Competencies and Capabilities

Young people need to acquire both competencies and capabilities if they are to be successful entering a rapidly changing world of work and life. Competency is the proven ability in acquiring knowledge and skills, while capability is learner confidence in his or her competency and, as a result, the ability to formulate and solve problems in both familiar, unfamiliar and changing situations. Reading the VCAA Chief Examiners reports each year in every subject, it is very apparent that learner capability is something that we can improve upon.

Capable young people exhibit the following traits: self-efficacy, in knowing how to learn and how to continuously reflect on the learning process; communication and teamwork skills, working well with others, creativity, particularly in applying competencies to new and unfamiliar situations and by being adaptable and flexible in approach.

In a heutagogical approach to teaching and learning, learners are highly autonomous and self-determined and emphasis is placed on development of learner capacity and capability with the goal of producing learners who are well-prepared for the complexities of a changing world. They are able to deal with uncertainties because they have been given the opportunity to be self-directed, autonomous and independent and are encouraged to learn by doing, to take risks, make mistakes and embrace failures. Discipline becomes more about self-discipline than classroom management techniques.

The rapidly changing, multi-disciplinary nature of the 21st century requires us to move beyond our own subject areas and see this challenge as one of agency and personal empowerment. Engineering and art have always been interrelated but perhaps even more so now. Computer programming in University is mandatory for most biologists, musicians and historians. Mathematicians, statisticians and scientists primary intellectual tool is now that of the computer. Robotics and automation will transform and revolutionize the way many disciplines and businesses operate. 3D printers are now a mainstream tool for Dentists, Prosthetists and many other medical professionals. The world has changed. We can do our children no better service than to introduce them to these powerful ideas that will develop their capabilities and shape the rest of their lives.

An in-depth knowledge, skillset and expertise of a particular specialization is still absolutely important, but increasingly major discoveries are happening at the interstices between disciplines and this requires depth in a specific field but also an ability and the capability to see and make connections more broadly.

 

Thoughts on Pedagogy and Space

Pedagogy and space are inextricably linked. They are not mutually exclusive. Progressive pedagogies can exist within even the most traditional of spaces, as can traditional pedagogies in the most modern and contemporary space. Space shouldn’t be used as an excuse for a particular approach to teaching and learning but often schools are restricted by their physical space and lack the necessary budgets or locations to physically change the infrastructure of their buildings.

So without access to new buildings and significant budgets for new furniture what can be done to transform existing spaces? Here are four simple things that can disrupt the traditional way of thinking about how a classroom environment operates.

1. Remove the front of the room

Arrange the room so that there is no “front” of the room. This is actually easier than it sounds with some judicious placing and rearranging of existing furniture. What this does is change the dominant paradigm of teacher standing at the front, students facing the teacher, and teacher delivering the required information to students. Our Vision for Learning talks about what we believe when it comes to pedagogy – “We believe that the preferred kind of pedagogy is learner-centred and learner-driven, project-based and experiential by nature, interspersed with purposeful periods of direct instruction.” Purposeful is the key word here as direct instruction is still important but it shouldn’t be the dominant style of pedagogy.

2. Create multiple focal points

This supports the idea of removing the front of the room. Instead of purchasing an expensive interactive whiteboard or a 90″ LCD screen, purchase 4 smaller LCD screens and position them either on stands or mounted on swivels at various locations around the room. Also provide a wireless presentation gateway to each room.  We use the WiPG-2000 as a wireless presentation gateway which allows a single device to project to multiple screens or for a screen to have 4 devices connected to it simultaneously as a 4-way split screen. This allows students and teachers to connect, share and collaborate in new and various ways.

3. Have less chairs than students

This one is simple. Have less chairs than students. This can cause a serious rethink about how a class operates.

4. Create different height work spaces

This doesn’t necessarily require the purchase of new furniture, just get creative. We have used old student lockers as standing work spaces, or have reused old whiteboards and re-purposed them as collaborative work tables.