Transforming schools: it’s critical we relearn how to teach

When considering that the average age of a teacher in Australia is 42 years old, it’s quite remarkable to reflect on and contrast the world in which they went to school, to the world their students inhabit today. As we entered 2020, teachers prepared lesson plans for coding, and were divided on how to address the influx of tablets and mobile phones into classrooms. In comparison, historians maintain that in 1980s Australia, the debate focussed on the possible health risks associated with calculators, and rather than learning to write code, students concentrated on securing their pen license.

As we move further into the fourth industrial revolution, characterised by the blurring of lines between the physical, digital and biological worlds, via the Internet of Things (IoT), automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI), it can be difficult to remember back to such a time. Layer the pandemic induced move to online modes of learning, and it is clear the world today is not only drastically different, but in a constant state of flux, changing not just over decades, but weeks and even days. Simply put, rapid disruption is the new normal.

The effect of this disruption on future workforces is substantial. Global research organisation, McKinsey, recently reported that between 3.5 – 6.5 million full-time jobs will be displaced by automation and AI by the year 2030. This revelation, coupled with recent statistics, which assert that 40% of young Australians now question their ability to achieve future goals due to the pandemic, indicate an overwhelming sense of under preparedness for such uncertainty.

The good news is that governments around the world are currently spending billions of dollars investing in Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs), as a means for preparing more agile, ‘future ready’ citizens, who will not just merely survive and get by, but thrive in changing times. Successful ILEs facilitate what is known as ‘deep learning’, which equips the student with an ability to take what they’ve learnt and re-apply understanding and critical thinking to new situations – proven to be key in an instantly changing world.

According to Senior Research Fellow Dr Marian Mahat at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, “an ILE is comprised of two parts: the space itself, which promotes flexibility and innovation via furniture, design and technology; and teaching and learning practices which take place within these spaces, and are increasingly led by students. It is only when these two parts are successfully merged, that we produce a truly innovative learning environment”.

Twenty five per cent of Australian and New Zealand classrooms have been transformed from traditional classrooms into innovative spaces, and given the massive investment in school infrastructure, this number is set to rise. There is a need to help prepare and support teachers and schools, and equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to optimise their practices for these new environments.

It is for precisely these reasons that the University of Melbourne have developed the Leading Change in Learning Environments microcredential series, which focuses on equipping educators to lead change in schools through developing and extending teaching and learning practices in innovative learning environments.

The series of microcredentials are exemplary learning modules of research-led teaching - the theoretical foundations of each of the Melbourne MicroCerts are based on research undertaken as part of the ILETC project, led by Associate Professor Wesley Imms. The learnings are scaffolded to support learners’ progression. Activities are developed using design thinking methods which involve generative and collaborative activities to explore assumptions, surface beliefs and propose ideas within the context of innovative learning environments.

Dr. Mahat, who will be leading the series, says that “the vision of learning that will prepare students to face the challenges of today’s and tomorrow’s world is one that is deep, active, participatory and personalised. While we collectively work towards transforming education for a post pandemic world, reskilling and upskilling the workforce of the present becomes increasingly critical”.

If you want to lead the change, and help young Australians not only survive, but thrive in disruptive times, our Leading Change in Learning Environments Microcredential series, will equip you with the skills necessary to realise the true potential of ILEs, and therefore, the young minds of today.