Is ‘future-focused’ a redundant adjective?

It was after reading this blog post written by Philippa Nicoll Antipas who is the Future Learning Leader at Samuel Marsden Collegiate School in Wellington, New Zealand that got me thinking about the adjective ‘future-focused’ to describe the noun ‘pedagogy’. Mainly because this is how I describe LearningMYway – I consider it a ‘future-focused pedagogy’.

So… it got me wondering….why is this adjective being described as redundant? Is it really? What do I think about this?

As was explained in the post… The New Zealand Curriculum schematic view on page 7 states as the vision for “young people who will be confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners.” Over the page this vision is explained further using the future tense verb ‘will be’.  One of the eight Principles of our NZC is ‘future-focus’ and embraces issues such as sustainability, citizenship, enterprise, and globalisation. The use of the verb ‘will be’ in these statements and the ‘future focus’ principle does suggest that the focus of the curriculum is already ‘in the future’.

With this in mind, I get that there is an inbuilt understanding that the curriculum is ‘future-focused’ as it is quite explicit  we can read the statements and know that the language used and the visions set out are firmly written with the future in mind. BUT I  struggle to agree with the statement that there is an in-built understanding of (pedagogy) being future-focused.  For educators who are connected and continually learning, discussing, sharing, critiquing, and questioning things it may be an inbuilt understanding. However, I think we should not assume that this is the same for all teachers.

Pedagogy is ‘the science of teaching’ (Encarta Dictionary) so basically means HOW we go about teaching. How we go about teaching curriculum content is certainly VERY different for lots of teachers.  The changing understanding of what is knowledge certainly needs to be embraced by teachers in classrooms. It is not so much about what students know as much as what they can do with what they know, how they can interact with new knowledge they gain. It was this document which was the inspiration behind LearningMYway.

It is an assumption that “the future is already inherently implied and understood in the use of the word ‘pedagogy’”. Yes, schools and teachers are naturally focused on developing students’ capacities and capabilities but this does not necessarily imply capacities and capabilities which are 21st century focused…although we would like to think so. 

Claire Amos (Deputy Principal at Hobsonville Point Secondary School ) talks about changing our focus to actual 21st century skills such as ‘complex communication skills, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation as well as digital and information literacy skills. These are skills that need to be developed in a way that reaches across traditional subjects and silos. With this traditional subjects and silos may also need to be challenged so as to find more authentic connections and contexts to make the learning more relevant to our learners’ worlds.’

In her post Futures Thinking and the Future of Education Clair Amos  points out that “Learning organisations will need to be structured in such a way that they can accommodate increasing levels of self-direction and look to be developing student agency. This will include redeveloping structures such as timetables so as to set aside time for self-directed learning or flexi-time, as well as allowing time for project learning and the pursuit of passion projects.” I like her analogy that we are moving from caged classrooms to ‘free range learners’. These pedagogical ideas are focused on the future skills our learners need.

The final statement in Phillipa’s post is “Although the adjectival phrase ‘future-focused’ might be redundant to qualify the noun ‘pedagogy’, we must make sure that our pedagogy is an expression of this hope.” Just as ‘future-focused’ leadership is used to describe ‘change leadership’ I will argue that the adjective ‘future-focused’ is still be required to define the noun ‘pedagogy’… to describe ‘change pedagogy’.

So to conclude my thinking this afternoon….

In my case I see vast differences between the pedagogy in my class compared to the (out-dated) pedagogy going on in some classes around me. LearningMYway  with its focus on self-directed learning, developing student agency and connectedness NEEDS to have this adjective to describe it to demonstrate the difference between a classroom which is an expression of this (future-focused) hope and those which need to be.

Thanks Phillipa for your original post which made me think critically about this topic…this is what I am loving about being a ‘connected educator’… the opportunities to clarify our own thinking and be critical about the things we think and why.

Also thanks to Claire for your insightful posts about the future of education.

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