a glimpse into the crystal ball

What will education look like in the future? How does it need to change to accommodate the ever-changing world? What mindsets and skills will our learners need as future leaders?

Overall, I envision schooling in the future becoming much more focused on student agency and student-led experiences. As an early years teacher, I have often questioned why many of the teaching approaches and philosophies (such as emergent curriculum and holistic development) that are used in early childhood education (ECE) seem to disappear as students enter the ‘numbered grades.’ In a nutshell, I hope that the future of education embraces some of these more open-ended teaching approaches, typically found in ECE, throughout the Pre-K to 12 system.

This Photo by Unknown author is licensed under CC BY.

McClure (2016) points out that assessing anything that could be looked up using Google or Siri would be redundant. This signals a shift to students using the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy in future models of education. I see this as a positive change that we are already moving towards within classrooms. Rather than asking students to merely understand or remember basic concepts, our students will be living in a world where creating their own knowledge and opinions will be essential. Jenkins et al. elude to this in their white paper as well when they discuss participatory culture and the ability for internet users to become content creators across many platforms. This also speaks to Malaguzzi’s hundred languages of children, where students are invited not to regurgitate or express knowledge in adult-dictated ways, but to show what they know and how they experience the world through a plethora of different mediums that suit them.

This Photo by Unknown author is licensed under CC BY-SA-NC.

Henny (2016) also describes aspects of what education might look like in the future. These include student ownership, personalized learning, free choice, project-based, and field experience. Again, I see many of these reflected in the philosophies behind early years learning. If we are going to move towards this model of student-directed education, this will require a huge shift in the roles of both teacher and student. Several articles eluded to the question of “Will teachers even be needed in the future?” My answer is a resounding, “Yes!” due to the philosophies that I believe in, such as Vygotsky’s social constructivism. Learning is a social process, and we need human interaction as part of that social process. Teachers will always be needed in our society. However, the teacher’s role is likely going to change a lot, especially in a student-directed learning model.

This whole discussion draws many similarities to the other course that I am taking this semester on Curriculum Development. My discussion group (which includes Holly Alexander, a classmate from this course as well!) had some great conversations this past week about the many ways we hope for change in the education system and where we see it going in the years to come. I will conclude with an imagined future scenario that I posed to my group members, which also focuses on student-directed learning. I hope you will comment with your take on it to keep the discussion going!

Consider an educational system where students are the sole developers of their learning experiences. No written curriculum outcomes to cover, no standards to be assessed, just each child individually deciding what they want to learnHow does this scenario change the role of the teacher? Do you think there are areas that children would choose they didn’t want to learn? What are the benefits/detriments to this model? What does this imaginary situation tell you about our current education system?

Until next time,



10 thoughts on “a glimpse into the crystal ball

  1. I think the role of the teacher will always be present, but the way in which that looks may be different. Teachers as facilitators are fundamental for learning through providing engaging opportunities, hand on learning, etc.. However, I think that facilitating needs to be taught, experienced and practiced, and we cannot assuem that teachers will fall into these roles seemlessly and without bumps. No matter what educational environment one fosters, creates or sets-up, there will always be children who do not thrive in those environments, or refuse to learn how a teacher intends them to. Just like in anything, we cannot satisfy everyone at the same time.

    • I’m glad you brought up these important points, Kelly! These were echoed in my discussion group as well. I agree that teachers need time to become familiar with a facilitator role, especially because the more traditional role of the teacher as lecturer is still common in societal understandings of what we do. My group members also discussed how some students might have a hard time with an open-ended, student-led approach to learning. I think it’s important to acknowledge how we are all different and require individualization in order to thrive.

  2. I’m not sure I can see an educational system without some kind of curriculum or scope and sequence for a framework. I definitely agree with your post in terms of having some of the early years philosophies included in the numbered grades. When I see teachers bring in clay or lego, for instance, into a middle years classroom to do some kind of STEM activity, the students are so excite to show what they know in a different way.
    Our current educational system is certainly too rigid when it comes to reporting and assessing. What do those grades on a report card really mean? It certainly does not tell the whole story of a child’s education.

    • Thanks for your feedback, Brenda! Perhaps this imagined scenario is a little bit out there – it definitely makes it difficult to fathom in light of our current hyper-focus on outcomes, accountability, and achieving quantifiable goals. Maybe a middle ground would be still having overarching goals or outcomes for students to achieve, but having a lot more flexibility in when they can be achieved, or in what order. I see a lot of ‘pushing kids forward’ in our education system, whether they are ready or not and I envision a system that more equitably provides learning experiences that are at the level each child requires. This would certainly mean restructuring a lot of familiar processes in our current education system.

      I am a HUGE proponent of play! I use the hashtag #LetThemPlay a lot on Instagram for the exact same reason you talk about: it excites kids! I think it’s such a shame that students reach a certain grade or age and they stop getting opportunities to play, experiment, and discover. This year, I actually started tackling the Gr 1 curriculum I teach (Science, Social, Arts Ed strands, and Health) through play-based and experiential centres and I don’t think I’d ever go back. It has been a big mindset shift for me, but the students absolutely love it and it has made assessment a lot easier in many ways! (Sorry for the novel! Can you tell these are topics I’m really passionate about? haha)

  3. I love the idea of creating experiences for students, making them active and curious learners. I find that in elementary writing teachers often say well they don’t know how to write descriptively or to choose a topic, and it always comes down to students not having those experiences to draw on. I always encourage teachers to create an experience that they can use in their writing, take them outside, write about other subject areas, listen to podcasts! I like the idea of choosing your path throughout your educational experience, but also don’t want to limit students by their younger choices (I randomly chose education at 17 and turns out I love it, but what if I didn’t?). I agree that teachers role are (and should be) changing!

  4. Bloom’s taxonomy is my all time favourite as it tells us how we can guide starting from the level one. Moreover higher order thinking skills helps the learner to think and construct some ideas.

  5. A perfect example that I can think about is using picture books in upper level ELA classes. The language is amazing, the visuals are awesome and many ElLA 7 to 12 curriculum outcomes can be reached with these beautiful treasures. My one concern about children completely navigating their own interests is that curriculum exposes children too many different content areas that they may not explore on their own. My own daughter is a perfect example of this. Without exposure to chemistry for example she would never have known how much she loved it and how good she was at mastering it’s understandings.

    • First of all, thank you so much for coming to check out my blog, Louise! I appreciate how you always support my learning wholeheartedly! You make two great points! Alexis especially does a great job of using picture books with her classes. It is certainly a misconception that “children’s books” are only for early elementary-aged students. Your example of curriculum exposing students to skills and interests they might not have even known they had was also brought up by my discussion group members. I think the theme I am hearing over and over again is that we need to strike a balance between student- and teacher-led learning opportunities.

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