8 Guiding Questions for Conversations about Becoming a School of the Future

I highly recommend a brand new online publication,  A Guide to Becoming a School of the Future.   The 60 page document, prepared by Robert Witt and Jean Orvis as lead authors, is an attractive, appealing guide and deserves reading by every principal, connected or not.  (Its intended audience is independent schools, but I think, and Eric Juli, who directs secondary education in Lawrence Public Schools, agrees, that its thinking is applicable broadly).

I was pleased to be able to contribute to the Guide the Guiding Questions (Appendix A), which are intended for the purpose of “stimulating discourse within your community about the changes we face in our world and the implications of those changes for education.”

Perhaps these questions will be of use to administrators in their work facilitating such conversations:

  • 21st Century Life: How has the world changed and what are the implications for education?
  • 21st Century Skills: Does the NAIS Commission on Accreditation Schools of the Future Committee’s overview of 21st Century Capacities hit the mark? Does a new/renewed emphasis on skills necessitate a decreased emphasis on knowledge learning?
  • 21st Century Students: How are students today the same as their predecessors and how are they different? How do we respond to the differences?
  • 21st Century Instruction: How must it change, and how can we accomplish this? What do advances in brain research and the cognitive sciences teach us about the learning process that we did not know before? What are the implications for the classroom?
  • 21st Century Assessment: Does traditional letter grading continue to be effective as a measurement and an incentive for what we want students to learn, or does 21st century learning require new-format assessments? If so, what assessment techniques are required for 21st century learning?
  • 21st Century Teachers: What are the characteristics of a 21st century teacher? What are the implications for our hiring practices? How do we best facilitate our teachers’ evolution to contemporary teaching and learning? What forms of professional development are called for?
  • 21st Century Curriculum: Does 21st century learning demand a renewed attention to inquiry, relevance, and/or project/problem-based learning, or are these alternate approaches too problematic to adopt wide-scale? Can the curriculum balance the teaching of core academics and 21st century skills? If so, how?
  • 21st Century Learning Technology: Does contemporary learning require a large or larger role for laptops and other digital tools in the classroom and what are the pros and cons of wired classrooms?
I have used these questions for a 90 minutes session with 75 school heads, and the conversation was very stimulating.    If readers do find a use for the questions in stimulating discourse in your school or among your colleagues, please share a report on the success of the conversation.


  1. Thanks Jonathan! I have some upcoming sessions that I will be leading and these questions certainly help focus things on where they should be – our students and our classrooms.

    February 6, 2011
  2. […] Taking the Initiative One more article that is filled with questions and maybe a good starting point is 8 Guiding Questions for Conversations about Becoming a School of the Future. […]

    November 13, 2012

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