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Bake to the Future

Ms Sarah Frew, Associate Dean (Academic Care)

The inspiration for this article came from an unusual place—sitting in morning traffic on Gregory Terrace. The CWA logo on a building across the road from the School prompted some reflection; perhaps because the previous evening, I had indulged in an episode of the Great British Food Revival where Michel Roux Jr. shared the ‘lost art of baking bread’. It was a piece on artisanship and it was delightful.

It occurred to me as I sat in the traffic that taking time to think and reflect, and the art of baking were analogous. Both are about choice, and the very deliberate act of slowing down, putting time and effort into a process learned and honed over generations—a process that is humble yet sustaining.

It is hard to use our time in such a way when a fast and easy alternative is so convenient. This is perhaps what captivated me—the choice to slow down a process. When was the last time I baked bread? I wondered. What is it about the process of baking it yourself that makes it so delicious? How can we choose ‘slow’ in the face of agendas that call endlessly for agility and innovation? (Deloitte, 2018). Reflecting on the trends of our time it is easy to feel that our wider context, and particularly the world of work, is moving at a frenetic pace, that change is the mode d’etre (CSIRO, 2018).

Both Deloitte’s and the CSIRO’s recent reports on these ‘megatrends’ makes clear that the age of artificial intelligence is upon us and new frontiers for thinking and problem-solving are emerging. Thriving in the face of these trends will require agility, resilience, and most importantly, the propensity to think—deeply, divergently and creatively (Deloitte, 2018). The wave of automation and ‘disruption’ is exciting but it brings with it positive and negative impacts, both apparent and yet to be realised. In the face of constant, immanent, and seemingly accelerating change, there is clear value in knowing when to step back and take the time to evaluate, to appreciate, to cogitate.

It is important that we in our school communities think about how we are readying our students for their futures. I cannot help but think that the things that have always mattered will continue to do so, even in a world underpinned by constant change and adaptation. In order to meet the moral imperative of preparing our students for these kinds of futures, we must continue to offer a broad, liberal education within a rich, rigorous and robust culture of thinking. We must keep our eyes on strategic forecasting, without giving in to the urgencies or uncertainties of the present paradigm (Hargreaves and Fink, 2012).

This presents a paradox: working slowly in a fast-paced world. Time is indeed our most precious resource. It is vitally important that we think deeply about the teaching and learning moments when exploring the curriculum, of course, but it is also important to consider the ‘hidden’ curriculum (Costa and Kallick, 2009). What skills, attributes and dispositions need nurturing? In a recent panel discussion on ABC’s The Drum, the former Principal of MLC School Sydney, Ms Louise Roberts-Smith, and CSIRO Senior Principal Scientist, Dr Stefan Hajkowicz, offered some eminently sensible observations and fascinating insights about the digitally enabled workforce of tomorrow and the implications for schools. Roberts-Smith talked about the hidden curriculum that resides in traditional classroom spaces, and the need for students to be supported in using their time optimally—managing distraction, establishing routines and behaviours that disengage from the ‘noise’ of digital immersion—the world of ‘insta’ and ‘snap’—in order to privilege deep thinking (The Drum, 2018).

Ron Ritchart, whose work underpins Harvard Project Zero, outlines a set of cultural forces for schools to harness in order to meet the challenges of tomorrow. The thinking culture Ritchart espouses is one that Girls Grammar is committed to building. The term ‘culture’ is as important here as it is in bread baking. In the school context, culture means other people—and it is this ‘culture’ that promotes growth. In Ritchart’s model, carefully constructed language and thinking moves exploit this basic truth that good thinking is a highly relational endeavour, that ‘transformative learning is more likely in community’. The social side of thinking well is an important ingredient in uncovering complexity. Lessons are more likely to ‘stick’ when thinking is done deliberately, and in company.

We need to think carefully about the learners headed for futures in our fast-paced, technology-driven world. Lucy Clark explored some of the pressures facing young people today in her recent book, Beautiful Failures. She makes some parental observations about perfectionism and the potential impact of perceived or real pressure to perform. We need to think carefully about the values we model, and support students to develop not only social and emotional resilience but also academic resilience, too. This means that we do not pretend to our children and students that ideas come out fully formed and beautiful. They emerge from a process every bit as messy, sticky, procedural, failure-prone and demanding as good baking. Some of our ideas will rise wonderfully, while others will not.

What we don’t need to give our young learners is a ‘packet mix’. The demands of  assessment can feel challenging. Quite understandably, students often want teachers to ‘tell us what we need to know’, particularly in an environment where performance is so carefully tracked and reported. This kind of knowledge is a commodity, and one that decreases in relevance and value after assessment. The ability to make connections, to seek to know how and why things work as they do, to test ways of thinking and to make learnings ‘stick’ is a harder but much more valuable challenge.

In a thinking culture, we relish this kind of productive struggle because we want our young charges to become the best versions of their thinking selves. It is important that we emphasise and value process and industry over grades—choosing to focus on the ‘baking’ rather than purchasing a ready-made, homogenous, ‘cookie-cutter’ product. Artisanal learning requires the combination of premium ingredients and a tried and tested method. The rewards are delectable: thinkers who are ethical, considered and informed develop into young people who demonstrate curiosity, courage, confidence, compassion and creativity—ready to make positive, meaningful contributions to the world.

 

 

References

 

ABC. (2018). The Drum [TV program].

AFR Innovation Summit 2017: Bill Ferris – Reflections on Report. (2017). Presentation, Sofitel – Sydney, Australia.

Australia 2030: navigating our uncertain future – CSIRO. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.csiro.au/en/Do-business/Futures/Reprts/Australia-2030

Clark, L. (2016). Beautiful failures. North Sydney: Penguin Random House.

Costa, A. and Kallick, B. (2009). Learning and leading with habits of mind. Moorabbin, Vic: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Hajkowicz, S. (2015). Global Megatrends: seven patterns of change shaping our future. Victoria: CSIRO Publishing.

Hargreaves, A. and Fink, D. (2012). Sustainable Leadership. Hoboken: Wiley.

Limerick, D., Crowther, F. and Cunnington, B. (2002). Managing the new organization: collaboration and sustainability in the post-corporate world. Allen & Unwin Pty.

Morrison, K. Ritchart R, and Church, M. (2013). Making thinking visible. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass.

Ritchart, R. (2015). Creating cultures of thinking: the 8 forces we must master to truly transform our schools. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass.

The future of work – Occupational and education trends in Australia. Deloitte Access Economics, Workforce. (2018). Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/economics/articles/future-of-work-occupational-education-trends.html

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