How do we prepare our students for what’s next? This question is on the minds and in the discussions of educators who daily confront the challenge of preparing students for the future of work in a world still unknown. To be honest, no one knows precisely what proficiencies and abilities will be required across different jobs and work settings. However, we can focus on the skills that the most successful workers use today in the current wave of new jobs.
One of the best ways we can prepare our current students for the future is to shift from teaching subjects and content to teaching how to learn. When students confront new knowledge or an unfamiliar task to master, do they have the ability to develop and use strategies for achieving mastery on their own? Students who know how to learn, who can learn independently in any discipline, will have the skill to adapt to the changes in any field they choose.
Creating inquisitive learners who look for answers themselves rather than rely on a teacher will prepare students to thrive in an industry that may look nothing like it does today. Going hand in hand with this ability to learn is the ability to adapt. Students who understand that information will change, technology will evolve, and new jobs will appear, have the tools to become resilient and thrive in any field.
Another valuable skill that will serve students in any field is effective communication. For this reason, English and composition courses may never become obsolete. However, their content can be updated to focus more on written and oral communication. These skills will serve students well in all aspects of a future career from working with colleagues to advertising and marketing products.
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Key to any field will be the ability to think critically and solve problems. Teaching strategies including experiential and project-based learning give students firsthand practice in developing critical thinking skills. Shifting the classroom approach away from traditional lectures to student-driven learning experiences will encourage students to develop these problem-solving skills.
Project-based learning and cooperative learning groups give students the opportunity to work with varied and diverse people. In an increasingly globalized economy, the jobs of the future may very well require workers to collaborate with teams based all around the world. Collaborative learning also depends on students being able to take on a variety of roles in completing a project. Collaborative skills will serve students well, particularly if they become entrepreneurs.
Finally, innovative learning strategies create more resourceful and resilient learners who are not afraid to take risks and not afraid to fail. These traits will encourage students to persist in any industry, particularly any that changes frequently and requires competition as part of long-term success. As educators we cannot pinpoint the exact content today’s students will need to learn so that they can thrive in our changing world. However, we can use innovative strategies in our classrooms to inspire our students to become life-long learners, with the skills they will need to adapt to a variety of roles.