We are Beginning to Understand the Kind of Educational Leadership that Prepares Young Students for Success in Our Complex World. Many forward-thinking leaders are advocating the following educational approaches and roles that lead to creativity, learning, growth and innovation:
The Teaching Approach is more organic, flowing, rather than rigid and fixed. It is responsive and based on where the learners and learner groups need to go to take their learning to the next level.
The Teacher functions more like the “media specialist” – a supportive, human hub of information used when needed as learners explore subjects in their own way to integrate information. A human guide to “how to learn what you need to know to succeed in tomorrow’s world” and not “how to memorize” or “how to pass a test.”
The Measurement considers individual and group progress and learning, not just measurement to a “minimum standard.” We measure what we want them to do – grow, learn, deepen knowledge and understanding, think about and solve complex problems, and treat one another respectfully. Discussion of “right” and “wrong” answers is avoided. Complexity is embraced and discussed openly – when could something be right and when could it be wrong? How does thinking about the question in terms of “right and wrong” oversimplify it?
The Environment is respectful, safe, engaging and low-stress. The joy of learning is apparent and anything that can make students feel “not good enough” has been removed. People support each other’s learning and place that first, ahead of any other external measures of success. Students are encouraged to find out what they love to learn about and pursue that learning with a passion. Movement and music are used as ways to explore learning and sitting still is not considered necessary for learning to happen.
The Leadership puts the well-being of the whole child in first position when making decisions, and one of the top goals is to nurture a love for learning, fun, exploration and wonder. Leaders understand that learning is an organic process and that memorization alone does not prepare learners for life and work in our complex world. Technology and social media are embraced for their ability to help meet learner’s needs but not used as an “end” in themselves. Grades are considered a form of judgement and are used minimally or phased out in favor of measures of learning progress.
The Learner is engaged in following curiosity, developing individual gifts and talents, respecting and helping others and preparing to use individual gifts and talents in service to others as healthy and productive citizen of our global society. Basic skills are learned in that context, providing meaning and the intrinsic motivation for learners to excel. In this scenario, homework gradually becomes an outdated construct and learners have more time to explore the natural world, stay physically active and participate in community service.
I believe that students are capable of achieving much more than we realize when the restrictions on learning are removed and they are free to explore our complex world with their own curiosity and love for learning. There are many courageous principals and teachers who are making these changes in their classrooms and schools, even within an educational infrastructure that is struggling to adapt to a new model of learning.
When we believe that innovative educational leadership is attainable – instead of accepting things as they are – everything changes.
- 21st Century Skills, Education and Competitiveness: A Resource and Policy Guide, Partnership For 21st Century Skills
- Toward Systemic Educational Change: Questions From a Complex Systems Perspective, New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI)
- New School System in Sweden is Eliminating Classrooms Entirely, ImpactLAB.net
- Powerful and Purposeful Teaching and Learning in Elementary School Social Studies , National Council for the Social Studies
- The Future of Learning 2011, Leading in Context® Blog
Linda Fisher Thornton is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies. She is also CEO/Owner of Leading in Context LLC, a consulting firm helping business leaders lead responsibly in a complex world. Her background includes:
- Executive Leadership Experience as Chief Learning Officer of a Virginia Bank
- 26 Year Record of Engaging Training Design, Curriculum Planning and Group Facilitation
- Bachelors Degree in Communication and Linguistics from the University of Virginia
- Masters Degree in Adult Education and Human Development from George Washington University
- Award-Winning History of Community Service and Training Relevance