And just like that, a new year begins. But before we dive into the frenzy of ‘new year, new me’, let’s afford ourselves the opportunity to reflect on the year that has just been.
We last left you with our final article in December 2023; a comprehensive discussion on the barriers that have historically prevented school systems from implementing effective changes to assessment. We revealed that the main reasons for this resistance to new practices comes down to the sheer fact that the traditional role of schools has been to prepare students for university pathways. However, as has been shown in countries that instil strong vocational pathways for students, such as Australia, not every child is destined for tertiary education.
And we’re being prodded with this ever-present reality as our society becomes more driven by AI, social media algorithms, successful YouTubers, TikTok influencers and entrepreneurial ideals.
So why do the majority of schools remain fixated on preparing students for outdated and traditionalist pathways instead of preparing them for the skills needed in the real world? The answer?
Well — there’s many, but let’s start with university admission processes.
In 2023 we asked our EduTimes readers whether they themselves would be capable of successfully completing the entry level exams required by prestigious universities like Cambridge or Oxford. The stakes are high, folks. And a large portion of tertiary institutions still favour academic achievement as the most vital indication of student capabilities – for obvious reasons.
Yet, when we peer into the future trends of education, it’s apparent that university entrance processes have been beckoned and a compelling need for progressive change has been signalled. Of course, tertiary institutions still need to maintain a level of excellence in order to recruit the best students, but critics suggest that changes to assessment practices and AI policies need also be examined.
In saying this, schools are not exempt from the need to seriously examine current practices. In fact, the conversation amplified when Covid-19 knocked on our classroom doors. The alarming statistics of rising teacher attrition levels continues to threaten the quality of education offered to students globally, while in some regions, namely the USA and UK, high levels of student absenteeism continue to challenge school administrators.
So, it’s not surprising that Forbes recently listed some of these topics as the key areas to watch in 2024:
- Continuing transformation of AI: The integration of artificial intelligence and new technologies will revolutionise learning, introducing personalised learning technologies, intelligent agents, and virtual tutors.
- Student Engagement Focus: Tackling chronic absenteeism is a priority, emphasising personalized learning, career-connected pathways, and culturally relevant curricula to enhance student engagement.
- Combatting Teacher Retention: Efforts to address teacher shortages and supply mismatches continue, with a focus on effective coordination between school districts and teacher preparation programs, along with initiatives to improve race and gender representation in teaching.
- Future-Ready Education: Education systems are adapting to prepare students for a changing workforce dominated by globalisation, automation, and AI, emphasising career-connected learning and a lifelong learning paradigm.
- Evolution of New Assessment Methods: The conversation around student assessment shifts to not only understanding what students know but also how they are learning, focusing on inclusive measures of personal well-being, social connection, and civic engagement.
With such trends in mind, it’s an opportune time for educators to deliberately and thoughtfully contemplate the considerations that warrant our attention as we enter a new calendar year.
We’ve long been illustrated as the industry too-stubborn-to-accept-change, but how can we embrace and best prepare ourselves for what lies ahead for our profession in 2024?
Well, we can start small and take a grassroots approach. Start with our students – for who better to begin with than the people who will be impacted most? Rather than asking them what they want to be when they leave school, ask what problem they want to solve and what positive impact they aspire to have on society.
Secondly, if not already, we need to extend our curriculum design to cater for interdisciplinary learning opportunities for students. The role of the teacher as the expert is accurate, but also limiting. Schools must look at engaging learning facilitators through industry professionals, parents and community members. Our aim must be to close the gap between schools and the community. Use these key individuals as mentors for students, to carry out mini-lessons and workshops and to judge student work. You’d be surprised by how much talent and skill you have even within a parent community of professionals. Teaching a child takes an entire village — let’s not forget to utilise that village.
The hope in 2024 is for there to be a great shift towards modernised authentic assessment practices that embrace AI as a tool for learning. Last but not least, our beloved teachers. How can we retain the most valuable asset of our profession? Combatting teacher retention starts and ends with sustained, grounded wellbeing practices. But teachers must be provided with opportunities to engage in instructional practices that they believe will truly bring about positive change, rather than simply preparing students for standardised tests and being consumed by an overwhelming workload.
There is much to consider as we enter 2024. But if we’ve learned anything from 2023, it’s that we must remain open and adaptable to change. The world is changing at such a rapid rate that it’s turning us all into amateurs again – learners. Even as professionals, the best way for us as educators to flourish is to remain optimistic and ready to learn new ways of being.