Learning for the future - trust, technology and testing?

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

Future learning - trust, technology and testing

(Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash)

This week we're looking at why organisational trust is a key factor in developing high performing organisations, and what leaders needs to consider when establishing an environment in which innovation and people can thrive. Broadly, we explore these questions:

1. What's a critical element within high-performing organisations and communities?

2. Does the use of technology within schools automatically mean that teachers and students are becoming 'future ready'?

3. Is using technology to measure student achievement and progress problematic?

4. How can we teach people to have a voice and decision-making power as work changes?

Please leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments, or email me at sean@futurelearningproject.com.

What does the empirical evidence say really matters when creating a high-performing organisation in which people are motivated and engaged in their work? The answer: Trust. The question is, how can organisational trust be built and it's existence quantified?

Paul J. Zaknat at Claremont Graduate University spent eight years measuring brain activity and oxytocin levels while people worked, and he identified the following as being critical to building high organisational trust:

1. Ovation - recognise and reward excellence.

2. Expectation - challenge people, and show them how their work is part of a wider mission.

3. Yield - delegate responsibility and trust people. Let mistakes be opportunities for learning, not blame.

4. Transfer - let people and teams have ownership of their work.

5. Openness - Be clear and honest. Even it's bad news people prefer to be told in a transparent way.

6. Caring - care for other people, help them, build strong relationships.

7. Invest - find out what people's personal and professional goals are and support them.

8. Natural - be genuine and authentic. Have integrity, and do the right thing when no-one else is looking.

Effectively, trust acts as a 'social lubricant', making the natural challenges of working together with others more enjoyable and enabling people to work at a higher level. The benefits are many: productivity and levels of innovation rise, burnout is reduced, and because work is such a big part of our lives, life generally feels better, and that's a good thing for everyone.

Are educational and school leaders trained in understanding and facilitating factors critical to building organisational trust? How about teachers in classrooms? Would it help learning, and if so, how? Does your organisation (school?) have a high trust environment?

Technology is transforming teaching and learning for the better. Or is it?

During the course of our research we often come across examples of how technology is changing how students are taught and assessed, but closer inspection leaves us with a few questions.

In this example, students are tackling the common core tests using 'technology enhanced item types'. Instead of circling multiple choice questions using a pencil, students drop and drag boxes, select from drop down menus, and use equation builders instead of writing maths problems. The question is: what exactly has changed in how the students are being assessed?

Teachers are worried that in addition to the knowledge that students need to learn to pass the tests, they also need to understand the technology and practice using it. What appears to be pervasive in this discussion is anxiety and fear - "... teachers wondered how they’d ever get their students prepared."

There's more:

"Teachers began to worry that without repeated exposure to the new item types, students would perform poorly on testing—not because they hadn’t mastered the material, but because they hadn’t mastered the technology."

"Common Core testing season is right around the corner, so you want to spend some time making sure your students have the technological skills that will be required of them."

It appears that the use of technology in this instance has simply added more to teachers' workloads for little observable benefit to students and their learning. This is a well intentioned article designed to help teachers with a real problem - they are accountable for their students results and want them to do well.

So what is the purpose of all this? Does it make marking faster and easier? Does it improve teaching and learning? What is the benefit of incorporating technology into traditional pedagogical practices? How does it help students and teachers? Are we discovering technologically advanced ways of maintaining the status quo?

In keeping with our testing in education / use of technology theme, here's something from Australia that we've been following for a while - NAPLAN.

We've visited schools in Australia in which the entire academic effort and sense of worth as a school community is based on their NAPLAN test results (Google it), and over the past year or so the conversation has turned to whether these tests should be conducted online and marked by 'robots' (AI).

The conversation itself has been fascinating given the 'high stakes' culture around these tests. Controversy appears to have started when someone suggested automating the marking process in addition to human marking. The result? Principals were 'angered', academics cautioned that things might go wrong, and allegedly the integrity of the entire testing process was at stake.

Politicians got involved. The NSW Minister for Education Rob Stokes declared that “To put my position more plainly: there will never be machine marking of writing tasks while I am NSW Education Minister.” In December, the national Education Council declared it over - there would be no robot marking of tests.

But now it's back. Recent national studies have been 'overwhelmingly positive' in their feedback of online NAPLAN testing and marking. It is extremely accurate, students were 'engaged and incredibly positive', teachers now have 'enriched' data, and Ministers are under pressure to accept this new reality. Minister Stokes has now panned NAPLAN in general, and is seeking to replace it (a good thing?) with a micro-auditing system called ALAN, which appears to reply heavily on formative assessment but is time-intensive.

Leaving aside whether NAPLAN is a good thing or not, this has been an interesting observation of change and taking a baby step towards the future within education. The very idea of change, regardless of whether the empirical evidence suggests it's necessary or a good thing or not, generates intense national interest, inspires divisive debate, sees massive expenditure and copious amounts of anxiety and fear. And it's not over yet - as we've seen in previous posts, resistance to innovation is built into the system, and the debate will continue.

How does this bode for the systemic disruption that's necessary for national education systems to adapt to our rapidly changing world? Can it possibly happen?

The growth of the gig economy, in which workers compete for contract jobs rather than employment, is huge, will continue to grow, and will involve or affect most workers and/or their families over the coming 15 years. Companies are shedding workers and moving to flexible contracts, and the day may come when large multi-national companies don't have any employees at all.

The short-term benefits can seem tempting: workers can choose who they work for, they may see an increase in pay, highly-skilled and in-demand workers may see huge pay rises, and they can largely structure their days to suit their preferred working hours. So far, so good.

But then come the downsides: contracts abruptly cancelled, lost jobs due to lower-priced competition, long, ever-changing hours, stagnating or decreasing wages for low-skilled workers - there's no minimum wage because they are technically not employees, no access to benefits, the danger of a 'hand to mouth' existence.

Written in the year 2028, this article explores scenarios that current students will face as they enter and become established in the workforce. Workers bid for positions through apps based on hourly rates, McDonalds no longer employs anyone at all, and the majority of the workforce is now outsourced on demand. It takes a retrospective view of how it all happened, and identifies two key factors in accelerating the gig economy: technological advances and changes to labour laws.

What does this mean for learning? Students and even mature adults must be engaged in a conversation that allows them to identify trends that are happening in the workplace, so that they are informed and in a position to negotiate and make good choices for themselves. How can we go about realising this?

Thank you for joining us this week. Please don't forget to comment on our articles and posts - we want to share ideas, critical thought and constructive feedback.


#Trust #Modernworkplace #Collaboration #Technology #Community #Assessment #GigEconomy #Work

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