The primary years: supporting students to be future-ready citizens

Ciara Ryan

Primary teacher and Lower School Teaching and Learning leader

 

 

 

 

The Primary school years, the foundation level at which children develop their literacy and numeracy skills, think analytically, face challenges and learn to solve problems independently.

These years provide an opportunity for children to form friendships and develop communication skills. Many of us will look back on our Primary years with fond memories: the relationships we formed, the teachers who supported us and the skills we developed.

In this ever-changing global world, our children deserve the best opportunity to be ready for the challenges they will face as they move through the education systems and eventually into the workplace. Being introduced to, and developing skills which will enable them to be future-ready citizens will undoubtedly support them with their future career choices and experience.

 

Developing a growth mindset

As Carol Dweck describes, in a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.

By introducing and encouraging children to develop a growth mindset from a young age, we are not only promoting self-esteem, but also providing the opportunity to seek out challenges, to view them as opportunities and seek out ways in which these challenges can teach us how to learn, not to fail.

 

Reward systems and Self Determination

Rewards are often considered a vital element of the primary journey. In order to encourage learning and positive behaviour, teachers will often reward with stickers and certificates, both in the classroom and at assemblies with public demonstrations of success. This extrinsic motivation is well documented in Primary schools across the world, children often acknowledge rewards given to others and endeavour to duplicate this in their daily life in the classroom. Assemblies in particular serve to build a sense of community, promote core values and celebrate accomplishments of others. These are all transferrable skills when we consider the future workplace, strengthening bonds and encouraging community driven teams.

Whilst there are clear advantages linked to these reward systems, it is important we also consider other options.  Deci and Ryan and their Self-Determination Theory (SDT) focus on intrinsic motivation, the idea that the motivation to engage comes from personal enjoyment. This may be due to the activity being enjoyable and appealing to personal interests or because the student has been given the opportunity to explore and take ownership, resulting in personal satisfaction and a positive emotional return. Being introduced to both models will ensure children are multiskilled and adaptable, preparing them for future endeavours.

 

Critical thinking and student leadership

Teaching and nurturing critical thinking skills is another way in which we can support students to be future-ready. In their publication, ´Teaching  Creative and Critical Thinking in Schools´, Russell Grigg and Helen Lewis provide guidance on how to develop these skills through classroom teaching. Their guide includes classroom-ready ideas to stimulate high-order thinking and how to think critically and creatively across all areas of the curriculum. Children should be encouraged to pose questions, imagine and suggest alternatives and apply logic. In a Primary school classroom, working as part of a group and completing projects will support with decision making, introduce the concept of peer and self-evaluation and support learners to develop their communication skills. By assigning roles within these groups, we are further promoting real-life responsibilities mirrored in the workplace including leaders, facilitators, record-keepers and reporters. This will allow children to experiment from a young age and build an idea of the roles they are well-suited to and the skills required to work successfully as both an individual and as part of a team.

 

The Cognita Way

The Cognita Way – six focal points we know to be present in the most successful schools: energised leadership, personalised learning, people growth, community, innovation and brilliant basics.

By encouraging these skills from a young age, they become a natural part of the learning experience. We are therefore providing our students with the very best opportunity to become future-ready citizens, with the ability to apply and transfer the skills throughout their Secondary and University careers and beyond.