Chapter 2 outlines a move away from the mindset that the main task of education is to convey a predetermined body of knowledge. Instead, we propose a curriculum that focuses on helping learners acquire a set of broadly applicable skills and Habits of Mind that they can apply flexibly to whatever challenges they might face in their later lives and careers. Students’ high school years should principally be about learning how to learn and acquiring the competencies they need in order to do that effectively.
This change in focus puts emphasis on the learning process itself. The process is no longer just a means of acquiring information; instead, it becomes the endpoint in its own right. As a result, teaching and learning methods – which have always been an important consideration in education – become more important than ever. This chapter sets out guidelines for the practices in teaching and learning methods that are likely to be most effective at achieving our goal of creating agile, creative, self-motivated lifelong learners.
No document should prescribe teaching methods in exact detail, of course, because no single method will work best in every circumstance. The learning process is complex and variable; research has just begun to scratch the surface of the question of what methods will help students learn most effectively.20 It seems clear, though, that different methods have different strengths and weaknesses, especially when taking into account the preferred learning styles of individual learners. Different methods will also be optimal in different cultural contexts. Some methods will be better at conveying facts; others at fostering creative thought. Some will work for the most academically advanced students; others may be superior for those who need more guidance and support. Alert teachers will be able to employ different learning methods as the situation dictates, and modify their approach continually depending on their results (discussed more fully in Chapter 6: Assessment).
Instruction Centred Around Collaborative Projects
High school learners should spend most of their schooling engaged in a series of in-depth inquiry projects, undertaken individually or, more often, in groups. This approach stands out from the rich diversity of pedagogical methods in fostering the skills we seek to develop in the learners of 2030, becauseit favours the “how” of learning rather than the “what.” This makes it an ideal fit for a new curriculum that emphasizes skills rather than factual knowledge, as outlined in Chapter 5. Other instructional methods may be used as appropriate to support this project-based focus.
“Finnish education expert, Pasi Sahlberg, says the much lauded transformation of the Finnish education system came “at a reasonable cost.” So reasonable, in fact, that 98% of the cost of education at all levels is covered by government rather than by private sources.”