NextGen schools: Measuring the success of innovative practices
Next generation (NextGen) learning is currently practiced and implemented in several states and many school districts across Europe, the USA and the UK. For me, this approach has been eye-opening in terms of how effectively students can prepare for college, their careers, and even citizenship.
Moreover, this approach has lots of benefits for educators. The national effort to create more opportunities for students will continue to create a healthier, safer, and self-paced learning environment, which should also be our priority. In this article, I'd like to highlight the main principles and objectives for the gradual transition from a modern model of education to a NextGen one.
I often hear that people think of NextGen learning as “teaching that uses a lot of technology.” I cannot say that this answer is completely inaccurate since new techniques in learning require technology to deliver knowledge. However, I need to highlight that the answer misses the essence of innovative teaching methods, and one cannot achieve effective learning by thinking that technology is the glue that holds it all together.
What are the NextGen teaching practices? What kind of technology do they use? How effective are they in addressing the learning needs of children? The answers to these questions are revealed in this article.
To explain the essence of this innovative method, I will present it from the viewpoint of a student:
- tailored to the ways I learn best
- supportive when I need additional explanations
- interactive and engaging so I could participate at any time
- provides opportunities to become skilful in my areas of interest
- achievable yet challenging
- available online so that I could learn anywhere
By looking at these points, it’s not hard to determine what NexGen learning is all about: individualised experience for every student, based on their strengths, weaknesses, skills, and interests.
There are a number of approaches used by NextGen schools in Europe, including personalised learning, competency-based education, deeper learning, blended learning, and student-centred learning. They are delivered by the following practices:
- Personalised learning plans: The schools that introduced NexGen learning focus on how individual students learn and retain information. By leveraging technology, they consider different roles for the students, including inventor, historian, journalist, scientist, coach, producer, and maker. Each of these roles requires individual learning plans to improve the educational outcome, so appropriate measures are taken to provide them. As a result, powerful learning experiences are created.
- Only specially trained teachers: NextGen schools have a special policy regarding teachers as well. They recruit teachers and develop them to ensure that they can meet the requirements of innovation strategy and of each individual student. Teachers perform a wide range of roles that extend well beyond the traditional role of an educator. Read how the Ukrainian Centre for Innovative Education “Pro.Svit” is developing the NextGen doctrine.
- Specific reform processes: According to the Conceptual Principles of the New Ukrainian School, this type of NextGen practice involves four particular stages: creating conditions for success, planning, implementing, and improving. First, academic goals, funding, and supporters need to be prepared to get to the next implementation stage. Second, the schools plan a timeline, as well as technology and staffing requirements. Third, when the infrastructure is in place, the implementation begins. Lastly, this process is monitored to provide adjustments that ensure that the school’s requirements are met.
- The NextGen Three-Level Model: All assessments used in NextGen schools aim to determine the success of the students in three specific outcomes: goals, feedback, and engagement. Learning experiences are designed according to this model as well. The model was developed by Dr. Ron Carriveau and serves as an assessment tool that allows teachers to narrow course goals into achievable outcomes.
- Digital investments: Technology plays an important role in meeting the goals of NextGen because it allows teachers and students to achieve more. That’s why schools use various tech tools and devices and relate them to student success.
- Growth promotion. According to NextGen philosophy, students’ progress needs to be guided by knowledge maps that identify critical knowledge as well as areas that need to be improved. The accomplishment is charted using various recognition systems, such as badges.
- Student profiles. NextGen schools are also different from traditional ones in terms of managing student database. Specifically, they create and maintain an electronic database with profiles of learners that are later used to ensure individualised education. The information on profiles is based on teacher observations and assessments and is also used to create portfolios. These portfolios commonly contain personal bests in different subjects and other relevant data such as grades of college papers. By analysing the profiles, it would be possible to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a student and determine effective motivational strategies.
- Innovational classroom designs. NextGen schools are moving away from traditional school and classroom designs because it prevents them from fully implementing the goals of innovational practices. One of the best examples of NextGen school design is e3 Civil High School Facility that was designed to support flexible and open space. It has glass walls, movable partitions, a lot of whiteboard surfaces, and media screens. Classrooms are called “studios.”
NextGen learning continues to make its way in the field of education. I hope this article was helpful for you in determining the essence of this revolutionary method and its importance for improving learning.