Preparing Ourselves to Better Prepare Our Students

There are a lot of questions about what the world of work will look like in the future. What skills will our students need and how can we best prepare them for jobs which may not even exist yet? What types of experiences should our students have? How do we create authentic, innovative learning opportunities for students that will help them to develop the skills they might need in the future? How can we create learning opportunities that will enable them to adapt to whatever the landscape of education and work might look like?

We must start by breaking away from what may be more traditional instructional practices and instead, bring in new types of learning experiences for our students and for ourselves. It will likely mean stepping out of our comfort zone and taking a risk with learning, but that is what we are asking our students to do in our classrooms. When we take the same risks with our own learning, and model this for our students, together we build skills in resilience and persistence. We can start by involving students more in the decisions about the types of learning they engage in and find out what their interests are and provide opportunities that will promote inquiry and curiosity for learning. What can we embed into our curriculum that will best prepare students for their next steps? 


Personalized Learning

One way to bring more personalized learning opportunities to our students is by starting with creating our own learning journey. As educators, we should take time to explore a passion area and stretch ourselves professionally, so we can help our students better understand the importance of taking risks with learning and develop skills to push through challenges they might confront in the future. We must be open to taking risks with learning in the classroom and trying new instructional strategies that may be quite different from what we have been using in our practice. When we become co-learners in our classrooms, we will impact student learning in multiple ways. We can support students as they design their own learning paths. We build relationships and create a supportive learning network when we let students explore what they're interested in or curious about. We empower students more by having them become creators rather than consumers, and we foster the development of student agency in learning. An important goal is to have students see learning as a process and develop a variety of skills that will best serve them in the future.


More Authentic Learning Experiences

Educators must be in constant pursuit of new knowledge and engage in different, and even challenging learning opportunities. There are a lot of new concepts and teaching strategies that require us to go beyond simply understanding the meaning of words like blended and personalized learning, or project-based learning, but we need to know how to provide these experiences for our students. What are some opportunities that we can provide in our classrooms?  


Ideas for student-driven learning:

  1. Plan time for students to decide on a project to launch and use design thinking principles, perhaps working with a team or creating a mentorship with teachers or members of the community. These experiences will promote problem-solving, teamwork, and a growth mindset.
  2. Create opportunities for students to work on project management activities where they can collaborate, design a product, develop a service, or even plan community events. Give students the chance to use what they are learning in STEM or STEAM curriculum and create something unique that connects with their interests. Foster innovation by giving students the chance to design their learning journey and build skills in a more authentic and meaningful way.  
  3. Try methods like experiential learning, place-based learning, or project-based learning (PBL). When I moved away from traditional projects and began to use PBL in my classroom, the impact on students was tremendous. Students will take more ownership of learning and be more engaged as a result.

Using ideas like these, we will promote collaboration and foster a greater connection between the school and the school community. With PBL, we can expand learning to a global scale and encourage students to learn about global issues and enhance their cultural awareness. We can then use these experiences to encourage students to explore and find solutions to problems that exist in their local communities.  Both students and teachers will benefit from these three ideas. Each will promote the 21st-century skills of communication, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving. With any of these options, students have an opportunity to become the designers of their own learning paths.

Our best practice is to stay informed of what the trends are in education and in the world of work. We cannot accurately predict what the job market will require or exactly which skills our students will need, but we can continue to provide diverse learning opportunities that enhance a variety of skills that will enable students to adapt to the changing world. By continuing to take risks ourselves, and do more than using traditional teaching methods or stick to the content, we can connect our students with more powerful learning opportunities. 

Trying new ideas can be uncomfortable, but we must take those chances with learning so that we can build our own skills and experience some of the challenges and productive struggles our students go through as they learn. 

About the Author:

Rachelle Dene Poth has been teaching at Riverview High School in Pennsylvania for the past 21 years. Rachelle currently teaches Spanish and a STEAM course What’s nExT? In Emerging Technology. Rachelle is an attorney and has a Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology. She was President-Elect of the Teacher Education Network and Communications Chair for the Mobile Learning Network and was selected as one of “20 to watch” by the NSBA and received the PAECT Outstanding Teacher of the Year for 2017. At ISTE 2017 San Antonio, Rachelle received the Presidential Silver Award for Volunteer Service to Education. She is a regular blogger for Getting Smart and Kidblog. Find Rachelle regularly on Twitter @Rdene915.


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