The Knowledge Our Students Need
What are the big picture understandings about the world, their communities and themselves that young people will need to have in order to effectively participate in the future that we imagine?
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with TVOntario producer Wodek Szemberg about his current work on the special year long series, Learning 2030, being developed and aired across the network. The series is an energetic attempt to imagine what our schools might look like when children born in the year 2013 graduate from school.
Many of our conversations about the future of education have tended to focus on the the skills and dispositions that we believe young people will need in order to effectively live and learn in the future. And while I realize that what we know is something that is always embodied and can never really separated from what we believe and, to a certain extent, what we can do, I think that Wodek’s attempt to shine a light on knowledge is valid and worthwhile!
So, I’ve started to circulate the question, hoping for some lively discussion that might enrich and deepen our thinking about change in our systems of education. Drawing from some of the thinking about deep learning that Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe were doing at the turn of the century, I’ve found it helpful to frame the conversation using a simple sentence starter:
In the year 2030, young people graduating from school should know that…
The simple insertion of the word that prevents us from simply responding with a list of facts. It forces us to get to the big picture understandings that might help us go deeper.
At a recent meeting of our local Socrates Café, I presented the question and the conversation that ensued was both interesting and knotty! After some grappling with the question of what we actually mean when we talk about knowledge, the group of 12 participants suggested that a knowledge of some of the following ideas would be important for graduating students and, indeed, for all citizens of a vibrant and responsive society. I’ll present them here as an initial response to the question.
We should understand that:
- we are part of an interconnected and interdependent web of life
- we live on a planet that is part of a larger universe, much of which is still unknown to us
- global awareness does not diminish the importance of local action
- our perspective on the world is not the only perspective on the world
- living in a diverse society requires tolerance, understanding and empathy
- there are no free lunches (!); our actions, our desires and needs all come with a cost
- what we put into our bodies is important for health and well-being
- we have a voice and our individual actions are important—we can make a difference
- knowledge is socially constructed
In our conversation, there was a strong sense that it was important for young people to carry with them big picture understandings about how we fit into a larger universal context, as well as understandings about the importance and value of interpersonal connections and relationships and although the list may seem a little vague, its a start.
I invite you to think about the question yourself, and to circulate it widely among your colleagues, friends and family. Feel free to comment on what you see in this initial list, add your own ideas, and report on the responses from others! Feel free to comment on the nature of the question, itself!
What are the big picture understandings about the world, their communities and themselves that young people will need to have in order to effectively participate in the future that we imagine? Can we identify certain ideas, or knowledge that all citizens should have in order to be active contributors to the world?