Meeting with David Istance
Senior Analyst, Project Leader,
Directorate for Education and Skills, Innovative Teaching and Learning
Subject: Innovative Pedagogies for Powerful Learning
David connected us with:
Gaelle Chapelle, who has just set up CitaD’el and has worked with teachers and innovation and learning in French Belgium
Val Mendes, who leads the education innovation work at the Jaume Bofill Foundation in Barcelona, – growing a network of schools in low SES communities through a group of foundations with a strong focus on innovative pedagogy
Val has immediately responded and as we work to scale Manaiakalani outreach, may be a valuable ally who is working on very similar challenges in Spain.
Our conversation was illuminating and helpful and was focused around the tension in the developed world, (which can be seen clearly through the OECD lens) between test scores, e.g. PISA which is an OECD product, seriously affecting government decisions, and the necessary focus on the learner, C21 skills and attributes and what will be required for success in our jurisdictions going forward.
This was really an expansion of the bipolar tension we already have in NZ, evidenced in part by the tension between the front and back halves of the NZ Curriculum.
The front half of the New Zealand Curriculum contains a well stated set of descriptors for attributes, skills and understandings we desire our New Zealand learners to have. The back half, necessarily, focuses on the knowledge and core curriculum skills we need our learners to have. Currently, this tension is left for schools to resolve community by community, as the NZC requires that we contextualise our curriculum delivery at the community level.
Similarly, on the one hand our political leaders spout the rhetoric of learner centric C21 skills and attributes and on the other they demand better PISA results, (test scores in core subjects), especially for the Education Long Tail, ( a local name for our struggling Maori and Pasifika kids) .
This desire for improved achievement outcomes is not wrong, indeed I’ve worked hard for it during my 37 years in education. The problem is that increased top down teacher accountability measures related to test scores will not bring the desired outcome, neither will it improve learner performance with or ownership of the important C21 attributes desired by commerce and and our increasingly digital economies. This is not a problem specific to New Zealand but affects the whole of the developed world. Downward pressure around student test scores is exerted on the compulsory sector of education by parents (who remember how school was for them), by politicians (who want to score high on the league table of nations) and by universities (who want their students to arrive with what they deem to be the necessary academic skills).
David has the job of running a department in OECD that gets way less publicity than the PISA stuff as they investigate ways to get innovative pedagogies happening across the developed world. They have a connection with prof. Michael Fullan’s New Pedagogies for Deeper Learning development but he described that as being further advanced than they are presently.
A good thing that is happening is that Andreas Schleicher is steering OECD toward a more learner centric approach, with a greater emphasis on Lateral Learning. The Learning and Change Networks in NZ have been of some influence, and David expressed disappointment that due to political and funding forces it had “died a death”.
Steering OECD toward a more learner centric approach is not easy as governments find PISA really easy to understand and relate to and they like the way it ranks countries. As Michael Fullan says, it’s really hard to give politicians sound bites about innovative pedagogies and deeper learning.
The western politicians who subscribe most heavily to the “PISA based approach to education” would not actually like their children and grandchildren to live and go to school in the jurisdictions getting the highest scores, (with the exception of Finland), because they actually aspire to different qualities of life for their progeny. Interestingly some of those jurisdictions are now realising their education product is not creative, imaginative and curious enough and are beginning to investigate a more learner centric approach, whilst the pressure still mounts on us to match their PISA scores.
My take on this is that we want our scores to be respectable. The correlation between NCEA Level 2 and later success is enormous. The correlation between having had a tertiary education and being in the top 3rd of western society’s income strata, is inescapable. I do not think, however that we need to sacrifice precious aspects of life-style and culture to be at the top of PISA.
I’m encouraged to hear that Andreas Schleicher is leading PISA to look at broader definitions of success along with Reading, Writing, Mathematics and Science. Serious “ups” to David, who along with others is working to get innovative pedagogies gearing up across the globe in the belief that this will not only deliver learners to the adult community with a desirable graduate profile in respect of C21 attributes but also produce improved outcomes against traditional education metrics.