Educational institutions are by nature, very reliant on the structures that give them their identity and serve to support what they do and the way they do it.
We are facing a time of incredible challenge to the traditional structural mindset of schools. The concept of schools as physical places with rooms that accommodate ‘classes’ based on age who attend for fixed hours of the day to work through a curriculum based on the division of human knowledge into ‘subjects’ is being questioned as never before as education systems around the world struggle to identify what sort of response(s) to make to an increasingly diverse and exponentially changing social paradigm.
Structural change includes the deep reaching change that alters the way authority, capital, information, and responsibility flows in an organisation.
For educational institutions this may mean changes to physical structures (e.g. modern learning environments) or organizational structures (e.g. leadership models, faculties, departments, syndicates etc.) It may also include the emergence of completely new structures (e.g. virtual schools).
Structural trends affecting schools/kura that have emerged over recent years include:
- Networked communities — The rising importance of Communities of Schools, Communities of Learning, IES, with new roles for teachers and leaders.
- Community focus — Strategies for engaging parents, using portfolios, two-way interactions, and effective community participation in schools.
- Charter schools – independently run public schools granted greater flexibility in their operations, in return for greater accountability for performance.
- Private Public Partnerships — where a private sector body designs, builds, finances and maintains the school property over a long term contract , allowing the board of trustees and school leadership to no longer have to worry about maintaining school property and instead focus on teaching and learning and improving educational outcomes for learners.
- Alternative forms of assessment — thinking about new ways of formally acknowledging learning that has take place and the assessments that are used to validate this. Includes what’s happening around online assessment, ‘just in time’ assessments, digital badges etc.
- Learning record stores — with the increased emphasis on learner-centred approaches, and the shifts in ownership of learning, the need for secure, well managed places where a student’s record of learning can be maintained will grow in importance. This includes a maturity in the thinking about digital portfolios – who owns them, where they are stored, how they are managed and sustained etc.
2017 special focus examples:
- Communities of Learning — Communities of Learning — introducing a new structural way of thinking about our system, based on the idea of following the pathway a learner takes through the system – plus leveraging the skills and expertise across the cluster.
- Virtual learning — recognising the increasing role of online learning in our education system, allowing learners to access specialist knowledge from where ever and whenever they need to. Also recognising the ‘borderless’ nature of schools and education generally in this sort of world. This is seen particularly in the proposal to legislate for COOLs (Communities of Online Learning) opening up opportunities for a wider range of providers and allowing learners greater choice regarding the subjects they want to take.
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