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Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching - a New Zealand perspective

Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching - a New Zealand perspective
Rachel Bolstad and Jane Gilbert, with Sue McDowall, Ally Bull, Sally Boyd and Rosemary Hipkins

This research report draws together findings from new data and more than 10 years of research on current practice and futures-thinking in education. It was commissioned by the Ministry of Education to support its programme of work to develop a vision of what future-oriented education could look like for New Zealand learners. The report has a foreword by the Minister of Education Hekia Parata and a message from Anthony Mackay, Co-Director of the Global Education Leaders’ Program.

Full report: Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching - a New Zealand perspective [PDF]

Brief Summary (4 pages): Future-oriented learning and teaching [PDF]

The work was guided by three high level research questions:

  1. What could 21st century teaching and learning look like, what ideas and principles underpin it, and what makes it different from other teaching and learning practices?
  2. What are the conditions that enable 21st century learning? What are the issues and challenges?
  3. How might [transformational] 21st century learning approaches to teaching and learning be promoted, enabled and sustained?

The purpose of the project and this report was to inform the work of leaders and managers within the Ministry of Education, and potentially to help to shape materials for the education sector at a later stage. The research focus was on English-medium schooling.

How do we research the future of education?

Researching the future is certainly a challenge. While there is some consensus among innovative educationalists about ideas that should underpin the future of learning, many of these ideas present challenges to the status quo and necessitate major changes to the current education system. A key challenge is that research into present-day practice in schools and classrooms on its own cannot provide sufficient knowledge about how to address the system-level challenges for innovation and transformation. However, looking at today’s innovative practices (including what ideas underpin those practice, what impacts they have, and what issues and challenges are associated with them) can provide some insights into future possibilities, when brought together with other future-focussed ideas about learning for the 21st century.

There were three phases to our research..

Aspect 1: Synthesis of prior research (August - October 2011)

This involved a synthesis of findings across a large number of previous NZCER studies with a “21st century teaching and learning” focus, to develop a more coherent view of the key principles that seem to underpin future-focussed approaches to learning and teaching , and how these have been expressed in New Zealand schools and classrooms in our prior studies.  This component drew on studies with a variety of different contextual foci that, collectively, include data from hundreds of learners and teachers from dozens of schools and classrooms (both primary and secondary). We also drew on an extensive number of books and position papers produced by NZCER which have explored relevant aspects of “21st century learning”.  

Aspect 2: Online submissions from innovative school leaders and teachers (August - October 2011)

We invited New Zealand schools (teachers and principals) to submit short written accounts of their innovative/21st century/future focussed practices, the ideas and intentions that underpin these practices, perceived issues and challenges, and the influences on their thinking about the future of learning.

Aspect 3: Further research with a small number of schools/teachers/leaders engaged in future-learning practices (October - December 2011)

In this phase we collected further data to develop a more in-depth picture of some of the practices that align with ideas about 21st century teaching and learning. The intention in this phase was to dig underneath the practices to investigate the ideas, intentions, and conditions that underpin the practices, how they are experienced and understood by teachers, learners, and school leaders, and the challenges/issues for sustaining and expanding these practices within the current system.

You can read more about this work in "Principles for a future-oriented education system" from the 2011-2012 issue of New Zealand Annual Review of Education. 

21st century teaching and learning
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Publication type: 
Research report
Ministry of Education
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not full-text