Learning in the 21st Century: Research, Innovation and Policy - Part 2

Learning in the 21st Century: Research, Innovation and Policy - Part 2

This is the second of the series of 3 articles providing insights into the discussions of the international conference on ‘Learning in the 21st Century: Research, Innovation and Policy’, addressed by OECD/CERI that took place in the past.

One of the main highlights of the conference was its discussion about the OECD and CERI projects that provide insights on learning and provide directions for educational change that is focusing on learning. The previous article discussed about some of these projects and their main findings. Another such project is;

New Millennium Learners: This project investigates the effects of digital technologies on school-age learners. It examines the characteristics of learners and the impact of sustained use of digital devices and services on them. Not much is known about the effects of technologies on cognitive skills. Studies carried out with pre-adolescent children seem to indicate the importance of two factors; one is the impulse to experiment and discover, and the consequent lack of fear that characterizes the exploratory behavior of children at a young age and the other is the predisposition to emulate adults’ behavior. The latter relates to the issue of gender differences of technology use and its consequent impact on education. This makes it essential to enhance creativity by utilizing the natural disposition of young people to experiment with ICT. Competing policy discourses have been identified in the work of ‘New Millennium Learners’. One discourse claims that the real educational benefits of using ICTs are to be seen in domains such as team-work, creativity and problem-solving. But till the time these are not central to the assessment systems such as national examinations, the potential for realizing such benefits will always be subdued. Another discourse focuses on the factors with a demonstrated impact on boosting educational performance as measured in national and international surveys. Still, the evidence that ICT use does have an incontrovertible impact on standards so undermining is insufficient.

For a detailed study, refer the report on OECD/CERI International Conference “Learning in the 21st Century: Research, Innovation and Policy”.

PISA evaluations on Approaches to Learning

PISA findings show that students’ performance and their approaches to learning are positive associated. Approaches to learning depend on their motivation to learn, their beliefs about their own abilities and their learning strategies. Learning approaches are not only associated with success but can also be viewed as an educational outcome on its own. PISA shows that there is a large variation in learner characteristics among students in each school. Relatively few schools succeed in promoting particularly strong approaches to learning among their students. Hence, it is important for schools and teachers to be able to engage constructively in student abilities and in their characteristics as learners and their approaches to learning. PISA shows how important positive approaches to learning are for successful and lifelong learning. They give rise to the concern that many countries are not well prepared for the knowledge society in terms of the literacy and problem solving abilities of their next generation. Thus, it becomes necessary to assess if the traditional way of learning in many countries is adequate for the 21st century world.

Designs for Learning

The OECD’s Programme for Educational Building (PEB) periodically selects educational designs to help educational planners know what is possible through showcasing leading international examples. The international PEB jury chooses the facilities featured in the publication for their fitness for educational purpose. The facilities (including newly built or renovated buildings, extensions or ground) construction, design or use is judged to be noteworthy and to contribute to educational quality. Flexibility is the main criterion and buildings or grounds should be adapted to new forms of learning and research, institutions that make special use of ICT or special educational facilities. Characteristics include transformable learning spaces that are student-centered, problem-based learning facilities, or provision for students with physical, learning or behavioral difficulties. Other criteria considered by the jury are community needs, sustainability, safety and security.

Educational Reform and Innovation

Educational reform and innovation are essential for finding new approaches to learning. If a school needs to make significant changes in its approach to learning, then it will require innovation. Many studies have argued for more flexible, open forms of learning and of school organization. A variety of the factors inhibiting fundamental change to traditional practices has been analyzed in OECD/CERI work on knowledge management which suggests that, in general, schools have weak networking and knowledge-sharing among teachers. Spending on educational research and development is very low in contrast to other sectors of activity characterized by the intensive creation and use of knowledge and the application of the R&D is quite limited. Most of the professional knowledge that teachers use in their daily work is rarely made explicit or shared with colleagues. Schools and classrooms are normally isolated one from another rather than interlinked. It is evident that too many schools still tend to have only rudimentary knowledge management practices, despite knowledge being education’s explicit business.

More on educational reform and innovation is discussed in the next article of this series.

Learning in the 21st Century: Research, Innovation and Policy - Part 1


About the Author
Author: Saomya Saxena
Educational technology blogger, loves to research and write about tools and tips for educators on how to integrate technology into everyday instruction creatively and effectively. Fond of reading and writing.

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