Todays guest blog is by Quinn Runkle, the NUS Senior Project Officer for Communities and Curriculum. Quinn writes:
The recent OECD Education meeting in Lisbon was both fascinating and impactful. My initial reflections are:
The working group’s focus is Education 2030 and is split into two phases:
- 2015-2018: developing a “learning and curriculum framework” around a metaphor of a compass
- 2018-2020: putting this into practice
The NUS work on ESD aligns perfectly with the way the OECD is talking about knowledge, skills, attributes, and values. The OECD is framing this all under the banner of “individual and collective wellbeing”. I was really pleasantly surprised by the OECD’s move away from economic growth as a measure of success and they regularly talked about this as a core shift within how they think about education.
The three big themes of discussion were: values in the curriculum, the issue of curriculum overload, and student agency
We discussed the difference between attributes/attitudes/values at length – particularly highlighting:
- Values are perhaps something which is “caught not taught” – e.g. the things you pick up on through the hidden/subliminal curriculum vs being explicitly taught a lesson in X
- Attitudes can (and should) change with the presentation of compelling facts/life experiences whereas values are deeper set and are more likely to remain unchanged and so education can focus on strengthening/bringing out/fostering those values and strengthening students’ abilities to articulate their own values and why they hold them
- Around values in the curriculum generally: it is naïve to say that any curriculum is free from values or is neutral so being purposeful about the values we embed in the curriculum is simply good practice
- Another speaker presented what they called the “Four C's for 21st century education”: Critical thinking Communication Creativity Collaboration
- Some examples of values in the curriculum: – Singapore: respect, resilience, responsibility, and harmony. Scotland: wisdom, justice, compassion, and integrity
I loved this quote from a student from Korea: "Embedding values in the curriculum is easy: just stop lecturing and give us real-world problems to solve, that will make values come true."
2. Curriculum overload
On “curriculum overload” there was a strong consensus that if educators move away from content-heavy, knowledge-focused, and discipline-focused education towards equipping students with the skills, attributes, and values to understand, critique, access, and strive out new knowledge in the future then you are able to tighten the curriculum, rather than pressure educators to include more. This linked to a wider discussion on the purpose of education – is it to prepare young people to be good citizens of the world, to be employable in an age of AI, or to become a holistic, well-rounded person (all of these at once?).
The OECD line is to “create the future we want” which I find remarkably vague – what does that future look like? I fed this into the discussions.
3. Student Agency
The third big theme was around student agency – specifically looking at how we not only create the structures and spaces for student voice to flourish but also (critically) equipping students with the ability to act with agency (esp. relevant in some cultural/socioeconomic contexts where students/young people speaking up is not the norm nor encouraged). Great example of this pedagogy in practice coming from School21 – a secondary school in East London which focuses on oracy as a core skills for the 21st century. The presenter has a great line about students needing to learn the ability to express their views and opinions in the same way that we would teach numeracy or literacy – it’s a non-negotiable skill to learn in education.
Linked to this was an idea of “intelligent disobedience” – teaching students that it’s good to disobey when the impact of being agreeable is immoral/unethical/etc. (especially important for equipping students with the ability to stand up against unethical practices in their future professional roles). There’s a real commitment to seeing students as co-creators and co-owners of their learning experience and the need for our pedagogy and practices to reflect this. Interestingly, a theme of educator agency also came through strongly – the need for educators to feel able to take ownership of their classrooms and facilitate learning in new and dynamic ways.
Finally, lots around the importance of experiential, project-based, team-based, problem-solving focused learning as a means of increasing agency of students within the classroom but also enabling the development of the desired knowledge, skills, attributes, and values.
Quinn can be contacted at: Quinn.Runkle@nus.org.uk