In recent years, many international schools have been shifting towards a more personalized, competency-based approach to teaching. This approach focuses on providing students with a learning experience that is tailored to their individual needs, passions and abilities. International schools adopt this approach and are increasingly incorporating technology and data to track student progress and tailor instruction to individual needs.
One of the key components of this new approach is project-based and problem-based learning. This method allows students to demonstrate their understanding and skills through real-world projects and challenges. There are several ways in which students can demonstrate their understanding and skills through real-world projects and challenges. Some examples include:
- Research projects: Students can conduct independent research on a topic of their choice, and then present their findings in a written report or oral presentation. This allows students to demonstrate their understanding of the topic as well as their research and critical thinking skills.
- Service-learning projects: Students can work on a project that addresses a real-world problem in their community, such as designing a sustainable garden or organizing a food drive. This allows students to apply their knowledge and skills in a meaningful way while also giving back to the community.
- Entrepreneurial projects: Students can develop a business plan and create a prototype of a product or service. This allows students to demonstrate their understanding of business concepts as well as their creativity, problem-solving, and teamwork skills.
- Simulation and role-playing: Students can participate in simulations or role-playing activities that simulate real-world situations, such as a mock trial or a political campaign. This allows students to apply their knowledge and skills in a realistic context and to practice decision-making and problem-solving skills.
- Collaborative projects: Students can work in teams to complete a project or solve a challenge. This allows students to demonstrate their ability to work effectively with others, to communicate and to lead.
Real-world projects and challenges provide students with an opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in a meaningful and authentic context, which can help to deepen their understanding and engagement in the material. These projects also give the opportunity to students to showcase their talents and skills, and to develop key competencies that are essential for their future careers.
This approach doesn’t necessarily negate the importance of traditional approaches to education. In order that students can carry out meaningful real-world projects, they will need to strong body of knowledge of a topic area. Whilst in some ways such student-centred approaches are the antithesis of the style of knowledge-rich curriculum that are prevalent in countries like the UK, it would be foolhardy to under-estimate the importance of the acquisition of knowledge. Bloom’s Taxonomy is sometimes misunderstood and the fact that knowledge is at the bottom of the pyramid is misrepresented to suggest that knowledge is less important than the skills higher up the taxonomy. I prefer to think of knowledge as the foundation of learning; as in the graphical representations of Bloom’s taxonomy, knowledge underpins all of the other skills. A real flaw in project-based learning is the fact that sometimes students are asked to carry out projects without having the knowledge of the area of study that they are tasked to research into. Whereas future schools may give more autonomy to students, the role of the teacher in securing solid academic outcomes should never be underestimated.
Additionally, many international schools are also adopting a more flexible approach to scheduling, allowing students to progress at their own pace and focus on areas of interest. International schools are adopting a more flexible approach to scheduling in several ways:
- Self-paced learning: Some international schools are providing students with the flexibility to move through the curriculum at their own pace. This allows students to focus on areas of interest and to work on tasks and assignments that are most relevant to them.
- Flexible scheduling: Some international schools are implementing flexible scheduling options that allow students to attend classes at different times or to take classes online. This gives students more control over their learning experience and allows them to balance schoolwork with other commitments.
- Personalized learning plans: Some international schools are creating personalized learning plans for each student, which are tailored to their individual needs and interests. This allows students to focus on the areas that they are most interested in and to make the most of their time in school.
- Competency-based education: International schools are also implementing competency-based education, which emphasizes student progress over time. This approach allows students to progress through the curriculum at their own pace and to demonstrate their understanding and skills in a variety of ways.
- Independent projects: Some international schools are providing students with opportunities to work on independent projects or research. This allows students to pursue their own interests and to develop skills in areas that they are passionate about.
These approaches give students more autonomy in their learning, enabling them to move at their own pace, focus on their areas of interest, and to take ownership of their learning. This kind of flexibility can also lead to a more engaged and motivated student body, which can lead to better academic outcomes. How this plays out in the long term will be interesting to see, as whilst such flexible approaches to learning are eminently possible in primary school and lower secondary, the overwhelming majority of international schools are tied in to delivering IGCSE and A Level, the IBDP and AP programs, which all, to one extent or another, are built around rigid and inflexible curriculum models. For the paradigm to shift the way that students are assessed at the end of their school careers may have to change dramatically – or universities might begin to increase the numbers of students they admit who have followed less traditional educational programs.
Technology will also play a significant role in shaping the future of education. It will enable teachers to track student progress and tailor instruction to individual needs. It will also make it possible for students to take courses online and for teachers to deliver instruction in a blended format. Virtual and augmented reality can be used to create immersive learning experiences that engage students and make learning more interactive. AI and machine learning can be used to analyze data and create personalized learning pathways for students. It will also be used to improve student engagement, providing instant feedback and support. Collaboration and communication technology will enable students to collaborate and communicate with each other and with their teachers in real-time, regardless of location.
The design of school campuses and the impact of online and remote learning may shift towards more flexible and personalized instruction and this may lead to a need for more flexible and adaptable school spaces. Flexible and adaptable spaces, collaborative spaces, technology-enabled spaces, outdoor spaces, and wellness spaces will be more important than ever.
The shift towards personalized, competency-based curriculum models is an exciting development in the field of education. With the incorporation of technology and data, project-based and problem-based learning, and flexible scheduling, students will be able to progress at their own pace, with their teachers available to guide and support them as and when required.