Jobs of the future and our way of life is changing thanks to a variety of interconnected factors, such as globalisation, the growth of cities, artificial intelligence, technology and the environment. Therefore, preparing our students while they are at school to become comfortable with these changes and be leaders of the future is at the forefront of education plans across the globe.
In Spain, the LOMLOE education law makes specific reference to this by focusing on digital competence, sustainable development and being a global citizen. Within that, there are 8 cross-curricular competences that children are developing throughout their school years to help them adapt to the world of the future. They are:
- Personal/Social/Learning to learn
- Cultural and artistic
The Pearson and Oxford Martin School research project makes nuanced predictions about the future of work and skills in 2030 and beyond. According to their research, the most in-demand skills mirror what has been changed in the education system and what curriculums are focusing on.
These Future Skills can be placed into four main categories, making it easier for teachers to plan their lessons. They are:
- Critical thinking
Traditionally, teachers have been paid for their skill in imparting knowledge and teaching memorisation techniques. This is now becoming obsolete. The widespread use of artificial intelligence means that the technology itself can reproduce facts at the touch of a button, thus reducing the importance of memorised details by our students. What artificial intelligence cannot do yet, or cannot do well, is to understand and use complex social, emotional, and creative skills. The teacher’s role is now about teaching how to work effectively. Students need to learn how to communicate a message clearly, work together, be creative and think critically. We, as teachers, need to place emphasis on teaching these skills, as they are very much taught and practiced, not developed naturally by students.
How can we make a start in this?
First of all, try to choose newer course books and materials that specifically address the needs and competencies outlined above. The Pearson course book Team Up Now! Is specifically focused on addressing the cross-curricular competencies outlined in the LOMLOE law, and each lesson plan is designed with those in mind, as well as the four Future Skills categories, the language goals and methods for evaluation.
If you are not able to access materials of course books where these skills are added for you, then here are some ideas to incorporate them into your classes yourself.
This is what teachers have been planning and practising for decades – practising speaking, listening, reading and writing skills in class. But it is always good to remember some advice to help our students get the most out of a lesson.
- Try to limit your teacher talk time so that students can talk more together during the class. For example, instead of asking questions one by one to a class and students raise their hands to answer (you will always get a teacher-one student ratio), place the questions on the board and ask students to discuss in pairs. In that way, all your students are talking at the same time.
- Make sure students have a reason to listen to each other. Placing them in pairs for a discussion sometimes doesn’t work as they don’t see the need to listen to each other and wait their turn. If they can fill in information on a worksheet as they speak, or that they know you will ask them after the activity to give you a summary of what they discussed, students are more likely to pay attention to their partner!
- Once your class has learnt the rules of a fun activity with you, e.g. a speaking game, try handing over the role of the teacher to a student or students, thus minimising your speaking time.
- Make sure that sentence starters are visible on the board so that the discussion can go as smoothly as possible, phrases such as ‘I reckon…’ ‘I see what you mean, but…’
- Every page of a course book has the opportunity for you to ask a question that personalises the learning. For example, if the Unit has been about travel, it is easy to add questions for students to discuss, such as how do you travel to school? What was your favourite ever journey? What do you think is the most comfortable/exciting/boring way to travel?
Critical thinking practices and develops organizing, categorizing, predicting, interpreting, analysing and evaluating, summarizing, and decision-making skills.
We often use these skills in our course books with vocabulary, e.g. organising and categorising groups of words,
and the rest of the skills we use them with listening and reading texts, such as here in activities 1, 3 and 4.
To help practice critical thinking skills, try:
- Think, pair and share: Before a story of listening, ask some questions to the students. Before they respond, they think about the answers themselves, quietly. Then, they talk to their partner and discuss their ideas. Finally, they share what they and their partner discussed with the class.
- With any vocabulary, you can invent some categorising criteria for students to sort, such as the sports example above. It is fine of some words overlap into multiple categories, as this will provoke discussion in pairs as to which category is the best fit.
- Use brainstorming charts to document students’ thoughts regarding “What I Know” and “What I Want to Know” before starting a unit and after learning has occurred, “What I Learned.” If any of the ‘What I Want to Know’ questions have not been addressed, add an extra stage before moving on to the next unit to either find out or discuss.
The ability to work with others is crucial. Making sure that students work in pairs, small groups, large groups is vital, a balance of gender grouping them with students of a similar level, or a mixed level are ways in which teachers can vary these interactions. This kind of collaboration also practices conflict resolution. Conflict will happen, as it is a part of life, but students get to practice how they resolve it in a safe environment and under your care.
Here is a great lesson plan about conflict resolution from Education Foundation of Sarasota County and a conflict resolution wheel that can be used in class.
This section is often the most fun in our lessons, and often it is the final project where most creativity takes place, but that doesn’t have to be the case. You can tweak and change your course book so that students can demonstrate that they have understood something, such as a grammar rule, by being more creative with how they show you.
This picture from www.fortheteachers.org shows that students can get creative in all stages of the lesson. For example,
In this lesson, students communicate by asking and answering their partner what they are good at. Instead, students may choose to practice the grammar by pretending they are interviewing each other on a talk show, inventing a questionnaire about what the class is good add and displaying the information in a chart format. It’s a great way for students to be themselves and get creative with what interests them.
This article has barely scratched the surface of how you can incorporate Future Skills into your classroom, but it is important to note that it doesn’t need to be time consuming or take your time away from teaching a language. When planning a lesson or series of lessons, try to identify tasks in the course book that could or do practice these future skills. Is there a balance of tasks, or are you mostly covering communication skills and not enough critical thinking skills? From there, you can identify where would be a good point to add in a mini-stage or activity to address the balance.