Book review - Teaching for Tomorrow by Michael McQueen

Uncategorized Aug 14, 2020

"If we teach today's students as we taught yesterdays, we rob them of tomorrow." John Dewey. 

Michael McQueen is an Australian futurist and trend forecaster, that advises all kinds of industries all around the world on how to future-proof their businesses. His book, 'Teaching for Tomorrow', focuses on the education industry, and what it needs to do in order to ensure that students are effectively prepared for the future, and contains some excellent insights that we, as teachers, can take onboard.

The key skills that McQueen identifies as being essential for future success are: 

  • Self-direction: an increasing percentage of the workforce will be self-employed or in freelance roles in the future. Furthermore, employers will be looking for employees that don't have to be 'managed' - rather they want people who are life-long learners, who take risks, challenge themselves and grow in order to stay relevant in an age of fast-paced change. Current obstacles to attaining self-direction however, includes apathy, too much praise and protection from failure or hardship, and a fixed mindset. 
  • Tenacity: otherwise known as grit, resilience, optimism or determination. In order to cope with an ever-changing world and the multitude of problems that await them, students will need to be able to adapt and persevere during times of adversity. However various 'enemies' of tenacity that exist in today's world include lack of sleep, unrealistic expectations, entitlement, and a general unwillingness to make sacrifices or go through hardship in order to achieve a goal. 
  • Originality: the ability to be creative and construct new ideas is a uniquely human skill that cannot be replaced by AI, so these skills will be very valuable in the future. The enemies of originality include the traditional education system that suppresses imagination, too much distraction and not enough boredom. 
  • Acuity: being able to discern between reliable and unreliable sources of information to get to the 'truth', and being able to acquire deep knowledge, will be a critical skill. This is currently being held back by 'lazy learning' and short attention spans (due to high speed media)

In order to ensure that students are able to develop these skills at school, McQueen believes 4 big shifts need to happen within the education system. 

  1. 'From content delivery to capability building' (focusing on student output rather than input). Strategies for doing this include: 
    • Teacher as facilitator with more student led learning 
    • Cultivate critical thinking by asking the right questions 
    • Use techniques such as flipped learning and project based learning 
    • Assess knowledge construction rather than knowledge acquisition
  2. 'From authoritarian to authoritative teaching': 
    • teachers can no longer rely on enforcement or authority to get compliance, rather teachers need to connect and relate with students in order to develop rapport. 
    • Maintain high standards, develop growth mindsets, be authentic and consistent in order to win respect and trust of students over time. 
    • Treat students as individuals rather than a generic group of students, by allowing opportunities for them to pursue their unique interests and talents. 
  3. 'From expounding to experiencing learning'
    • Involve students as active learners
    • Connect learning to real-world experiences and contemporary issues. 
    • Make learning tangible, real and practical. 
  4. 'From self-esteem to self-efficacy' 
    • Help students to form deeply held belief that 'I can do this', by giving intentional and intelligent affirmation (praise effort, not ability'. 
    • Be careful of labelling students or promoting fixed mindsets
    • Create safe learning environments that are low threat but high challenge. 
    • Teacher should model how to embrace failure as a learning opportunity. 

McQueen recognises that there are various obstacles to creating these changes, including the conservative nature of education systems, pressure from parents, and competing agendas (such as lack of time, standardised testing, bureaucracy, etc). He poses the following strategies to overcome these obstacles: 

  • Clear out any traditions/ practices/ routines that are not serving us (such as report writing, red tape, and standardised testing). 
  • Embrace and incentivise risk taking in order to encourage more innovation within the industry. 
  • Stimulate more creativity by asking the right questions, encouraging diversity and dissent, and asking for more more input from front-line team members (including teaching and even students). 
  • Leverage collective wisdom by creating the conditions that will allow for more collaboration, mentoring and peer input in professional development. 


Overall, this book is very thought-provoking and contains some great ideas and strategies that teachers can use in the classroom to ensure that their students are effectively prepared for the future. 


PS. If you would like to find out more about how you can create innovative teaching & learning programs that will develop important 21st century skills, register your interest for the Cut Curriculum Chaos course here


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