Schools of the Future

Today’s students approach adulthood and working life amid extraordinary technological innovation – and equally extraordinary uncertainty. There will be jobs available, no question, but at the current rate many newly minted workers may not qualify to fill them. A Dell Technologies survey of business leaders found they believe 85 per cent of jobs in 2030 have not yet been invented today.

How can teachers therefore equip students with needed skills and competencies? One promising answer is a strategic pivot to a new paradigm in competency-based learning: a teaching framework that focuses on building students’ mastery of skills and knowledge attainment – ensuring they acquire a deep understanding of subject matter before advancing to the next learning goal.

Schools across the globe

The debate continues here in the UK on ways to bridge the looming skills gap. Take for example the Prime Minister’s recent announcement that all students should study maths until the age of 18. Schools continue to cope with post-pandemic learning loss.

Our education counterparts in other countries, however, offer valuable lessons in the ways they address similar teaching and learning challenges.

In Norway, ‘Knowledge Schools’ are an increasingly popular, highly effective mode of education focusing on knowledge gaps, moving away from a content-focused curriculum towards a competency-based curriculum. Other countries such as Qatar and the Philippines are developing educational systems for the 21st century – standardising syllabi online and rolling out Intelligent Learning Platforms (ILP) that cater to differing learner needs, even for remote, distributed students. While traditional learning management systems provide teachers with a simple solution for creating and managing lesson content, an ILP elevates this experience with AI-powered features to personalise and predict relevant learning materials for students.

A modern approach to competency-based learning

The notion of competency-based learning, which prioritizes specific relevant skills, is well established. Today a new iteration, delivered digitally and enhanced by artificial intelligence, can confer significant new benefits. Students get a set mechanism as a supporting reference that ensures curriculum-appropriate access to knowledge for every student. They are tracked against concrete, measurable skills, which enables teachers to monitor individual progress. Key competencies are rooted in real-world skills and help prepare students for the 21st century workplace.

Intelligent technology enables educators to better tailor lesson content, track progress, and support individual students in mastering knowledge. These capabilities help close learning gaps and boost outcomes for young people.

Focus on skills acquired, not time spent

In this framework, learners receive personalised, self-paced instruction to help them take ownership of their program, enriching their understanding of the content at a pace and level that suits their needs without adding to teachers’ workloads. Teachers can use intelligent learning platforms to adapt learning goals for students and set appropriate work and assignments – an approach less likely to overwhelm as students work through tasks at their own pace. Confidence improves as children feel satisfaction at reaching their individual goals, even if working at a different level compared to peers. By putting emphasis on achieving a certain competency, versus memorising materials or achieving grades, students typically feel more engaged with their learning.

Further, combining new-generation competency-based learning with an ILP enables teachers to evaluate progress with greater precision and pinpoint learning gaps. Teachers get a clear overview of each student’s skills and knowledge profile, including typical time spent on topics and any areas they have particularly excelled in or struggled with. Intelligent-powered platforms can automatically find and highlight gaps between what each student appears to know and what they should know, so educators can intervene quickly and help students get back on their learning pathway. Teachers can also message students directly within the platform to share advice, tips, and tailored learning content – a discreet one-to-one mentorship function especially useful in busy classrooms where students might feel embarrassed to speak up when struggling.

Building strong knowledge foundations

The joy of this approach is that students progress naturally from foundational skills to more advanced topics. They tend to feel more accomplished while closing the learning gaps that often develop in content-based teaching. On the flip side, once a learner has successfully completed a lesson and mastered a goal, they can receive automatic recommendations via the platform for stretch content, videos and quizzes to help them unlock their full potential. This is especially important in helping students develop into well-rounded individuals.

In today’s rapidly evolving world it’s clear that schools need a modern approach to help students acquire future-facing skills and knowledge. Reimagined competency-based learning can be a substantial part of the solution. When supported by intelligent learning platforms that provide personalised and interactive content, this approach can deliver a unique educative experience tailored to students’ needs and interests — and transform the way they learn for the better.

Graham Glass is the founder and CEO of Cypher Learning, a company that sells three branded version of learning platforms – MATRIX LMS for businesses, NEO LMS for schools and universities, and INDIE LMS for individuals.

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