An afternoon with Dr. Stephen Harris
Last week I was fortunate to hear Stephen Harris talk about the future of schooling at a Learning Environments Australasia event in Brisbane. He drew a crowd of eager educationalists and architects and designers who specialise in schools.
The focus of his presentation was Adelante- a Spanish word that means moving forward. Stephen Harris was the principal of Northern Beaches Christian School for 19 years before leaving to develop Dream School in Barcelona, which now that it is operational has been renamed to Learnlife. You can find information about this extraordinary school here: www.learnlife.com
Stephen made the observation that the biggest thing holding Australia back in terms of making sweeping and innovative changes to education as a system is that we do mediocre too well. The premise that things are not going badly enough means that any changes are made in an isolated and scaled down manner that does not effect the nature of education in our country and does not push us to strive for true innovation that shakes the current system up in a meaningful way for our students. While we are tethered to old methods of assessment and exams we will continue to be restricted from moving towards a new future.
He shared some of the latest data that shows that OECD in their education 2030 Agenda are already planning for education without examinations and that Finland and Singapore will achieve that in the next 2 years, while NZ already have the structure that anyone from the age of 20 years can apply directly to University without having achieved an entrance rank through a final year of schooling.
Stephen explained that some of the inevitable changes will come around using digital portfolios for assessment and allowing students to choose their language of output for tasks. He sees the necessary death of the of Solo teacher mentality, with all teaching happening through collaborative teams where people are grouped together based on presenting a shared depth and spread of pedagogies with which to engage learners.
At Learnlife teachers are employed as learning guides and coaches that are there to assist learners with process while industry experts are brought in, to workshop relevant skills and expertise. He posed a question of how we are investing in elaborate and specialised school buildings when the really meaningful and authentic projects for students have them out and engaging in the community and with industry. When we do build new school buildings he challenges us to ask what the building can be transformed into in 20 years time with a community focus- such as aged care facilities.
According to Stephen Harris the key function of education moving forward must be about teaching emotional and social intelligence, with a focus on effective collaboration skills to allow students to be the best humans they can be in a global context as they work with industry and technology.
Next fortnight I will share more of what Learnlife has already implemented as they create their vision of future ready education today!