So what does this shift toward competencies mean for students and
schools? According to MindShift writer Katrina Schwartz, it means that
“students must be able to demonstrate that they can transfer their
knowledge to new contexts, applying skills to challenges they’ve never
seen before. This often means developing life-long habits of learning.”
For schools, a significant implication is that standards-based assessing
and reporting will become more and more common. Standards-based
assessment has already gained popularity in schools around the world
because, as Schwartz points out, “assessment is a continual part of the
learning cycle, not a final judgment at a time when a student has no hope
of changing the outcome.” Utilizing a standards-based system allows
students to demonstrate growth in competency areas that are missing
from traditional grading systems.
Teaching by Topic rather than by Subject
Long before the 2010 documentary film Waiting for Superman
condemned the United States education system by repeatedly comparing
it to the more successful Finnish education system, Finland was
innovating and churning out students who were tested less, yet were
more successful on standardized tests and happier by all measures.
Now Finland is innovating again as they move from teaching by subject
to teaching by topic in an effort to better prepare students for the 21st
Century workforce. According to Helsinki city development manager Pasi
Silander in an interview with The Independent, “what we need now is a
different kind of education to prepare people for working life.” In this
new system, which has been referred to as “phenomenon” teaching by
Finnish teachers, co-teaching by teachers and collaboration among
students will be hallmarks.
As they have been doing for years, educators around the world will be
watching Finland closely to find out which parts of this innovative
approach can be implemented in their own education systems.