When following the guidelines of what the Australian Curriculum has been designed to achieve, it is evident that we are endeavouring to provide our students’ with an educational experience that will equip them with knowledge, skills and insights for their future.
In addition to the eight learning areas, the Australian Curriculum has included seven general capabilities as well as three cross-curricular areas which are important to “life and work in the 21st century” (Australian Curriculum. 2013). These have been included and incorporated within the content of the learning areas in order to realise the goals set out in the “Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians” (MCEETYA. 2008). As an educator today, I feel that the inclusion of these components ensures that we are supported to provide the spaces and opportunities for our students to “become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens”. (Australian Curriculum. 2015).
There will always be issues where teachers are time-poor and face the challenges of “fitting” in all the curriculum areas. However, by incorporating this underlying message into our pedagogical practices and into the design of the physical and technological spaces we utilise for learning, we can see that educators are becoming facilitators rather than the experts or masters of their domain.
I feel it is our task to help students identify their own learning behaviours and to support the development of these behaviours and skills for the lifetime of learning that is yet to occur beyond our school gates. It is our task to allow the opportunities, learning spaces and examples of how to refine our creative and imaginative learning behaviours and to adjust our assessment practices to acknowledge and reflect these processes. It is our task to support our students (and ourselves!) as we make mistakes and to allow the time and opportunity to reflect on why the mistake occurred and how the process could be refined in future.
It is our task to teach our students how to collaborate with one another – to respect, challenge, and enhance one another’s learning experiences by offering honest, respectful contributions in the form of sharing knowledge, skills, opinions or prior experience. The collaboration is then further enhanced and developed by members contributing constructive feedback, insight, and personal reflections in order to grow and learn together, as well as from one another.
By allowing our students, ourselves, and our wider community members to embrace and develop functioning communities of practice (CoP) (Smith, 2009), we are equipping our students with the skills necessary to become active and informed citizens for years to come.
I feel that the learning spaces we provide for our 21st century students should be embracing these criteria. We need to ensure that we are creating physical and technological spaces for our students to learn the behaviours, knowledge and skills necessary for their future – one that requires innovation, collaboration, creativity and imagination. This is not to say that literacy and numeracy fall to the wayside. Quite the opposite, in fact. If anything, these pedagogical practices and approaches to designing the physical and technological spaces we utilise daily allow us to achieve these goals more comprehensively.
We should be aiming to provide our learners with spaces that meet their individual learning needs, engaging resources to do it with, AND the opportunity to develop, collaborate and refine their learning skills as well as subject-area knowledge. And, as educators, we should be following a similar model – surrounding ourselves with members of our own CoP’s to collaborate with and to support and enhance our own experience as teachers.