Educational research summarised: New vision for education

‘New Vision for Education: Fostering Social and Emotional Learning through Technology’ published by the World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum, in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, have just published this report as a follow up to their 2015 report ‘New Vision for Education: Unlocking the Potential of Technology.’

It positions technology as a support to social and emotional learning (in England, this falls under the title PSHE – personal, social, health and emotional.)

The premise for the report is that in order to “thrive in the 21st century, students need more than traditional academic learning”. This is where skills like the 4Cs (communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking skills) are so important and it is these, they suggest, that are developed through social and emotional learning.

The 2015 report defined 16 ‘crucial proficiencies’ required to prepare students for life beyond school. The report looked at the potential of technology in the teaching and learning of such proficiencies.

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This report takes the competencies and character qualities and further defines these as being encompassed under the umbrella of social and emotional learning.

Three key opportunities for technology to be used in the advancement of social and emotional learning (SEL) are identified as follows:

  • Capitalising on what works – stakeholders in education benefitting from existing Educational Technology which already promote SEL
  • Embedding social and emotional learning into Educational Technology products designed for academic skills such as literacy and numeracy (where much investment is)
  • Exploring new and innovative technologies – looking to opportunities for new pedagogical strategies to be employed (e.g. VR, apps, wearable technology)

In the executive summary, challenges to overcome are discussed e.g. infrastructure within schools and the need for professional development along with the key role that the different stakeholders have.

‘Coupled with mastery of traditional skills, social and emotional proficiency will equip students to succeed in the swiftly evolving digital economy.’

Summary of chapters:

Chapter 1: This chapter discusses the benefits of SEL, crucially the mutual benefit with academic subjects such as literacy and numeracy. Best practice found during research focusses more on non-technology based teaching strategies. Describing the skills as imperative for young generations:

“who require a wide ranging set of social and emotional abilities to prepare them for the demands of a rapidly changing workplace, position them to achieve better academic outcomes and equip them to contribute to society.”

Chapter 2: “Technology holds enormous promise to help foster 21st century skills, including social and emotional skills” is how the chapter begins. There is discussion about the reason why technology may not have been best utilised. The potential of games in promoting SEL is discussed. The chapter includes a diagram of Educational Technology features that promote SEL, these are aligned to the competencies and character qualities from the introduction.

The chapter continues with a proposed set of standards to become a “seal of approval” for products that foster SEL. Feedback from investors suggests funding will be more likely for products that integrate SEL features into core academic subjects. Examples of new and innovative uses of technology such as virtual reality are written about.

Chapter 3: The barriers to fostering SEL through technology are analysed in chapter 3. Although there is awareness among teachers of SEL and even Educational Technology products to promote learning in this area, many reported a lack of programme throughout the school. In a survey, the highest percentage of teaching placing emphasis on teaching social and emotional skills was from China (data coming from Shanghai and Beijing only). In terms of the technologies used, there was consistency across countries, with presentation software and digital content (e.g. videos) through the computer and interactive whiteboard are the most common. Compared with 13% in the UK and 11% in the US, 21% of Chinese respondents said they used augmented reality in the classroom. In writing about the way forward, the collaboration of stakeholders is discussed, agreeing first to the problems needing to be solved.

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Chapter 4: In writing about the way forward, the collaboration of stakeholders is discussed, agreeing first to the problems needing to be solved.

The diagram from page 24, visually represents these stakeholders.

Under the heading ‘How global organizations shape the agenda’, The report writes of OECD updating PISA ‘to include a measure of creative problem-solving’ which they consider to be a ‘giant step towards recognizing the importance of social and emotional skills.’

At a country level, the role different stakeholders hold in advancing the agenda is discussed, including policy-makers providing opportunities of experimentation and dissemination of best practice. It is suggested that educators engage with other stakeholders to create or pilot SEL programmes including incorporation of Educational Technology.

The report ends by suggesting ways that collaboration can be fostered among stakeholders; ‘It will take the cumulative effort of many individuals and organizations to prepare children with the social and emotional skills they will need to thrive.’  By working together, developing social and emotional skills can become ‘a shared goal and competency of education systems everywhere.’

The report can be accessed here.