Session 74: What exactly are we, as educators, preparing our students for?

Session Title:

What exactly are we, as educators, preparing our students for?

Session Summary:

Hmmm… the topic this week was a slightly daunting prospect to moderate. Could it be any more open-ended or actually any more pertinent? I think the #ukedchat community rose to the challenge though, with a fast-paced and thought-provoking discussion.

There was much debate about our current curriculum model and whether it allows us the scope to prepare pupils for their futures. People seemed to be broadly in agreement that the model is out-dated and…

I posed the question what in our own schooling had prepared us best and the responses were interesting. Many people extolled the virtues of extra-curricular activities, school trips and membership of teams as having taught essential life skills which have proved more useful than individual subject content.

There was talk of needing to prepare students for sustainable living, global citizenship and digital literacy. People also advocated skills such as resilience, independent thinking and learning, questioning and learning from mistakes. Given the current political and economic climate, there was also a healthy (in my opinion!) smattering of cynicism amongst the often idealistic thoughts of some.

I think @paulhaigh ‘s “teach them what is necessary for life” tweet resonated with me. As a fellow Notre Dame teacher (yes, I recognised the motto!) I think this goes to the very heart of what we’re all striving for: preparing our pupils to make the very best out of their lives. For some, as we discussed, that might mean teaching the basics like cooking, budgeting, looking after their physical and emotional health in addition to stretching and challenging them academically.

The need to embed independent learning and questioning skills seemed to be a priority for most of the contributors. We want to enable students to ask questions, to challenge and to become lifelong learners. (Some contributors offered examples of how they do this in their lessons – please do check the archive and list of web links shared for more details.) I liked @ufasarah ‘s term “learning dispositions” as a way of describing these qualities. Entrepreneurial skills were discussed, as was the role of ‘experts’ in assisting to equip students with vital skills and experiences beyond the classroom.

Of course there was the potentially damaging clash between the wanting to equip students with these skills and attitudes and the need/pressure to produce measurable test results. It seemed to be a widely-held belief that something needs to give in order for us, as teachers, to be able to prepare our students for something other than passing tests.

I think what was heartening to read (on a cold and gloomy night!) was the passion we all share for giving our students the best possible grounding we can to go away and make a success of their futures.

I’ve selected a few tweets that I found particularly relevant or thought-provoking. I hope those of you who participated enjoyed the chat and those who missed it find the archived discussion as stimulating as the real-time chat.

Notable Tweets from the Session:

@aangeli With the lack of 21st century skills on offer it feels like we’re preparing them for the 1890s! Time travel maybe?

@PhilWheeler1 Preparing people for jobs that don’t exist yet so need to be flexible, yet Gove wants to narrow the selection with the EBacc

@paulhaigh The founder of our school said ‘in the schools teach them what is necessary for life’ When did she say it? About 1840. Still drives us.

@SimonBainbridge Using the tools of now instead of yesteryear to teach/learn will help build relevant skills for students’ futures

@imrandjk At the moment we’re not really equipping them for anything other than jumping over the next “test” hurdle

@ufasarah For me it’s more about learning dispositions than skills that young people need to develop as learners. Things like curiosity and flexibility.

@JOHNSAYERS Primary really build in express and experiment with new cutting edge tech. Secondary too content driven.

@jackieschneider Abolish league tables, mix up the curriculum, give kids access to arts, sports, design, scientists, writers

@smile2learn So important to keep the development of the whole child at the heart of all we do. Only happy children learn.

@TeachToAll Children should be taught skills to become life-long learners, they shouldn’t simply be spoon fed facts!

@amoor4ed Despite government policy it’s down to leaders to make sure the kids in our schools get the curriculum they deserve. #bebrave

@ePaceonline I think we need to teach our pupils to ‘know what to do when they don’t know what to do’

@GillDeCosemo We need to teach children to think, listen, question, be curious, investigate, care, be independent, to strive. Not a tall order?

@neil_povey Am I hopelessly idealistic in thinking that we should be preparing pupils to be happy, good people whatever their strengths?

There were heaps more… seems a shame to have to select only a few!

Tweet of the Week:

There were many points raised which resonated with me. As a secondary teacher in the midst of (seemingly endless!) exam preparation however, I think this tweet really got to the heart of the matter:

@C_Hendrick Ultimately we should be teaching kids to ask the ‘right’ questions, not memorise the ‘right’ answers

Links Shared during the Session & Archive:

Available at

About your Host:

I’m a teacher of English in the North West. Currently second in department and interested in learning more about the power of classroom technology to transform pupil engagement. I enjoy participating in #ukedchat thanks to the diversity of its contributors.

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About UKEdChat Editorial 3169 Articles
The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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