Twenty-first century learning in the senior secondary school: a New Zealand teacher's innovation
Senior secondary schooling in New Zealand has a particularly traditional and complex nature. While the breadth of specialist subjects offered by schools has increased tremendously, seldom have those in control questioned whether the purpose of this learning meets current needs. Bolstad and Gilbert (2008) believe senior school education is geared toward screening, sorting and disciplining students for university study and the content-driven and assessment oriented approach to teaching and learning is of an Industrial Age that will not best serve and prepare students for twenty-first century living. This paper outlines a proposed doctoral thesis study of an innovative approach being undertaken in a secondary school class to address these problems and improve the quality of learning for students. The class includes approximately 30 Year 11-13 students from a variety of Technology based specialisms. The approach aims to meet Claxton’s (2007) idea that we need to explain to students: ߪthat school isn’t really about the Tudors and the Periodic Table. It is about becoming a brave and skilled explorer, a cunning detective; an imaginative creator; a tough competitor – in whatever field of life they want to work and play in. We have to talk to them seriously about what they are up to; what they can expect to gain; and what they will have to put in. (p. 131) The innovation will follow Bolstad and Gilbert’s (2008) recommendation that a competency-oriented model should predominate over the traditional content and assessment driven form and that personalised programmes build students’ learning capacity (Claxton, 2007) and dispositions. It will feature integrated learning of key competencies and values incorporating collaborative and inquiry-based activity in Technology Education and related specialist classes. Explicit teaching of higher-order thinking skills and student engagement through the conative domain (Riggs and Gholar, 2009) will be key features in promoting twenty-first century learning. The study will use a design-based implementation research method (Hoadley, 2002; Penuel, Fishman, Cheng and Sabelli, 2011; and The Design-Based Research Collective, 2003). This qualitative method has been chosen as it can effectively evaluate the development of innovations that foster alignment and coordination of supports for improving teaching and learning (Penuel et. al. 2011). The innovation focuses on a problem of practice, is a collaborative design, develops theory related to classroom learning and demonstrates a capacity for sustained change in senior secondary education.