Globalisation has its positive and negative effects. Technology has pros and cons. Nothing is black or white and everything is a shade of grey. Photographs are no longer hard evidence of a true event. What we knew yesterday we are not sure of today. What waits for us in the future is too disruptive to fathom. We are arguably more consciously aware but perhaps less anchored. Ethics are personalized and codes of common practice are contested. Facts are debatable depending on your perspective. Communities and connections are virtual as much as actual. Parents are not sure whether to be mindful and present, or ‘future proofed’. As schools, it is all well and good to set a vision for the future, but where exactly are we going? Can we even conceptualise 2030 and beyond, given that according to a 2011 study in Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, knowledge is set to double every 73 days?
“It is estimated that the doubling time of medical knowledge in 1950 was 50 years; in 1980, 7 years; and in 2010, 3.5 years. In 2020 it is projected to be 0.2 years—just 73 days. Students who began medical school in the autumn of 2010 will experience approximately three doublings in knowledge by the time they complete the minimum length of training (7 years) needed to practise medicine. Students who graduate in 2020 will experience four doublings in knowledge. What was learned in the first 3 years of medical school will be just 6% of what is known at the end of the decade from 2010 to 2020.”
Granted, education is guilty of moving forward with a one hundred year lag. By and large, children are still funneled into institutional environments to sit in industrialized rows, like they might to prepare for a factory setting. Furthermore, they are likely fed predetermined, standardized content, with each candidate being assessed on the same measure; fish or leopard, they must all climb trees. Teachers complain when a curriculum is changed every five years. Parents pressure teachers and administrators to deliver school like they experienced it decades ago. EdTech innovators sell products that break the budget and are obsolete before the next audit, if not next month. All in all, nothing much changes, and when it does, the changes may not be enduring.
How should educators respond so that we are not spewing forth dated knowledge badly but equipping our children to stride into their world competent to manage change and diversity. How do we orientate them to possibility as much as problems?
We must embrace, with all our might, cognitive education practice.
Cognition is adaptive and changeable (Feuerstein, 2005). Cognitive strategies will withstand escalating knowledge and solve unpredictable problems. Developed cognition will allow for the assessment of perception and guard against prejudice. It will uphold ethics and the respect of one person for another. Indeed, metacognition is key to success. By ordering our thoughts, individuals and communities can make sense of what is before us and integrate what comes our way. These concepts are more than an idea or trend and involve substantially more than being a thinking school.
Cognitive development is about a process of becoming – each person on his journey, each school on its mission. It is an ethos, a culture, a belief, a pedagogy. Categorise it as you like. Reuven Feuerstein calls it ‘human learning’. Schools, and the parents who partner with them, should gear everything towards developing the learner and his or her cognitive profile actively and intentionally. To cover ground, we need to do so disruptively even. This is neither a radical nor alternative thought. Cognitive psychologists have been showing us how for more than a century.
Some educators ‘get it’. Some don’t. Some won’t. However, in this system called ‘schooling’, we can each ‘tidy our rooms’, order our thoughts and apply what we can where we can.
Here’s to best practice. Here’s to the kids. Here’s to a brighter future.