Reflection paper

The world of work is changing (Wiliam, 2015) and there will be some tough decisions ahead about the direction the Australian labour market in the next decade (Martin, 2015). Australia is on the cusp of a new and very different industrial revolution (Martin, 2015) driven by technology.

Teachers as expert clinicians, with vested interest and encouragement as learners themselves, will need to push well beyond situating skills for closed tasks and simply adding knowledge. Instruction for modern learning requires an ability to apply learning in varied situations, not solely in the context in which they are learned (McTighe and Curtis, 2016). The new economy requires all of us to be agile, responsive and liable for learning when faced with unrehearsed situations in the modern complexities of our lives. Young learners in the new economy need to know how to act when faced with situations they were not specifically prepared for (Papert, 1998, cited in Wiliam, 2015). They will also need an appetite for change and have the aptitude to connect the seemingly unconnected.

As teachers, we must recognise that amid technology driven disruption, the volatility in change is our friend if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it (Turnbull, 2015). Expert teachers as expert learners (Stobart, 2014) recognise that deliberate practice of getting students to actively work and think about things that matter even when they are hard to do (Wiliam, 2015) can progress students transferability of skills in the new economy.  We need to be more decisive in catching and holding (Dewey, 1948) students situational interest (Stobart, 2014) with much greater clarity and pedagogical expertise to drive students into the learning zone (Stobart, 2014) instead of the comfort zone, and do this with greater sustainment in the things that matter.

There has never been a better time to create your own job (Wiliam, 2015, Baxter, 2015) and it is imperative to inculcate in our students an entrepreneurial mindset through well-thought-out situational interests of the learner. The newly endorsed Australian curriculum integrates enterprise into learning for Business and Economics (Grades 7-10), Digital and Design Technologies (Grades 9 – 10) and the senior Sciences (Version 8, Australian Curriculum, 2015). We can no longer train students for the present workforce, particularly given that 40% Australian jobs that exist today maybe gone in the next 10 to 15 years (Martin, 2015). This volatility of change and disruption in the coming war for jobs (Clifton, 2011) will require educators to move well out of their comfort zone and into the learning zone. Consequently requiring educators to put greater effort into linking deep learning approaches, new information (Stobart, 2014) and unquestionably integrating new technologies. Educators will need to become good at getting the old ideas out and replacing them with new ones (Wiliam, 2015).

Promoting entrepreneurship and job creation must be the sole mission and purpose of cities’ leaders (Clifton, 2011) and educators must prepare students to have a mindset of optimism about change and challenge, flexing greater risks for creativity in their learning environments to better guide student opportunities.  Foreseeing disruption is becoming increasingly difficult as the speed of innovation is accelerating rapidly and our recent predications on future technologies are being developed much sooner than expected (Frey and Osbourne, 2015). We have the option in today’s world to either wait for a job or make up your own (Wiliam, 2015) and there has never been a better time to consider this dichotomy. Teachers cannot teach the same way every day and we must profess in our vocation with greater desire to work with the difficulties we face. We can all be expert teachers and there is no one way to progress, even expert teachers can become better (Wiliam, 2015). Getting teachers to be expert practitioners like those found in other fields necessitates the development of stronger mental frameworks to make better sense of the situations we face (Stobart, 2014) and to do this automatically with less conscious thought.

Is it our overarching goal in education to indoctrinate individuals to have an increased lifetime salary, improved health and a longer life?  Wiliam (2015) suggest that raising achievement matters not only to the learners but also to society. As a society, raising achievement lowers criminal justice costs, lowers health care costs and also increases economic growth (Wiliam, 2015) and for every Australian worker, there are 125 people on the planet who would like their job (Wiliam, 2015).

Quality teaching is at the heart of nurturing the successful learner. To support this, Stobart (2014) proclaims the expert learner dismisses fixed ability with clear evidence and reference to research.  Both Wiliam (2015) and Stobart (2015) present research studies that agree on certain processes that expert teachers utilize to engage students in deep and purposeful practice needed for adept, expert learning and not just targeting the elite few (Shepard, 2015, cited in Stobart, 2015).

There are certain parallels in the philosophies of design and enterprise thinking and that of new learning theories of situated learning (Lave and Wenger, 1991) and connectivism (Siemens, 2004). Both theories proposing similar perspectives to Vygotsky’s social constructivist theory in relation to ‘zone of proximal development’ (Vygotsky, 1978). Situated learning and connectivism attributes a cognitive apprenticeship model of naturally tying authentic activity, context, and culture (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989) by communicating with peers and experts about those contexts (Oliver, 1999). It is much more difficult to learn similar skills from un-natural activities (Oliver, 1989). For example, learning your first language or a foreign language by immersion is widely held to be easier than learning languages from textbooks and vocabulary lists (Brown et al, 1989). Situational learning proposes that skills are better acquired through authentic contexts in apprentice-like situations (Oliver, 1989). Similarly, design thinking prepares individuals to be adaptable, innovative and forward-thinking in response to societal and technological change (Kristjanson, 2015). Kristjanson, Vice-Chancellor of Swinburne University strongly advocates that coding can help prepare our students for adaptable and transferable skills in computational thinking for a more information technology literate society. Skills we know will be essential for a technology driven new economy.connecting

Teachers as expert practitioners, better equipped with situational awareness can move classroom learning closer to expert learning by raising learner expectations and shifting away from fixed ability labels to an incremental view of learning (Stobart, 2014). Furthermore Wiliam (2015) suggests that teachers need to determine where students are in their learning by making decision driven judgements based on clear evidence on their data collection. In this way, learning is improved through more challenging ways leading to learning and being pushed beyond it (Wiliam, 2015). Hattie (2012, as cited in Stobart, pp87) suggests that there is not a lot of difference between experienced and expert teachers in terms of what they know: the difference is in how they organise and use the knowledge.

Like brokers for agents of transformation, academic leaders of educational teams need to promote differing pedagogical perspectives and bring them to the fore. Educators need to make learning clearer and start activating students as owners of their learning (Wiliam, 2015). We need to have a clearer sense of our professional purpose and respond to all the presented opportunities we have to succeed in developmental mastering of our vocation.


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Clifton, J. (2011). The Coming Jobs War. New York, Gallup Press

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Martin, S. (2015). More than five million Aussie jobs gone in 10 to 15 years. Retrieved from,

McTighe, J. and Curtis, G. (2016). Leading Modern Learning. Bloomington, Solution Tree Press

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Siemens, G. (2004). A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from,

Stobart, G. (2014). The Expert Learner: Challenging the Myth of Ability. Maidenhead, McGraw-Hill -Open University Press.

Turnbull, M. (2015). Transcript: Vote on the Liberal Party Leadership. Retrieved from,

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interaction between learning and development. Cambridge, Harvard University Press

Wiliam, D. (2015). Teacher Quality Institute, Embedding Formative Assessment. Hawker Brownlow Professional Learning Solutions: Melbourne.

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