The ‘Non-Negotiables’ of Next Generation Learning.

As a part of my recent work I have visited a number of schools. Among many things, I have enjoyed listening to students confidently articulate “where I am with my learning” and “where to next”. With regards to reading, written expression and other core skills of listening and speaking, students know precisely their capabilities. They are also acutely aware of their ability to use other core skills, for example, graphing in Mathematics, mapping in Geography and, of course, their ability to use apps to demonstrate their learning. However, as good as they can articulate their strengths and areas for further development, they are less sure of “where they are at” and “where to next” as a collaborator, creator, thinker, team player or problem solver.

A key indicator of when next generation learning has arrived will be when students can self-assess, peer assess, record and report about the ‘non-negotiables’; those ’21st century skills’, often called ‘soft skills’, that are now undeniably required for students to be happy people and successful workers enjoying their vocation based around their passion. On a side note, I don’t think there is anything “soft” about the perseverance and effort required, for example, to be a critical thinker and problem solver as part of a group of individuals all of whom possess different abilities and interests.

Don’t get me wrong, as I have already stated, I am impressed with how students articulate their learning. I am also encouraged by leaders in schools who ensure there are references to skills such as creativity, collaboration, communication and team work as a part of their formal assessment and reporting. However, it is not yet mainstream for schools to assess and report (I would rather the words “observe and feedback”) to parents about the ‘non-negotiables’.


Next generation learning leaders will  engage with parents (some are already) about the importance of the ‘non-negotiables’. The better leaders will do this so convincingly that parents will no longer ask, “Where is my child placed?”, “What mark did they get?” or “How many grades did they jump?” In fact, a success indicator of next generation learning is the day when parents more often ask….

  • “How is my child collaborating?”
  • “What did they create today?”
  • “How are their presentation skills developing?”
  • “What problem did my child solve?”

I look forward to that day.