Home > Community engagement > Thinking together about future focused education

Thinking together about future focused education

November 26th, 2009

Over the last couple of years several of us at NZCER have been working with schools and thinking and talking about family and community engagement in education. Schools put time and effort into “engaging” their communities for a whole range of reasons. In this blog I focus on some strategies that schools are using in an attempt to provide opportunities for whole school communities to engage with “future focused” ideas about education. I’m going to very briefly sketch out some of these strategies and raise some questions. We invite you to add to the strategies here and tell us what is working for you and your school community, and also add your thoughts about some of the questions raised. This is new territory that needs everyone thinking together.

Some schools are using current forms of communication, such as newsletters (whether hard copy or electronic), to “drip feed” ideas about how society is changing and what this might mean for education. Other schools have some information on their school websites. Several schools have run focus or discussion groups for parents where these ideas are discussed. Often these discussions are linked to the NZC document, especially to its vision and the focus on competencies.

Several schools have brought in outside “experts” to talk to parent audiences. In the words of one principal, “If you really want to shift people you need to bring an expert in who doesn’t have those everyday relationships that we do, who deals purely with ideas and who is able to present powerful ideas and research.” An obvious difficulty with this approach though is how do schools access these “experts”, especially small or isolated schools? Do we have enough “experts” to do the work, if we decide this is a desirable option? An alternative some schools have tried is screening You Tube clips or Ted Talks at parent evenings, or providing links to websites. What other resources are available? Is there a need for resources that have “future focused” ideas about education in accessible language? If these resources were available would parents access them? I’m mindful of the words of one parent who said, “I worry about getting three loads of washing dry…I don’t have time to get involved.” (I also think about how minimally involved I was with my own children’s secondary schooling).

We heard about a couple of schools where parents were facilitating discussions about future- focused ideas. At one school parents ran discussion groups in their own homes, in another school the “Friends of the School” group was very proactive in connecting with new parents of the school and although their focus was not engaging with future focused ideas about education – perhaps they could be a useful vehicle in the future.

Some schools are using individual student’s learning as a way of connecting their families with C21st ideas about education. This could be in the form of three way interviews where students talk about what they are learning and why this is important or it could be by parents having electronic access to their children’s learning programmes and records of progress.

Even though schools in this study have been trying out a variety of ways of engaging families with future focused ideas about education, all were concerned that they were still only connecting with a certain section of the school community. If we really believe it is no longer OK to leave education just to the “professionals” we need to think hard about how we most effectively make this change. Is it better to go deeply into these ideas with those who are already interested, or is it better to put energy into trying to engage as many people as possible, at whatever level? Should teachers have the opportunity to engage with these C21st ideas before parents are invited into the discussions, or should everyone be learning and thinking together?

Many of the schools in this study that are working innovatively with their communities are led by principals with clear, well articulated visions for how education needs to change. One challenge voiced by some of these principals was getting the right balance between inputting ideas and energy, and not being too directive. Another, issue they raised was about sustainability. Where is their energy most effective targeted?

Jane Gilbert suggests the following are key features of C21st education: personalisation; building learning capacity; competencies; foregrounding general intellectual skills such as higher order thinking skills, thinking for oneself, tolerating ambiguity; doing things with knowledge; new ideas about achievement and assessment; and equity – getting everyone tertiary ready. How do we engage the community with these ideas? We invite you to tell us about your successes and challenges in engaging your school community with ideas such as these, and join with us as we try and think our way through some of these issues.

Community engagement ,

  1. | #1

    Here is an interesting video about cultures and their perspectives on time. About half way through, the video touches on education and why many boys are failing at school. It touches on the idea that many of these boy’s brains are digitally wired because they spend massive amounts of time playing, creating, and controlling their world through their computers. Yet they go to schools that are analogue, where they are also not in control of anything.

  1. No trackbacks yet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.