Future Proofing - keeping our learners ahead of the curve

Ensuring our students have the required skills that are going to be essential for the future workforce is one of the focuses for Wairakei Primary School, and we are making sure that our learners stay ahead of the curve.

A big part of that, is encouraging our students to adopt a commitment to lifelong learning and acquiring the skills they will need to succeed in the future workplace, which will likely look very different to how it is now. Even just five years from now, more than one-third of the skills we believe are essential for today's workforce will have changed (Forbes, 2019).

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The 10 skills needed for the future workforce

In 2019, Forbes identified the 10 skills people will need for the future of work. These 10 skills are what we incorporate into our learning framework to make our students valuable prospective employees in the future workplace. 

  • Creativity: The future workplace is going to demand new ways of working and thinking, and human creativity is the key to it. 
  • Emotional intelligence (EQ): A person’s ability to have empathy, integrity, and express their own emotions while working with others, have high EQ’s and will be in demand.
  • Analytical (critical) thinking: A person with critical thinking skills can suggest innovative solutions and ideas, solve complex problems using reasoning and logic, and evaluate arguments using logic rather than emotion.
  • Active learning with a growth mind-set: A person with a growth mind-set understands that their abilities and intelligence can be developed, and they know that their effort to build new skills will result in higher achievement. As a result, they will take on challenges, learn from their mistakes and actively seek new knowledge.  
  • Judgment and decision-making: Human decision-making will become more complex in the future workplace and the ability to recognise the broader implications the decision might have will be important.
  • Interpersonal communication skills: The ability to exchange information and meaning between people will be a vital skill to communicate effectively in order to say the right things and use the right tone of voice and body language to deliver their message correctly.  
  • Leadership skills: Traits you commonly associate with leadership such as being inspiring and helping others become the best versions of themselves will be necessary for the future workforce.
  • Diversity and cultural intelligence: As our world and workplaces become more diverse and open, it is vital that individuals have the skills to understand, respect and work with others. The ability to understand and adapt to others who might have different ways of perceiving the world will be integral.
  • Technology skills: Everyone will need a certain level of comfort around technology. At the most basic level, employees in most roles will be required to access data and determine how to act on it. This requires some technical skills and the ability to understand the potential impact of new technologies on their industry, business, and job.
  • Embracing change: Due to the speed of change in the future workplace, people will have to be agile and able to embrace and celebrate change, seeing change not as a burden but as an opportunity to grow and innovate. 

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An integrated curriculum

So, how do Wairakei Primary School foster the learning and development of these skills in our students?

With an integrated, localised curriculum - that’s how. Developing an integrated curriculum is essential to the future and the expectations of education in the 21st century (Education Gazette, 2020). Integrating subjects together and using a more holistic approach to teaching and learning will better equip students with the necessary skills for the future (New Zealand Association for Research in Education, 2017).  

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School wide learning concept: Physics for the win

When it comes to driving a focus for the delivery of programmes of learning, we use a school wide concept, which changes each term. In Term 3, our school concept was 'Phunky Physics'. Teaching and learning about physics is about introducing students to the ways scientists think and investigate the physical environment. University of Waikato Facilitator and ex Physics Teacher, Stephen Ross, says that while physics can be very theoretical, it can also be very practical. "Teaching physics provides an opportunity for students to explore and confirm ideas about the physical environment we live in, through investigation and exploration, often in a hands-on approach" (Ross, 2020). Students can form hypotheses or working theories to make sense of the physical environment and identify these as science knowledge (TKI, 2020). Children are born scientists who are innately curious about the physical environment and naturally open to making meaning through their exploration and conversations with others (TKI, 2020). Stephen Ross describes how we often find that students already have a lot of prior knowledge about physics that we can draw on, they have just never specifically thought about it in terms of it being science.

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Putting the 'Phunky' in Physics

The advantage of having a social wide concept like 'Phunky Physics' is it allows us integrate our curriculum into a customised, deep, and multifaceted learning program, that meets multiple valued outcomes. Physics is the type of concept that integrates well with a lot of other learning areas. For example exploring space, time, matter, or the many other intriguing elements of the physical world allow the teaching of skills related to numeracy, literacy, problem-solving, data analysis, communication of complex ideas, as well as a wider understanding of how the world works on a scientific and human level (Top Universities, 2019). It can also tie into other areas like health, physical education and music. This deep learning will increase students understanding of interrelated concepts across the curriculum so that they learn to think progressively deeper and in more perceptive ways (The New Zealand Association for Research in Education 2017).

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Our learning develops new skills

When we combine our integrated local curriculum with the school wide concept, like 'Phunky Physics', we are then able to teach and enhance the necessary skills our students will need for the future workforce while also teaching the fundamentals across the New Zealand Curriculum. The Term 3 school wide concept developed the following skills of our students:

  • Creativity: We know that students can’t be creative unless they know how things work and what’s possible and not possible. Our physics learning taught students to consider different and unique features and attributes of our physical world in a creative way, while understanding the limitations of design features.
  • Analytical/Critical thinking and judgement/decision-making: Students can’t think critically without knowledge. Physics provided our students with learning of the physical world and the understanding of how things behave. We developed skills related to cause and effect. For example, students learnt that if I want this effect to happen, then I might need to do this first. We developed reasoning and rationalisation in their thinking.
  • Active learning with a growth mind-set: Physics can be, and generally is very hands on. It is difficult to learn physics without experiencing it. Our teaching of physics encouraged students to get involved, try, have a go and test things out. It enhanced the practise of resilience by teaching students that if something doesn’t work that that’s ok, to keep learning and try something else.
  • Interpersonal communication skills: Because physics is hands on, students needed to learn to participate, collaborate and cooperate with one another to make things work. It developed skills of not only contribution but also negotiation and understanding of other arguments or rationale, by learning to ask other students to explain their thinking. As a result, it integrated with our teaching of skills associated to managing self.
  • Technology skills. Digital technology provides the avenue for students to do some computational thinking activities or learn how to create digital content. For example, digital technology provided a platform for students to present and demonstrate their learning. I.e. producing an online presentation about what happens when you do this action etc.

We know that we need to set students up slightly differently for the future now than what we used to. We need students to be creative problem solvers, who can work collaboratively and think in inter-disciplinary ways (New Zealand Association for Research in Education, 2017). Wairakei Primary School are dedicated to creating life-long-learners who will succeed with the necessary skills and tools to be well sought after in the future workplace.

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References

Forbes. (2019). The 10 Vital Skills you will need for the future of work. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2019/04/29/the-10-vital-skills-you-will-need-for-the-future-of-work/#5bf581503f5b

Education Gazette. (2019). Developing an Integrated Curriculum; Systems, Structures, Processes and some Tips. Retrieved from https://gazette.education.govt.nz/notices/1H9sCw-developing-an-integrated-curriculum-systems-structures-processes-and-some-tips/

TKI. (2020). Teaching strategies and resources – Science. Retrieved from https://tewhariki.tki.org.nz/en/teaching-strategies-and-resources/science/

Top Universities. (2019). What can you do with a Physics Degree. Retrieved from https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/careers-advice/what-can-you-do-physics-degree#:~:text=Typical%20careers%20in%20physics&text=While%20many%20physics%20graduates%20go,%2C%20technology%2C%20computing%20and%20IT.

New Zealand Association for Research in Education. (2019). Curriculum integration – Challenging the popular narrative. Retrieved from https://nzareblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/curriculum-integration/

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