Beginning exploratory research
After identifying “Future-Ready Learner” in the graduate portrait as our focus area, we realized that the primary task is to have an operational definition of future-ready for the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD). What skills do students need to have in order to be adaptable to the changing job market? Should the main focus be on getting prepared for future work or individual resilience and agency? What does future-ready mean for students from different backgrounds, including the privileged and unprivileged?
We then came up with a more focused and structured research question to guide our research and help identify design opportunities–
We are researching what future-ready means and examples of future-ready education,
because we want to find out what capabilities and mindset students need to have for them to be adaptable to the future,
in order to better understand what artifacts may help achieve the goal.
To answer those questions and get a more clear sense of future-ready, we started our exploratory research by gathering evidence/signals around the following themes online:
- Investigating the current landscape
– Limitations of traditional education model
Understanding where the traditional education model falls short in preparing students for the future is essential for us to find potential leverage points. The documentary Most Likely To Succeed that features the experiences of students, teachers and parents in an innovative high school called High Tech High provides an insightful analysis of the traditional schools. For example, it pointed out that the current standardized school system is developed in the 19th century to produce “punctual, docile, and sober” factory workers that overlooked the fact that people are dynamic creatures and cannot be standardized. It also mentioned that from the perspective of cognitive science, people don’t retain inert knowledge, the knowledge they passively learned and memorized. This inspiring documentary led us to have a good discussion on the purpose of education in our meeting.
– Innovations that are taking place in schools
We studied existing projects that work on getting students to be future-ready, including those organized by schools and other organizations. Some examples are High Tech High in San Diego, the Montessori education model, and the Future Ready Schools project.
- Evaluating predictions for education
As we are designing for students in 10-15 years, it’s important for us to consider potential changes and innovations in the current education system. Therefore we searched online articles and videos about predictions for education. We found this video by Khan Academy especially interesting as it predicts changes in the occupation categories, classroom model, student assessment method, and teachers’ roles.
- Analyzing the demographics in SCUSD
To get a better understanding of the students and the community, we studied demographics data on websites such as Niche, National Center for Education Statistics, and EdData. We learned that the district includes students in grades TK-12. Its student population is 36% Asian, 34% Hispanic, 20% White, 5% Two or more races, 3% Black, 1% American Indian and 1% Hawaiian. Around 35.4% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and 24.2% are classified as English learners in the 2019–2020 school year.
We created a google sheet to share our own research findings and leave comments on our takeaways.
For the next phase of our exploratory research, we would like to use surveys and user interviews to study how K-12 educators interpret future-ready students and what measures they think are helpful. Our next step is generating two sets of questions, one specifically for the community in SCUSD and one for other people involved in K-12 education.