Our accreditation process is a peer review process, but the decision on a school’s accreditation is made by an Evaluation Council and the CAIS Board. This group of volunteers works tirelessly through the summer, plowing away through hundreds of pages of reports, to make the recommendations on accreditation. For the most part, they are not immersed in CAIS schools on a daily basis. In fact, this decision-making body is required by our by-laws to be a majority of ‘independents’, which means that they are not current Heads or Governors of CAIS schools. This in turn means that our CAIS Board has a broad and deep range of expertise including business, law, and communications; upon reflection, our CAIS Board Skills Profile pretty much reflects our 12 CAIS National Standards. As one might expect from this kind of professional group, when they look at Visiting Committee Reports, they ask tough questions.
With this context in mind, you can appreciate an email I received from a non-educator Board member who was reading VC reports. The email asked me to clarify “the mystery about (1)”21st Century Education”, (2)”21st Century learners”, (3)”21st Century classrooms”, (4)”21st Century Learning”…”
Mystery indeed! Another Board member referred to it as “short form Ed speak.” My search to provide some definitions lead me down a deep dark time consuming google search hole, one link at a time…
Anyway, as I have said many times, I love questions, and I believe that asking – and answering! – questions is a big role for our CAIS office. I see our Boards spending as much time thinking about questions as they do answering questions, which is very effective practice.
The question about the mystery of 21st century learning is an important one. My research confirmed that there is no one single definition and many experts are vying to have their definition become THE accepted one. The fact is, there is a general understanding that it includes the 4 C’s (Creativity, Communication, Critical thinking, and Collaboration) and a whole list of other skills like innovation and resilience as well as technology integration of some sort.
But the mystery is actually bigger than the definition. The truth is that not only are we now 13 years into the 21st century without a common definition, we are 13 years without consistently excellent implementation strategies in all schools. We all know something different needs to be done to better prepare kids for an unknown future, and we have the technology to teach more innovatively. There is absolutely no shortage of experts describing the need to shift.
And yet, here’s the mystery: for the most part, we continue to be consumers and not yet doers. We are not seeing enough evidence of consistently innovative learning in public or independent schools. The mystery is in the How-to, and we need to solve it, and fast.
But here’s the good news. There are pockets of excellence in all CAIS schools and together, leaders from across Canada are working to solve the mystery.
CAIS is committed to leadership in learning, and I am proud of a few key initiatives:
- Our national research project focused on Inspiring Excellence in Learning and will launch an interactive online resource for members this fall. The committee will also make recommendations to the CAIS Board to enhance our accreditation process. This means that all CAIS schools will be required to define learning, hire to support the vision and mission of the school, and resource the implementation.
- Our Academic Leaders and HR Directors came together this July for a National Forum on Inspiring Excellence to share strategies and resources at our CAIS Summer Leadership Institute. Their resources combined with the committee’s research will all contribute to a new area of our CAIS website called CAIS Connect. This space will ensure that our schools can build a culture of trust nationally to share how they are inspiring and supporting change.
- Our boarding schools are gathering at a Boarding Summit this fall on Vancouver Island to share learning strategies unique to boarding schools.
- Our Heads and Chairs will hear from experts such as Yong Zhao who has designed schools that cultivate global competence, developed computer games for language learning, and founded research and development institutions to explore innovative education models.
I love that our CAIS schools are uncovering the mystery, and one thing I know for sure is that we can do this better together. I cannot wait for this year, as our schools continue to demonstrate that we are, actually, shaping the future of education….