a fifth of the way through the 21st Century. The pace of change in our world is faster than ever before. Preparing children not just to accept, but to embrace and make the most of change, is critical to them leading successful lives. Parents, students, and teachers from across the Perth hills gathered at Mundaring Christian College in Parkerville in late 2017 to explore the competencies required to future proof students for success. Sessions One and Two featured a range of educator, parent and student voices along with relevant experts.

 Moving Forward

“We often hear about preparing students for the 21st Century”, said Mr Rod McNeill, Principal of Mundaring Christian College. “We need to pause and imagine for a moment that in reality, many of them will live through it. We can’t drive learning, and prepare for the needs of the future, by using education methods of the past”, he said. With more information available than ever before, and most of it at our fingertips, learning takes place not just at school but also in the home and other environments. “To solve complex ideas, you need community support”, continued Mr McNeill. “We need everyone on board - community, parents, staff, students - to consider where we are, what we are doing, and where we are going.”

Changing Generations

Dr Peter Prout, a tertiary lecturer in Education, drew on the example of mobile phones to highlight change since the current generation of parents were themselves students. “When parents think, ‘Why aren’t we doing it like we did then’, we need to look at how far we’ve come since the 1970s”, he said. “We have a lot of freedom that we didn’t have before, but it’s had a large impact on the way we teach.” Walking through the generations from Baby Boomers to Generation Z, he highlighted that current students don’t know what life is like without the internet. “One of the things we must teach now is how to deal with information”, he said. He also explained the link between learning and emotion, and implications for the digital generation. “We need to help students discern opinions and facts, help them build tolerance to stick to tasks, comprehend media and the global marketplace, and communicate. Learning is changing in response to drastic needs.” 

Access the full presentation here: Dr Peter Prout: Changes in Schooling

Automation and Employment

Moore’s Law, observed by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, describes how the number of transistors on a circuit doubled every year since their invention. Plotting this on a graph between 1965 and today, Mr Ryan Wilson of IMP Innovative Solutions described how rapid change in technology has impacted the current generation. “They’ve grown up in a changing world, so if they get a new device, they’re just able to use it”, he said. “But we need to be careful of expectations of instant gratification. There is no such thing as instant gratification in job satisfaction”, he said. This is especially important as we look to the careers of the future. Automation is impacting many industries, and Mr Wilson explained how, in his role, robots are used to improve safety and often results in producing better quality-of-life positions being created. “Just because things are automated, it doesn’t mean there are no people”, he said. “It requires a different type of person. While a robot is repeating a task, you have time to use your insight”, he said. He drew on World Economic Forum data to highlight job growth areas, ranging from data analysts to IT and mathematics professionals, architects and engineers, sales, senior managers, product design professionals and human resources and regulatory specialists.

Access the full presentation: Mr Ryan Wilson: Artificial Intelligence – The Place of Robots

Learning with a new curriculum

A new set of competencies is required to be prepared for and succeed in the careers of the future. Dr Thelma Perso, Director of Teaching and Learning at Mundaring Christian College, explained how this means far more than teaching knowledge. “We can now access knowledge anywhere, at any time, at any place”, she said. “We need to teach students how to work with knowledge and manage it. Employers are now valuing inter- and intra-personal competencies such as teamwork and leadership”.

Year Four teacher, Mr Michael Chan, also explored these competencies or the "Four Cs" - Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity - which are then supplemented by Character and Citizenship - and how they will be critical in the jobs of the future. 

Dr Perso predicted that as someone’s capacity to work with people becomes an increasingly important capability, focus will turn to how we can measure these competencies. 

Access the presentation: Dr Thelma Perso: 21st Century Competencies

Putting it into practice

Translating the competencies required by the Western Australian Curriculum into real learning requires collaboration from all involved. “We have to partner with parents to make sure students are getting the skills that they need,” said Dr Perso. This requires a focus on communication but also highlights a need to implement teaching and assessment tools that reward student growth, rather than just attainment.

Three years ago Mundaring Christian College introduced achievement rubrics that enable students, for any given task, to not just see what they have done right, but how they can push further to achieve an even higher result. Addressing the audience, a Year 8 student explained how this has helped her to improve. “When being graded with percentages, the only way to get feedback is by comparing with others, or teacher comment. Rubrics show us how to improve”, she said. A Year 12 student agreed, explaining how understanding rubrics assists you in achieving a result, in the context of a modern history project. “To achieve a higher grade, we need to show an intellectual interest and curiosity in our work, which shows teachers that you’re exceeding what’s been asked of you”, she said.

Parents of students in both primary and secondary years agreed, and shared with the audience how close partnerships and the use of these rubrics is working to achieve the goal of growth for every student.

Principal Rod McNeill said that this is clearly feeding back into the Mundaring Christian College community. “The insight and passion of teachers, appreciation of parents, and joyful enthusiasm of students shows that obvious growth can be achieved when we deeply consider what makes learning real”, he said. 

Partnering for success

The third and final symposium had a think-tank focus and discussed how parents, students, teachers and community members can partner to develop resilience, grit, perseverance and a growth mindset in students.

Part of developing resilience and grit, along with the "4 C" competencies, means enabling students to solve open-ended tasks. Mr Michael Chan discussed how this applied to a simple powerpoint presentation task, and how providing students with open-ended tasks results in creativity and learning far beyond what would be acheived if the teacher over-directed the task.