Teaching: New Models?


Business Partners asks Thought Leaders In Education to discuss how teaching is changing in today’s educational environment, taking under consideration factors like the uncertainty of tomorrow’s job market, the focus on active learning and mindfulness, the role of social awareness, diverse student backgrounds, and changing expectations among teachers, parents and students.

Learning Agility: A New Learning Paradigm?


Introduced in the late ‘90s, V.U.C.A. describes the world society as volatile (V), uncertain (U), complex (C) and ambiguous (A)—a society where the present is not a good predictor of the future, but is, in fact, frequently a misleading one. The outcome of disruptive technologies, which develop new and unknown social patterns, and globalization, which magnifies the disruptive effects of the technology, VUCA is the new reality, and we all have to live with it.

Learning is central to functioning effectively in the VUCA environment. As the present is drastically different from the past, we ought to comprehend complex and unknown social patterns fast and effectively. However, past experience does not help. Instead, we need to be able to “learn, unlearn and relearn”. We need to develop a “learning agility,” a complex set of skills and competencies that allow us to learn something in one situation and apply it in a different one. Learning agility is about gathering patterns from one context and using them in another so that we can make sense out of something we have never seen or done before. It is the ability to learn, adapt and apply ourselves in constantly changing, first-time conditions.

Learning agility requires from the learner the “potential to learn” and thus an open and receptive mind-set; also a “motivation to learn,” a willingness to participate in the learning process; and finally an “adaptability to learn,” through reflection on the relevance of the acquired skills and competencies and the need to adjust them and even develop new ones.

Schooling obviously is the most important venue for learning, especially in the learner’s early years. Through schooling, learners acquire relevant, for the time being, attitudes, skills and competencies that soon become obsolete as the VUCA environment rapidly evolves and changes. Schooling, on the other hand, ought to help learners to develop learning agility so they manage to adapt effectively in the VUCA environment. Thus, learning should be continuous, through lifelong learning (and thus the development of a “learning attitude”), as a systematic and organized venue through which learners develop and maintain learning agility.

Business Schools develop programs along those lines through their degree programs (MBAs and MScs) and Executive Education. However, a technocratic approach in management education does not contribute that much in learning agility. Instead, various Business Schools restructure their curricula to incorporate learning initiatives in the interface of management, STEM and the humanities. Thus learners develop fundamental intellectual competencies on how to unravel, in a systematic and disciplined way, complex patterns (through an analytical mindset) but also develop the human virtues (through the humanities and the arts) so that they have the set of competencies on how to “learn, unlearn and relearn”. Creativity and innovation, flexibility, positivity, resilience, adaptability, openness to unknown and tolerance to adversity and the unexpected are only a few of the competencies that enable learning agility. Learning agility helps learners comprehend new patterns and effectively function in the rapidly evolving VUCA environment.

Undoubtedly, the education system faces a lot of disruptive innovations: online learning, self-learning, active learning and mindfulness, etc. The most important challenge though is how to reform itself and adjust its learning methods, styles and curricula in order to help learners develop learning agility so they can function effectively in the VUCA world.

Morfosis Educational Philosophy for the 21st Century Student


K-12 educational institutions are under extreme pressure to provide the best educational experience to an increasingly diverse and complex student population.

As educators challenge themselves with questions such as, “Are we preparing our young people for the world our parents lived in, for the world we live in today or for the world of tomorrow?”, increased pressure to succeed in school and prepare for best college placement takes a toll on the well-being of the student.

Today, school systems demand that students be inquisitive thinkers who are knowledgeable, principled, open-minded, caring, balanced and reflective so that they can become the decision-makers of the future.

From the students’ perspective, to meet these demands, there is a need for a new, fresh and authentic approach to K-12 teaching and learning, which must reflect today’s reality. The skills needed yesterday are not the same needed today, and this change must be reflected in the way they are taught. Students feel that subject matter is not relevant to their interests, talents or everyday life and that standardized teaching is a one-size-fits-all approach, with few teachers able to keep students interested and excited about what they are learning.

Therefore, education must move forward with a teaching and learning approach that makes the students’ experiences meaningful, exciting, enjoyable, challenging and authentic, preparing them to provide new answers and solutions to challenges facing their communities and the world.

The author’s proposition is the “Morfosis Educational Philosophy”, an educational philosophy that is holistic, meaningful and harmonious.

HOLISTIC: A holistic approach to education successfully combines academic, emotional, physical, intellectual and ethical components of learning to provide students with the tools to successfully cope with the changes that the university experience and life beyond will bring.

MEANINGFUL: A meaningful education unfolds within a framework of principles and values, and leads learners to define and achieve their personal, academic and professional goals. Learning is meaningful when it is connected to that which is most important in our lives; when it speaks to our dreams, strengths, desires and talents; when it leads us to fall in love with life and learning.

HARMONIOUS: A harmonious approach to education ensures that all dimensions of the teaching and learning experience cohere. Mission, beliefs, principles, values and practices in an educational community must be consistent and mutually reinforcing if the learning experience is truly to promote the classical ideal of living a full life with ethos.*

The delivery of such an educational philosophy must be accompanied by the hybrid methodology “i2Flex”, which combines independent student learning, inquiry-based learning (guided by a mentor), and face-to-face flexible learning (online, in a classroom, or in the field). **

With the “Morfosis Educational Philosophy”, students acquire new skills and master existing ones as they learn to be global citizens by relating competence to society’s needs and demands and expressing the understanding of complex concepts in a unique and refreshing way. Students learn to be collaborative, creative and innovative learners who are able to communicate well by being culturally and globally aware and by behaving in ethically responsible ways.

Schools need to eliminate the fear of failure in order to respond better to an exponentially increasing complex global world and prepare young learners with the relevant attributes and competencies vital for success in the 21st century.

(*) Gialamas, Pelonis, Medeiros (2014), Metamorphosis: A Collaborative Model to Promote Educational Change, Journal of Progressive Education Vol 10, Number 1

(**) Gialamas, Avgerinou (2015), Aristeia Leadership: A Catalyst for the i2Flex Methodology, Educational Policy Analysis and Strategic Research, Vol 10, Number 1

What and How to Teach in Exponential Times


Let’s face it—what and how our children learn is fundamentally changing before our very eyes and schools that recognize inherently outmoded practices and take genuine steps to revolutionize will quickly become the schools of choice for modern learners.

Pinewood American International School is continually engaged in identifying and tackling the challenges, thus renovating the learning experience for its students. Below are two discernible challenges followed by new models for each and why they work.

Firstly, the “content is king”  era has long since passed in education. Memorizing facts and information is not the most important skill in today’s world. Facts change and information is readily available. Hence, teaching content is important, but as a means to an end, not as a one-dimensional end in itself.

The new model: A four dimensional model of learning (Fadel et al.) is more relevant for today’s student as it promotes an understanding of how to make sense of information. This model is about systematically teaching four parts of a whole: (1) content from traditional and new disciplines like entrepreneurship, coding and wellness; (2) higher order thinking skills—the 4 Cs and more; (3) character qualities such as curiosity, diplomacy, resilience; and (4) meta-learning—cultivating a growth mindset, reflective practices and a tolerance for failure.

Why it works: We tell our students that landing a job at Google will not happen because they are able to recite the periodic table of elements or factor a polynomial. It will happen because they can sit in a room with two or three other people and utilize all four dimensions to unravel any problem posed. It’s about holistic cognitive ability.

Secondly, a crushing majority of schools still use the century-old model of the teacher up front—the sage on the stage—imparting knowledge in a one-size-fits-all manner rather than teaching unique individuals in a complex world.

The new model: A blended learning model is one that simultaneously utilizes face-to-face and digital learning approaches. Blended environments allow for multiple learning paths to happen at once: A group of students can listen to the teacher review a concept, for instance, while others work nearby on a group project, and still others work individually on laptops, with VR goggles, on 3D printers, and soon enough, with an AI teaching companion. It allows students to make decisions about their personal learning paths. Blended learning is chaotic but orients learning towards nonconformity.

Why it works: We tell our students that becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg will not happen because they have dutifully followed directions. It will happen because they can be critical about their best ideas, make good decisions and think rebelliously. We see that blended learning changes the way students think and learn by transforming them from passive recipients of information to active generators of knowledge.

In practice, Pinewood’s model of what and how to teach is transforming our students’ school experience profoundly. How do we know? They are excited about school, passionate about learning and hopeful about their future.

Teaching and Learning in Higher Education


In recent years, education has focused on accelerating student performance. Academic institutions around the globe have established quality standards and accountability systems to respond to the learning needs of students. Despite this concerted effort, one still witnesses a gap between the knowledge and skills learned in school and those required in 21st century social and professional contexts.

The curriculum and performance assessment developed at Hellenic American University systematically aims at connecting how students live with how they learn. The students are exposed to a vibrant, technology-facilitated learning context, which allows them to become competent in multitasking through use of real-world examples and life experiences. As PISA recommends, the University aims at preparing students to “…appropriately use digital technology and communication tools to access, manage, integrate and evaluate information, construct new knowledge, and communicate with others in order to participate effectively in society”i. Students at our University learn to become members of communities of practice with global awareness, intercultural understanding, and civic literacy.

Communication, interpersonal skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving are key competencies developed across all university programs. Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works and how learning should be organized and delivered. Our faculty uses this prior knowledge to help students understand life from different perspectives and develop deliberate thinking skills and strategies to “…take control of their own learning, monitor their own progress and improve their achievement”ii.

At the University, academic content is made relevant to the students through an approach to teaching, which brings the world into the class and encourages them to reach out to other cultures across the globe. This philosophy of learning creates opportunities for students to interact with each other and learn through simulated learning and authentic experiences. Both the classroom and the community function as learning laboratories where students pursue “…topics in depth and, at times, become experts in charge of their own learning”iii.

Technology plays a fundamental role at our University. It can obliterate geographic boundaries and allow students to collaborate and interact in virtual environments. Consequently, they gain a deeper understanding of the way people from different cultural backgrounds think and act, and they become tolerant and open-minded.

An informed student is the basis for an informed citizen. At the University, students learn to exercise their rights and obligations, comprehend the implications involved in civic decision-making, and learn to make intelligent choices and be accountable for their decisions.

Hellenic American University embraces a robust vision of higher education, which aligns leadership with learning outcomes, introduces the use of state-of-the-art learning tools, and teaches students to think strategically and creatively.

A Student-Centered Approach to Teaching and Learning


Globalization and technological innovations, coupled with labor market needs for a workforce with higher-

level, knowledge-based skills have brought significant changes in the way higher education students are taught and learn. However, one should be mindful of sweeping generalizations that emphasize the tools rather than the approach. A student-centered approach places the student in the heart of the system and invites a learning experience that caters to the needs of the individual. Student-centered education starts with the teacher.

If one is asked to name a memorable experience from school, one would name a teacher. They would rarely refer to course content, materials, or tools. It is the instructor that makes the difference in creating a constructive, appropriate and stimulating learning environment in class. It is the instructor’s initiative to promote active learning with experiential, problem-based and project-based learning. Most importantly, it is the instructor’s authentic caring—care for her discipline and care towards the student as a learner and as a person—that fosters a mutually beneficial pedagogical relationship. It is therefore not surprising that even universities renowned for their research output are now investing in teacher training programs as their previous exclusive focus on research skills for the newly-hired academics has compromised the quality of teaching and learning. The Greenwich PGCert for Higher Education is a New York College initiative in response to the need for instructor lifelong training.

A student-centered approach also places attention on the individual differences of learners. Although the conventional setting of a lecture room and the traditional “chalk and talk” models are not necessarily problematic, technology provides a plethora of tools that can assist instructors to cope with different student learning styles, motivation and engagement. Gamification of education has exactly this role to play in the modern learning environment. By using game-based mechanics and thinking, students are encouraged to use knowledge and skills in performing an action. The introduction of business simulations in the College’s business programs has increased student collaboration and class engagement. It has further provided them with opportunities to apply knowledge and employability skills.

Finally, student-centered education is an engine of social mobility and growth. It provides under-represented groups with opportunities for participation, and supports them through their course and into employment or further study. Working professionals, student workers, women, geographically dispersed learners, economically disadvantaged individuals and working mothers can participate in higher education by capitalizing on digital technologies, personalized learning pathways, mentoring and culturally relevant curricula that support participation and prepare graduates for living and working in a diverse society. For example, our initiative to incorporate a MOOC component in a traditional course outline improved retention for students with multiple commitments.

My message is clear here. Digital technologies in themselves do not constitute a new model of learning nor do they necessarily contribute to enhanced quality of teaching or the preparedness of graduates. The institution’s student-centered culture is a prominent factor in affecting the employability of new graduates and in making learning into an enjoyable journey.

Specialized Training or General Education?


Two tendencies dominate the educational field today. The first is the proliferation of certificates and external degrees, which challenge the idea of the university campus—the self-contained area where faculty and students can exchange ideas in class. Campus life is supported by libraries, laboratories, student services, housing and sports facilities and offers numerous intellectual events, lectures, concerts, and performances, a microcosm of intense intellectual activity. The cost of the upkeep of a campus with all its above components has skyrocketed, driving up the price of education. The student who pays the cost of this education in order to earn a traditional university degree faces the prospect of having prepared himself for professions that have drastically changed or ceased to exist by the time he enters the job market. The university campus will not go away because only it can support research and because many students will always need its holistic approach. Much of the learning, however, will be done through flexible alternatives, such as MOOCs, or educational programs that develop specialized skills required by our knowledge-oriented society. These are offered ad hoc and aim to satisfy the educational needs of those who cannot afford campus life education or of mid-career adults who are seeking a retooling of their talents.

Employability remains central in the minds of students today and this leads to another tendency: the high student demand for practical training through internships. Some universities have even incorporated this in their curricula by extending the four-year degree period into a longer period of study that includes one or two semesters of actual work engagement. Practical training is in demand by students in both public and private universities and undoubtedly makes student resumés more attractive and strengthens their quest for their first job.

Hand in hand with the need for internships goes the demand for volunteer work, community service, and service learning. This tendency reflects both the inherent idealism of young people, who wish to make a contribution to the common good, but also the philosophical stance of many institutions, particularly in the United States, which have a religious origin. A central element in the mission statement of such institutions is to encourage community service so that their students learn to serve before they can manage others.

All the above point to the same direction: opening one’s way into the workforce by building an attractive profile with specialized skills and practical experience. Unfortunately, this way a student gets trained for a job environment that is constantly shifting. Does the student know how to analyze, evaluate situations, write clear reports, communicate in a convincing way? These are really the skills that are in demand by employers and which are acquired through exposure to various disciplines. This is what liberal arts education is all about, and this is offered in a college campus and will not be acquired by external degrees.

Technology at the Heart of Graduate Education


Graduate education that emphasizes digital literacy skills has never mattered so much for employers, students, and educators alike. Global competition, local unemployment, and a shift toward the knowledge economy have played a major role in the increasing demand for digitally-savvy professionals who are comfortable working with emerging media and technologies.

Master’s degrees have become a requirement for entry into many professions. According to a recent survey from CareerBuilder, 27% of employers now demand master’s degrees to fill positions that previously required only a bachelor’s. For an employer, a master’s degree demonstrates an advanced set of up-to-date skills, determination, and the drive to keep abreast of developments.

At the same time, we are experiencing a new wave of “non-traditional” students entering graduate programs, who are older and tend to get involved with work, family, and study, all at once. They view graduate education as an investment that will allow them to re-skill for new careers, remain employable, or improve their career advancement prospects. Regardless of the discipline, these students are looking for active learning experiences and skills-based training that integrate technology in meaningful ways. There is a fundamental shift in the way that education is available to learners, enabling them to engage with learning content on demand through an array of devices, software, and platforms.

At the School of Graduate and Professional Education of Deree – The American College of Greece, we view these trends as opportunities for the continuous improvement of our programs and teaching approaches. We have embraced digital technology by adopting a blended learning approach and a learning management platform, and observed great advantages as reflected in the experience of our students and faculty.

From a learning perspective, embedding technology has offered greater customization of the place, pace, and mode of individual learning. Our students experience the key benefits of flexibility, ease of access, and the integration of multimedia and new technologies in the learning process. Our approach recognizes that simply learning how to use a platform or software is not enough. Students make connections between content, technological tools, and professional skills, learning to leverage technology in ways that allow them to collaborate with each other and fluently move from the online to the physical world. Our experience has been consistent with international findings that show increased student engagement, active learning, and independent study.

From a teaching perspective, the blended approach has allowed for more interactive and engaging learning activities, using a range of digital and multimedia formats—from videos, blogs, and discussion boards, to wikis and online simulation games. More importantly, using digital technologies to deliver the course content has freed up traditional class time for deeper learning activities, engaging students in critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork.

Ultimately, the most decisive change is that technology-enabled teaching places the individual student at the center stage of the learning process. This leads to graduate students becoming more autonomous in their learning, and to professors taking on the role of educational facilitator, guiding learners through their journey of knowledge discovery, problem solving, and professional skills acquisition.

The American Farm School Promotes Holistic Approach to Learning


In a rapidly changing atmosphere, influenced by lightning advancements in the technological world, social and economic crises, and shifting expectations, educational institutions around the world are aiming to adjust ever-evolving teaching methods to meet student needs. At the American Farm School and Perrotis College, students receive a holistic educational experience that has always tailored its pedagogical approach to reflect the needs of students, parents, and society at large. Through critical and entrepreneurial thinking, which remain core values in all that we do, we teach students to approach problems with a dynamic outlook, and we provide them with the critical thinking tools to overcome any obstacle they may encounter.

AFS teachers take this mission to heart. They participate in programs, seminars, and conferences for their professional development and in the interest of scholarly collaboration, sharing successful practices and collaborating with other healthy institutions. On campus, they use hands-on and inquiry-based instruction proven to be effective at teaching to many different learning styles. Particular attention is paid to meeting the needs of students with learning differences and to overcoming the unique challenges they may have faced in a traditional, lecture-based classroom. Our teachers guide students to develop problem-solving skills and to dig deep: to learn by doing.

Over the years, our teachers have placed increasing emphasis on STEAM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and mathematics) within an already strong curriculum. The principles of a STEAM education align with the School’s philosophy, fostering students’ connection to the land and encouraging creative solutions to real-world problems. The General High School program, designed for high achievers who seek to reach academic excellence, is focused on enhancing our signature STEAM program while retaining our “learn by doing” philosophy.

As the agrofood sector becomes increasingly shaped by scientific principles and methods, the School strives to harmonize hands-on agricultural practice with scientific precision. Programs at the School of Professional Education are designed to go beyond teaching technical skills, to offer students the knowledge base they will need in the now intensely science-driven world of agrofood production. Students are also led to an increased awareness of the effect their practices may have on human health, natural resources, and nature’s sustainability. We encourage our students to participate in wide-ranging and innovative extracurricular activities as well, to round out their education beyond the classroom. To this end, we provide access to opportunities such as researching the snails of our unique Snail Farm or flexing their creative problem-solving skills in the Robotics Club. In this way, we encourage our students to approach the learning process with curiosity, critical thought, and scientific rigor, in an enjoyable and engaging way.

We believe it is our responsibility to address the evolving needs of education by building up talent and encouraging discovery, cultivating the next generation of scientists and problem-solvers. At a time when the country’s financial situation remains precarious, the Farm School is, more than ever, a space of hope and inspiration, where students acquire the fundamental values that come through an education rooted in stewardship of the land: hard work, discipline, and appreciation and respect for the natural world. By teaching adolescents how to tackle hard challenges and pull off complex endeavors, we encourage them to fulfill their potential and go on to benefit their communities as leaders, wherever they land.

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