Sunday, April 14, 2013

Learning for the 21st Century

As promised, here is my synthesis of some of the best thinking on 21st century education, as prepared for envisioning the products of the school my trustees and I have been trying to start:

The competences of One World learners

One World learners (OWLs) will prioritize learning to know and learning to do so as to facilitate the innovative, interactive use of tools such as information technology via communication in the English language, thus enabling our students to act autonomously, with a sense of initiative and entrepreneurship, in their 21st century world, while also gaining the social and civic competences to live together in increasingly heterogeneous groups. Their competences will be demonstrated through superior achievements in the priority academic content areas of English, mathematics, science, and additional languages, as well as in the overarching competence of learning to learn, which will be vitally assisted by the students’ digital competence. Such highly competent individuals should go on to succeed in colleges and careers of their own choosing, and eventually finding good work will be a natural outcome of all that our students will have learned to do; and their competence in cultural awareness and expression should durably support their ability to live together successfully in heterogeneous groups while also supporting their most crucial final outcome, their having learned to be One World learners, with the attributes in the ideal profile that follows.

Since One World Secondary School is interested in becoming an IB school, it is appropriate here also to quote from the “IB learner profile”: “The aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.”

One World Learners (OWLs) will become
  • Disciplined enquirers who have begun mastering the critical thinking- and problem-solving skills and the knowledge necessary to continue to learn within a discipline through enquiry and research. One World students will actively enjoy learning, and their love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.
  • Balanced learners who understand the importance of intellectual, emotional, and physical balance to achieve a good life for themselves and others. In addition, they will study a broad, balanced curriculum, and will analyze, synthesize, and evaluate various ideas derived from the disciplines in a fair, balanced way.
  • Caring communicators who convey empathy, compassion, and respect for the needs and feelings of others. One World students will commit themselves to service, and will be able to clearly communicate, orally, in writing, and through modern media, their principled determination to make an ethical contribution to the lives of other people and to the planet as a whole.
  • Open-minded initiators who understand their own cultures and histories and are open to those of others. One World students will actively seek out other points of view and, like risk-taking entrepreneurs, will watch for and seize new opportunities, ideas, and strategies for improvement.
  • Reflective innovators who develop “right-brain” traits such as curiosity, imagination, and creativity to go with their “left-brain” skills in communication and traditional disciplinary learning. In addition, our students will learn to become reflective on their experience, understanding their own strengths and limitations as they strive towards wisdom.
  • Knowledgeable, collaborating leaders who explore great issues, ideas, and concepts, thereby acquiring in-depth knowledge across a broad range of disciplines. They will often acquire necessary information through digital, collaborative enquiry, thereby gaining the computing, ICT, and social skills to responsibly work in teams with networks of people who may come from vastly different cultures and also to use reasoning and persuasion to lead and to learn. 
  • Flexible adapters who are ready to change with a changing economy and a changing world. Because they will have become life-long learners, One World graduates will have the self-reliant career skills, productivity, and sense of accountability to deal with our planet’s increasingly complex problems in the 21st century.
I hereby acknowledge intellectual indebtedness to the works of Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel (21st Century Skills), Howard Gardner (Five Minds for the Future), and Tony Wagner (The Global Achievement Gap) in synthesizing the above profile.


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