The future is an uncertain destination for our UWCSEA learners. Our responsibility is to equip all our students with the tools they need to navigate the faster flow, the ever-changing tides and the hidden currents which we know they will encounter when they leave us.
Not only will that journey be one of challenge, it will also be one of great opportunity. To find a course, we believe that our students will not simply need tools - knowledge, understanding, skills - but will rely on deeply embedded values that will help them make choices in often complex and ambiguous environments. In reimagining learning for the unimaginable future our students will live and work in, we have returned to our mission and guiding statements to help us find a path.
Learning and our Mission Competencies
Our guiding statements illustrate a journey that begins with our Mission and the values that derive from it, and culminates with students (of any age) on their way to developing Mission Competencies that help them to enact the mission. The Mission Competencies emerge when students, and our alumni, mobilize their learning in complex, real-world situations in service to the mission.
We define a Mission Competency as the summation of skills, knowledge, attitudes (dispositions) and values. We have developed our own thinking from the OECD work on Transformative Competencies for 2030. Critically, within each UWCSEA Mission Competency lies the implication that it will lead the holder to take action, to become a changemaker and to use their education as a force for the benefit of society, not simply as a vehicle for personal success. This bias for action is central to the UWC philosophy.
Mission Competencies explained
Below are the five competencies that the learning leadership team, through an ongoing review of the UWCSEA Learning Programme, have currently identified as reflecting both the breadth of our holistic learning programme and the ways that students and alumni can be seen to be enacting the mission.
- Competency 1: Essential Literacies: Critically and creatively integrating and adapting literacies essential to supporting communication and problem-solving in local and global contexts.
- Competency 2: Interpersonal and Intercultural Understanding: Engaging with the cultures, politics and identities of self and others, including the norms and values that underlie one’s actions.
- Competency 3: Peacebuilding: Building peace in local and global contexts.
- Competency 4: Sustainable Development: Engaging with complexity, understanding multiple futures, taking the role of steward and developing sustainable solutions within environmental, social, economic and political systems.
- Competency 5: Self and Community Wellbeing: Building wellbeing in self and others, whilst supporting a sense of connectedness and autonomy.
Between 2012 and 2018, we completed a project of major significance in articulating our K-12 curriculum across four of our five learning elements - Academics, Outdoor Education, Personal and Social Education, and Service. We are now taking the next step in our curriculum research and development programme by using our Mission Competencies, and the high levels concepts that derive from them, to lead significant developments in interdisciplinary learning. This will blur (but not eradicate) the lines between different disciplinary areas, and we will use our concept-based and experiential learning approaches to deepen and consolidate transfer of learning across all five elements of our Learning Programme.
Our journey now is towards a fuller realisation of the spirit of a holistic learning programme in a contemporary context. The Learning Programme, over time, will become increasingly aligned to our mission and intentionally guided by the Mission Competencies. These, in turn, develop and shape interconnected understandings at conceptual level into a deliberate intention to take action. As we continue to develop this evolutionary process over the next few years, we will take the parallel step of developing new pathways and new credential systems that acknowledge the achievements of our learners in the context of fulfilling our Mission, rather than measuring all of their achievements only against standardised frameworks.
Disruption and Pathways
Events during 2020 have exposed the limitations and the fragility of standardised testing. Not only is standardised testing a one-sized product when we know that learning does not take place in a linear or age-related manner, it has also been shown to be fallible when global events interrupt assessment structures. UWCSEA is already well on the path to producing new approaches to credentials and the celebration of learning. We will continue to embrace standardised tests such as the IB Diploma where learners need that qualification to progress to the next levels of their education, but we will also provide alternative pathways to respond to the needs of learners.
The term pathway is, of itself, slightly misleading in that it implies the development or adoption of alternative programmes. This is not a part of our future thinking. Rather, our intention is to develop a much more agile credit framework that allows us to move credit towards the skills, needs and attributes of individual learners, rather than to move the learners towards the requirements of single set of standardised tests.
There will always be standards attached to the credits and there will always be challenge at a high level - the attainment of a Mission Competency will never be an ‘easy’ thing. However, we recognise that there must be greater agility, greater agency, greater personal choice in the way we recognise the extraordinary talents of our young people. We celebrate our scientists and our engineers, our economists and our linguists but we also celebrate our dancers and our sportspeople, our designers and our musicians, our artists and our entrepreneurs - all of them deserve an accreditation that reflects the contribution they can make to society.
As a part of this development, our University Advisory teams are actively engaged in evaluating initiatives such as the Mastery Transcript Consortium and other routes into higher education to ensure that all our learners have excellent opportunities on graduation. Excellence and choice are not opposite values - at UWCSEA, our mission-aligned pursuit is to provide both for our students.
A significant part of our thinking and research on the UWCSEA Learning Programme is the development of appropriate learning opportunities which reflect our commitment to anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion. Working teams across the College will continue to revisit our policies and practices with this intention. From a curriculum perspective our reimagining of learning will include a review of the content of our Academic learning programmes and the intentions behind our commitment to Service. This is long term work that we will seek to connect to our pathways strategy.
Learning and Wellbeing Principles
All of our approaches to learning are based on a belief that our learners need to flourish and thrive. Our Learning Principles describe the conditions in which students learn best. To support that thinking we have developed College Wellbeing Principles which are loosely based upon self determination theory and the work of Ryan and Deci. As we seek to develop continuously, we keep in mind that the learning principles that we have adopted will not be effective unless our learners and our teachers feel competent, autonomous and connected. This work is specifically developed through our Personal and Social Education Programme but reaches far more widely into the language that we use on a day to day basis and a sustained focus on agency, and on self determination.
Global Learning Resource
Disruption has become the norm for all parts of our educational, social and political landscape. Emergent technologies have been both a cause of, and a solution to, the enormous wave of change and challenge that has set a faster and less predictable pace to everyday living.
Our research and development in this area has been rapid. We have embraced the change and tried to lead thinking in developing pedagogies to optimise the landscape of remote and blended learning. In these pursuits, we have been joined by sister UWCs to develop a global learning resource which will open up opportunities for our learners, particularly those who may be forced into the need for remote learning by natural or political forces.
We are thinking further ahead than this, however. We envision a time when global classes might be a part of our programme; this might begin to erode the line between the end of secondary and the beginning of tertiary learning. We are reimagining a future of learning that may not be entirely based around location and may not entirely be conducted within the traditional confines of a school day.
As our thinking continues to evolve, the concept of Mission Competencies will guide us, while technology, a possible move away from traditional timetabling in K-12 schools, and the changing landscape of university learning and the world of work will open up new possibilities for our students.