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What does the future of learning look like?

By Kecia Ray
January 30, 2014
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The debate among global education leaders about how to transform education has taken a sharp right turn. A new report, "A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning," released by education visionary Michael Fullan, provides educators with solutions for how to change pedagogies to foster deep learning.

Published by Pearson in partnership with ISTE, MaRS Discovery District and Nesta, this visionary report reflects on the impact technology has had on the way we learn. In the paper, the authors suggest a new education model that prepares learners to succeed in today's knowledge-based economy.

Fullan and his co-author Maria Langworthy urge educators to aim the metamorphosing system toward deeper learning outcomes — in other words, moving students past mastery of existing content to become the creators and users of new knowledge. Three forces are needed to drive change toward this new level of deep learning:

1. New pedagogies that emphasize the natural learning process

Technology plays a pivotal role in creating deeper learning opportunities for students, but it's not enough to simply add expensive tools to the traditional curriculum. We need pedagogies that tap into students' core motivations and deeply engage them in exploring, problem solving, collaboration and creation.

Teaching, the report argues, must shift from its current focus on covering required content to focus on the learning process itself. Teachers then become partners in developing students' ability to lead their own learning through exploration.

"Everyone becomes a teacher in the new pedagogies, and everyone becomes a learner," the report explains. "Ultimately, these pedagogies foster a new kind of learning that is more engaging and more connected to real life."

2. New change leadership that allows for rapid, organic change

To allow these new pedagogies to spread and take root, the report advocates for a new leadership model based on the idea of inherent change — one that taps into "the human need to do things that are intrinsically meaningful, and to achieve outcomes that are of value to others."

This new change leadership model requires leaders who will pave the way for deeper learning, not only by removing obstacles but by creating conditions that ignite students' and teachers' potential and help propel them forward. These leaders will "become storytellers, nourishing determination as students strive to build their learning capacities and teachers push to build their pedagogical capacities."

Effective change leaders will:

  • Encourage risk
  • Measure progress in new ways
  • Acknowledge mistakes and drive collaborative reflection to learn from what isn't working
  • Stop doing things that don't support the new direction

3. New system economics that deliver high-yield outcomes

When educators implement new deeper learning pedagogies, they notice dramatic breakthroughs in learning outcomes — potentially delivering twice the learning for the same levels of investment, the authors argue. But economic and policy realignments are needed.

"Ultimately, the new pedagogies deliver because they provide greater overall value for societies' investment in education," the report states. "They develop the learning capacities, creative experiences and know-how our young people need to gain a solid foothold in the onward trek through life and work in today's world."

Finding our way forward

How do we reach this vision of an education system centered on deep learning? The report recommends the following ways students, teachers and policy makers can help usher in the change.

  • Students can define their own learning goals and push their teachers to become learning partners.
  • Teachers can adopt a mindset of learning from and with their students.
  • Policy makers can reduce negative accountability in favor of pedagogies and assessments linked to deep learning.

Exciting changes are happening in many classrooms around the world, but the pedagogical shifts leading these changes are largely undocumented. To this end, the authors of the report are embarking on a new global initiative — New Pedagogies for Deep Learning — to document changes in pedagogies that foster deep learning.

We'll all be watching closely as these new learning strategies are documented!

What do you think of the ideas in this report? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or follow the conversation on Twitter via #richseam.