Are You Future Ready? Is Anyone, Really?

The answer is no, not because we don’t think about the future, or know that it will be different, but because the changes are deeper than any other experienced in human history. To compound the challenge, the change is here. The future has happened. We’re trying to catch up.

To say that makes education a challenging job is the understatement of the century. To educate for knowledge is fine, but then there is Google. To educate for college is fine, but then there is evidence that a degree does not guarantee a place in the world. To educate for skills is fine, but then there is the looming presence of Artificial Intelligence. And so on.

Future Ready PBL

There is no perfect answer to the future, but let us go with what we have, with a dose of faith added. Worldwide, it is apparent that preparation begins with a personalized, creative, and authentic school experience that shifts the focus away from the ‘what of schooling’ toward the ‘how’. This requires that we focus on nurturing individual talents and abilities, rather than re-engineering the industrial system to improve the delivery of prescribed information. Our objective should be to start with questions and help students learn through project-based learning and acquisition of 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, and self-management.

Beyond that, it is obvious that to live gracefully and skillfully in the global age, a successful individual must remain emotionally balanced, cognitively focused, and able to operate in a fast-paced, challenging environment. From this fact emerges a simple truth: Schooling must incorporate social-emotional strengths and emotional intelligence into the daily curriculum to support the optimal development of young people. And, at the core of the new competencies lies the ability to manage and communicate information through powerful, positive, empathic relationships.

These are large goals, but made manageable through PBL, when PBL is done well. High quality PBL is rooted in a set of best practices and essential design principles that help teachers plan and manage successful projects. But beyond the method is the mindset: PBL is a philosophy focused on human performance method, not a content coverage technique. This is the deeper promise and purpose of PBL: It helps students experience personal and intellectual growth as they move through a process of problem solving. Mastery, purpose, and autonomy have been identified as the key factors in human performance. PBL is a perfect system for making these critical elements the foundation for learning.

Teacher as Co-Learner

 While PBL is popular, something is still missing: The revised role of the teacher and the deep shift necessary in the mindset/skillset of educators. It’s common to speak of teachers as a guide on the side, and to refer to student ‘agency’—easy phrases not really backed by deeper introspection about how teachers and students will partner in the future. But in todays’ creative, constructivist, information rich environment, it’s likely that teachers will know more than students about some things, and students will know more than teachers about other things. The power dynamic thus shifts dramatically and invites us to envision a deep teach/learn and learn/teach relationship between student and teacher. Inevitably, we will move in the direction of deep intellectual collaboration between parties in the learning space. When this occurs, PBL succeeds; when the deep, open relationship is absent, PBL often fails. The signal is clear: Teachers must see themselves as co-learners. That is the future of the profession.

Empathy and Gen Z

Globalization isn’t happening, it has happened—and it will influence education dramatically over the next few decades. Expect a global youthquake, the signs of which are already visible from Generation Z, aged 11 -19. As we reach a point of culminating disruptions and instability in our political, social, environmental, and financial lives, youth worldwide will be less inclined to abide by adult rules and school-based regimens. How do educators respond? Our goal should be to leverage visible chaos to drive youth toward social entrepreneurship and meaningful contribution to a positive future, in the form of project-based work focused on service, community problem solving, and sustainable development goals.

This surfaces the deepest and most profound challenge for future-ready educators: How do we inform our work so that empathy, curiosity, creativity, persistence, resiliency, and other attributes critical to navigating the global environment and shifting the world in a positive direction are key outcomes?

Join us at PBL Global. Let’s unite to figure all this out!


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