21st century learning for girls

Probably the most frequent question I have been asked by parents is about the role of the Director of Innovative Learning.

The answer is both simple and complex given the society in which we are currently educating girls. Simple in the fact that the role encompasses working with staff to ensure we are providing the girls with an innovative, contemporary education that will prepare them to thrive in the 21st century, and complex in that ensuring the rhetoric matches the reality is an enormous task.

Our girls are currently part of Generation Z. The research for Generation Z suggests that they:

  • spend an average of 10 hours and 19 minutes a day using technology
  • search Google 5.1 billion times a day
  • view YouTube four billion times a day
  • include over one billion Facebook users
  • tweet 500 million times a day
  • use more than one million apps.

(Source ABS, McCrindle, 2014)

Given these statistics, it is apparent that the ways girls learn in an emotional, cognitive, social and strategic sense is very different to that of the past. Claxton (2010) in his book, Building Learning Power in Action, describes four learning capabilities that are essential for our girls: resourcefulness, reflectiveness, resilience and reciprocity.

In 2015, we as teachers and parents need to understand, acknowledge and act on these different ways in which today’s kids learn. In terms of 21st century learning compared to 20th century learning, we can look at in this way:

20th century > 21st century

Verbal > Visual

Sit and listen > Try and see

Teacher > Facilitator

Content (what) > Process (how)

Curriculum-centred > Learner-centric

Closed-book exams > Open-book world

Because of this, we are striving to develop girls who are independent thinkers, who have learnt how to learn, and who can apply, manipulate and use knowledge to create, solve and innovate. Sound simple? Absolutely not (hence my comment on the complexity of the task).

One thing I stress is that this endeavour is a partnership between school and home. We rely on the support of parents on a daily basis — and I am not just referring to help in the canteen, getting kids to school on time, assistance at sport or P & F involvement. While this is very important, according to Robinson (2011) there is little crossover effect in terms of student outcomes or achievement from involvement in these activities. Rather, we need to create a stronger educational partnership, which is more likely to deliver improved outcomes. According to Hattie (2009), parents who learnt the language about the nature of learning in today’s classroom and worked with schools to understand the importance of deliberate practice, concentration, the difference between deep and surface knowledge, and the nature of learning intentions and success criteria are able to have more dialogue with their children. This leads to enhanced engagement by students, with greater skills, higher expectations, higher satisfaction and higher outcomes.

The staff at Stella Maris will continue to work hard on providing lessons to both challenge and inspire students, as well as reflect on their teaching and strive for innovative ways of teaching. That alone, however, will not ensure success for our girls. The partnership between school and home is a vital link for all girls to achieve ongoing improvement.

Brett Foster
Director of Innovative Learning
Stella Maris College

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