Education has until fairly recently, been viewed by the majority as the transference of knowledge by teachers in subjects like Math, Science, Biology, History, English,Geography, Art, Music, and PE.
But to really transform students into global citizens that offer real value not only to their own futures, but also to the rest of the world, curriculum development should include service learning to connect learning to meaningful action, learning key skills and competencies alongside concepts and subjects.
We provide three transformative tips for curriculum development that empowers students with so much more than just academia:
#1: Life Skills
A young girl left school and started her first job as a receptionist. Unfortunately for her, no one had ever taught her how credit works, so she opened credit accounts with five of the top fashion stores, and proceeded to buy useless goods, having no idea she would need to actually pay it back.
For the rest of her life, she was in debt because of her naïveté.
In addition, we encountered students who were not able to cook their own food by the time they were in high school.
These two examples means that education is skipping important life skills that make for a healthy life.
The question begs: is the point of education not for young people to be empowered for the real world?
Could it be that our schools are failing our learners by not sufficiently preparing them with essential skills needed for a prosperous and healthy life?
At ServeLearn, we believe that learning needs to become more relevant and meaningful for the real world. What is the main reason for academia? Is it not to be educated in order to make a good living, lead a good life, and be able to manage one’s own budget, and be a responsible global citizen? Can learners achieve this solely on educative subjects?
And so, money management and being able to cook or care for oneself and others should be at the forefront of life skills as part of curriculum development.
Teachers should implement money management alongside concepts. It is easily slotted into history, math,economics, or cooking. Mainstream subjects combined with life skills that bring to life the practicality of learning about money with real world application through inquiry will bring the all the concepts to life.
#2: Learner Competencies (21st century skills)
According to educational authors Lee Crocket, Ian Jukes and Andrew Churches, “Educating students to traditional literacy standards is no longer enough. If students are to thrive in their academic and 21st century careers, then independent and creative thinking hold the highest currency.” (Source)
The reality is that we need to prepare children for jobs that don’t yet exist.
Learner competencies are essential in all modern curriculums and need to be explicitly taught. Many skills are lacking in curriculums and should be included, such as transdisciplinary skills like:
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
- Risk taking
- Open mindedness
- Ethical behaviour
These skills and dispositions are transdisciplinary in that they can be taught across all subject areas. They are called Learner Competencies as all learners need to develop these skills and dispositions if they are to have a successful future, as well as positively impact the world around them.
Let us break down the 4 C’s of Learner Competencies:
It’s a fact that everyone has problems, but not many know how to solve them. It is for this reason that students need to learn critical thinking in order to understand how to think critically about a problem or issue and be able to problem solve from as young an age as possible.
Critical thinking as part of the curriculum, will empower students in their daily lives, and in their future careers.
Provide the opportunity to experience the solving of complex problems in a safe environment.
Some examples of critical thinking are analysis, interpretation, reasoning and problem solving.
The type of creativity we are referring to, is not about doing art or other creative projects.
Instead, it’s about thinking differently as a mechanism for innovation.
Every person who has made an impact on the world, has done so by being creative. In fact, a survey by IBM of more than 1,500 chief executive officers showed that creativity was the number one factor for business success, over and above management discipline, integrity, and even vision.
Some examples of creativity that can be imparted to students are innovation, personal expression, using your imagination and artistry. Teach it by using brainstorming sessions, encouraging risk taking, journalling and coming up with inventions.
In today’s social climate, with our preoccupation with smartphones and social media, it is essential to teach collaboration skills.
Face to face interactions prevent disengagement, which is one part of collaboration, but the other is learning how to collaborate with others, i.e., communicating in a team environment.
Technology has made the world a smaller place and students need to be effective in communication across global demographics.
Some examples of collaboration are team work, brainstorming, compromising, sharing and communication.
Good communication enhances personal relationships as well as business relationships. It is a skill that most employers want, but is not easily found.
Just about all conflict comes as a result of poor communication.
The reason for most people not communicating effectively is due to perception. The earlier this is learned, the better off the student.
Added to that, students need to be able to communicate using technology such as social media, webinars, videos and so on.
Here’s a communication framework for teachers to use when developing curriculums:
- Physical: How a person communicates through body language, facial expressions, and voice.
- Linguistic: How a person communicates with language.
- Cognitive: How a person uses their ability to build on, challenge, question, and summarize the ideas of other people.
Social and emotional: How well a communicator listens, includes others, and responds.
#3 Provide opportunities for global citizens of the future
The importance of curriculum development that incorporates opportunities for Learner Competencies is critical. When are students collaborating with the community? When are students challenged with real world problems in a local setting? When are learners outside the classroom’s 4 walls?
Apart from the 4 C’s of Learner Competencies, other skills that should be included when developing a curriculum are:
- Planning and preparing
- Time management
- Conflict management
- Stress management
- Public speaking and presentations
- Information and communication technology (ICT) literacy
- Computer programming
- Environmental awareness
- Health and wellness literacy and
- Safety awareness
Tips for Integrating Concepts into Learning
Organize the curriculum to include key concepts such as health and wellbeing, equity, and change. Make a point to incorporate both subjects and skills via opportunities such as projects, reading, writing, presentations, and so on in the curriculum development.
Time and time again we see activities that are planned that require students to use the skills, but the teacher won’t provide lessons on the skills, so students don’t do assignments with the main purpose of learning and applying these essential skills and dispositions. .
Instead, skills must be woven into lessons.
This handy 4-question tool should help when planning:
- What are the main concepts and subjects and how will they be taught?
- How will learners have opportunities to develop learner competencies?
- How can learner competencies be taught ?
- How can learner competencies be reinforced throughout the curriculum?
Tara brings passion and a deep understanding of service learning, rooted in years of experience, to her training. Her training builds bridges from theory to implementation while generously sharing her resources and knowledge to ensure our success. Tara works with the whole school (administration, teachers, students, and SL leaders) to build a sustainable program that is embedded in the curriculum and tied to the mission. She energized a faculty on a Friday afternoon, no easy feat, leaving them with a desire to learn more about SL and to become more involved. I cannot recommend Tara highly enough.