Working paper

Exploring teacher professional learning for future-oriented schooling

Working paper 1 from the Back to the Future project
Learning and teaching Students Schools New Zealand
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Sets out some of the early findings from a pilot project to explore the qualities that future-oriented teachers might need and how those qualities might be developed.


In educational discussions today, there is concern that our schools are not adequately preparing today’s learners for the increasingly fast-changing world they will live and work in. The terms “future-oriented” and/or “21st century” teaching and learning occur frequently in policy documents, and “future focus” is a key principle of our national curriculum.3 However, while there is a great deal of talk about “21st century” learners’ needs, and how best to meet these needs, there is very little discussion of what “21st century” or “future-oriented” teachers look like, or how today’s teachers might become “future-oriented”. This, it seems to us, is a major gap. Developing a future-oriented education system cannot be done without teachers who understand—and are committed to doing—what is needed. However, many of today’s teachers are not well-prepared for this work, and most professional learning programmes are not designed to scaffold the kind of “future practice” needed.

What qualities do future-oriented teachers need? To what extent are these qualities different from those required of 20th century teachers? How are these qualities best developed? Can we expect all teachers to develop them? Can these new qualities be simply added to a 20th century teacher’s existing repertoire of knowledge and skills? While there is a focus on teachers’ ICT knowledge and skills, the educational research literature has had little to say on other qualities needed by future-oriented teachers, and these questions are not a focus in the wider education sector.

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