Educating for the future – primary staff writing a book together
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Educating for the future – primary staff writing a book together

Sharing the beauty of inquiry-based learning with teachers in mainstream primary schools. That’s the task International School Utrecht teacher Anssi Roiha set himself last spring. Enlisting the help of his ISUtrecht colleagues, the book turned into a true community project with teachers keen to share good practices. Educating for the future will be ready for publication at the end of this academic year.

By Ingrid Schmoutziguer, communications

‘It’s not about me’, emphasises Roiha when we meet to talk about the book. ‘I am just the facilitator, or project manager if you like. The most important work is done by the ISUtrecht teachers. They have the experience.’

It all started when Roiha joined the ISUtrecht team in January 2018 as a grade 3 classroom teacher. ‘For me it was the first time teaching the International Baccalaureate Primary Years programme’, says Roiha. ‘I immediately liked the fact that the programme teaches skills, rather than specific content. Students drive their own learning and there is also a real place for reflection. These practices are often missing from many educational approaches; thus the aim of this book is to give ideas on how to implement them in education across the globe.’

Educating for the future

Sparked by his interest in the International Baccalaureate, Roiha was really keen to work with as many of his new colleagues as he could persuade to volunteer. The first colleague he approached was Eryn Wiseman, leader of primary years at the ISUtrecht. Roiha: She was straight away on board with the book idea and so they decided to manage the project together.’

Together they came up with the (working) title: Educating for the future: Lessons from an IB world school. A book that will cover a wide range of future needs and how they can be addressed through education. In the rationale for the book Roiha and Wiseman state that: ‘competencies and expertise required in future societies and working life have changed quite drastically and rapidly’ over the past years. The book, written by teachers for teachers, will provide ‘a multitude of practical examples from the classroom backed up by some theory and literature’.

Developing future skills

Roiha was born and raised in Finland, and before moving to the Netherlands he was teaching children with learning difficulties and other special needs in a variety of Finnish schools. One of the key concepts of Roiha’s teaching philosophy is differentiation and he always aims to provide each learner with successful learning experiences. Roiha currently combines a role in student support at the ISUtrecht with finalising his Ph.D on CLIL education (Content and Language Integrated Learning) for the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

Although the book is still very much a work in progress, the outline is clear. ‘We intend to split it up in three parts: The cornerstones of effective teaching, Progressive pedagogical approaches and Developing future skills’, says Roiha. ‘The first part of the book covers topics such as collaboration, learning environment, differentiation and student agency. The second part zooms in on educational approaches that differ drastically from mainstream education, like play-based learning, concept-based learning and transdisciplinary learning. Finally, part three focuses on teaching the skills students need to have in the future societies, such as computational thinking, intercultural competence, multilingualism and new literacies.’

Gamification and learning environment

The ISUtrecht primary teachers are currently all working on their first drafts, which should be finished in March 2019. Marianne Lauritzen, for example, contributes to the chapter on play-based learning. ‘I am covering gamification in teaching science’, she says. ‘This has to do with open-ended questions and giving students the opportunity to play around and be creative.’ Debbie Hazlett’s passion is the learning environment. ‘I look at the learning environment as the third teacher, and it needs to provoke and invite my kindergarten students to learn’, she enthuses. ‘This week for instance I have materials ready for them on the tables and I ask my children: ‘Can you build the sound of the week?’. There will be stones, sticks, Play-Doh and other materials for them to play around with.’

Computational Thinking

Intern and teaching assistant Kris Coorde, together with colleague Wychman Dijkstra are currently delving into ‘computational thinking’ with the students in grades 1 and 2. Coorde: ‘Computational thinking is a skill set that teaches children to look at problems from a logical angle and have them try to solve these problems as if they were a computer. Think of planning, giving and following clear instructions, problem solving, decomposing large problems, using patterns and algorithms. We started with simple exercises on the playground, then continued with simple codes and are now moving on to patterns.’ Coorde and Dijkstra are so keen to share their expertise, they even started blogging about computational thinking, providing their audience with lots of hands on ideas for lessons.

Passions and interests

The infectious enthusiasm of the collaborating teachers is exactly what Roiha had in mind when he started this project. ‘It will be a book of different styles and voices’, he says, ‘And that’s ok. Teachers writing about their passions, interests and giving lots of practical examples is exactly what I envisaged.’ Roiha who currently targets various publishers aims to have the manuscript ready for publication by the end of this academic year. So, watch this space!