Connecting the dots | Somerset College
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Connecting the dots

15th June 2020

I had the privilege of attending the Twenty-sixth International Conference on Learning: Learning to Make a Social Difference, hosted by Queen’s University Belfast, in July 2019.

The conference aim gives expression to what underpins every teacher’s calling and one made even more clear as a result of the pandemic: Educators have a responsibility to teach to address the underlying socio-economic factors giving rise to inequalities and in so-doing tackle their potentially devastating global impact. 

In a plenary session with Dr Nora Revai, Education Analyst for OECD, entitled “Connecting the dots: rethinking the teacher’s-knowledge-learning nexus”, we explored global trends in assessment and evaluation and how they influence both pedagogy and curriculum as well as educational organisation and leadership. In hindsight these discussions are even more valuable as they already positioned social-emotional development and skills at the forefront of future learning; and we are in no uncertain terms in need of preserving and developing such skills during- and post-Covid.

Dr Revai’s review of the latest PISA results, and the resultant changes to future assessment, suggested that at the nexus of teaching and learning lies the actively participating Child. Children are being acknowledged as content creators who demonstrate great natural ability and intuition in the ICT domain. As individuals who interact with their culture and society in such domains children are creating the world -as socio-constructivists would suggest. Under the current global circumstances it is encouraging to know that children can thrive in circumstances where physical distance does not mean social distance, if they are engaged in co-creating their reality.

The review posits that traditional assessments may be producing poor results when the tool does not activate higher cognitive functions, particularly in children- where social interaction and language use form the basis of a shared reality which they co-create.

The impact of such a statement by the OECD is tiered: 

It impacts the focus of what is going to be assessed, globally, and 

By implication, what is going to be valued as characteristic of a good education;

It also impacts the shape of teaching and learning.

Indeed, it would seem as if the new normal for education, which includes a hybrid approach to teaching and learning, is catapulting us into what was going to become a certain future. 

As a guideline for education for the future which prepares students to continue co-creating a functional society in which humanity has a voice and soft-skills are preserved and developed, the OECD highlights the need for the following on an international scale:

The development of opportunities for cross-curricular collaboration,

An application of differentiated teaching in classes,

The integration of IC-technologies in learning,

Favouring multi-cultural settings, as the link between learner diversity and identity development is obvious and paramount in increasing self-esteem and agency,

Upscaling teaching and student induction processes at schools which focus on:

developing student voice in contexts that are responsive, flexible and multi-cultural,

promoting teacher collaboration so that teacher learning increases as teachers construct their knowledge and refine their skills during their professional life,

Assessments which assess thinking about content and not content/memorisation.

It is clear that what the OECD is promoting is the type of shift in education that aims to prepare our students to champion the Fourth Industrial Revolution and not suffer under it. It is clear that social-emotional skills are securing their place at the top of the 21st Century Skills list. It is also clear that Somerset College is already a forerunner in advancing the development of these through the promotion of a highly dialogic approach to classroom engagement, off- and on-screen. 

Su Nightingale

Senior School English Teacher at Somerset College