Key Competencies book review | The future’s bright….

I must confess that, the references to ’21st century education’, and the memes that surround it, are ones I am increasingly trying to avoid in favour of more precise descriptions of what we are actually trying to achieve with education that suits our learners, their needs if they are to thrive in society, knowledge and understandings about how we learn and what is possible using (and not using) digital technologies…and I know I’m not alone (check out posts from Laura Servage in Alberta and Tim Kong, NZ by way of example).

I have blogged several times about Keri Facer’s Learning Futures – and recently written a review in NZCER’s future-oriented SET. And now just out from NZCER is Key Competencies for the Future (Bolstad, Hipkins, Boyd, McDowall, 2014).


Key Competencies for the Future


I would highly recommend this very easily accessible text as a doorway into thinking about future-building education in the NZ context.

The central premise is that, instead of searching for random ’21st century’ checklists and frameworks of skills and understandings, the Key Competencies in the NZ curriculum provide a vehicle through which schools could explore deep, active learning grounded in the kinds of real world, collaborative problem-solving so advocated by modern educational ’21st century’ advocates.

Creatively, the team has taken “wicked” social problems as a lens through which to explore different ways in which learners might be prepared to reach for “clumsy solutions” through a pedagogical focus on the Key Competencies, wiht these competencies often working in tandem (rather than separately).

For example, there are real stories from  NZ schools of students making authentic contributions to their community, weighing up conflicting media stories, debating ethical questions…all with deep conceptual links to the learning areas and through teaching approaches driven by Key Competencies.

I was most struck by

  • the strong focus on students as being citizens of today ( not tomorrow, so why wait to engage them now)
  • the value on creating experiences that make collaboration and the deliberate collision of diverse perspectives a central strength of an activity – teaching with diversity, not just for diversity
  • the way existing knowledge is explored alongside new knowledge

Above all, there is a keen focus on the themes that were strong in Facer’s work – that future building, not just passively responding to change, is a powerful enabler to action in schools. There is an obvious challenge for schools in being able to take a fresh look at their vision and how the curriculum is shaped, the direction of programmes and the involvement of students – but there are pockets across NZ where strong leadership is beginning to make this happen.

Highly recommended, non-heavy read that could open conversations cross a school about what education is actually for.

Get connected around this book

Get involved in two Book Group activities around this book:Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 3.56.35 pm

  • Connected Educator Month: There will be a book group kicking off as part of the launch this year (1st Oct) with the authors sharing their thoughts and taking discussion: Sign up for more details on this.
  • #edubookchatNZ: A group of connected folk on Twitter who are coming together to explore educational research and readings.

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