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Horizon Scanning – Looking for inspiration in unexpected places

iWhy did Calderwood Christian Schooli join theELEVATEii  project? Primarily, we held high expectations for

all our students as well as a passion for asking challenging questions to push thinking and conversation

about what might be possible. We knew ELEVATE and one of its processes horizon scanning was the

catalyst we needed.

Our ELEVATE team held a commitment to dealing with the challenge of addressing one of the great

contemporary educational puzzles – how do we ignite an enduring fire within our most capable students so

that they could reach their full potential? As a leader, I also had a passion for collaborative human‐centred

design thinking that empowers colleagues and shares leadership, and I was willing to get our team involved

in the chaotic (and at times frustrating) process of designing a bespoke solution to this wicked problem in

partnership with the ELEVATE team.

One way of triggering the design process was to complete a global horizon scan to surface promising

practices. Using a future orientated research method known as horizon scanning our team was able to

delve deeply into the programs and processes that 30 global learning organisations had designed and were

using to address student motivation, engagement, and self‐efficacy. The 30 case studies profiled in

Unleashing Brilliance (AISNSW, 2016)iii, look beyond the classroom context and student‐focused worlds,

and enabled our team to scan for real world examples, and new ideas and fresh insights in different types

of learning possibilities, places and spaces.

Drawing from these examples, the OECD Innovative Learning Principlesiv, and our own promising practices

our team sought to identify:

  •  future‐orientated ideas that would stimulate new thinking and conversations
  •  “ah‐ha” moments that would provide new thinking to solve stubborn or long standing problems
  •  disruptive ideas that could trigger rapid progress by revealing less obvious paths
  •  trends, enabling our team to be ahead of the curve
  •  learning opportunities that would surprise, excite, and inspire engagement across our community.

Further opportunities for scanning within ELEVATE also enabled our team to discuss pathways with other

schools to:

  •  Accelerate learning intensively or compress some of our curriculum
  •  Expand learning through teaching and learning approaches with learners within and beyond our community
  •  Deepen learning through personalisation combined with collaboration to look at new forms of assessment and assessment as learning.

The use of ELEVATE’s horizon scanning enabled me to also build on learnings pursued in my doctoral

research. This research had started with a nagging speculation that the generation raised in the McCafe

context on a diet of Babyccinos and macarons (in contrast to the original “family restaurants” populated

with plastic Ronalds, fixed limited menus and “easy to clean” tables), would be less likely to tolerate

outmoded classrooms with rigid learning options and limited access to technology. The revamp of the

McDonalds restaurants triggered my enquiry into the physical and culture design of 21st Century schools.

Scanning the world for trends helped me understand the significant cultural changes that were influencing

and necessitating change in our educational sphere.

In 2016, I had the opportunity to visit a number of schools and organisations as part of our team’s work

with ELEVATE. I visited School21v and watched the day unfold for the students; listened to the head teacher

(school principal) explore and debate the school’s approach through a conversation with one of the board

members; and witnessed the emphasis on drafting and oracy play out in the classroom. Catching public

transport to school with students from an Academy in a very poor borough of north London gave me

insight into the local context from which the students were drawn. The interactions in the front reception

area shed light on the role the school now played in increasing the future options for these students.

From a school leader perspective the arguments for horizon scanning the real world are compelling. When

you visit a place, you can absorb and experience things that are not captured in printed literature or video.

Visiting School21 provided real time insight into:

  •  the atmosphere, sound and mood of the site and how users live and learn here
  •  the impact of the aesthetics and affective climate on you as a person/visitor
  •  how the humans synthesise multiple sources of incoming data simultaneously
  •  context and scale for the specific information other sources provide
  •  opportunistic enquiry, spontaneous questioning, and immediate response by meeting the change makers in their own context
  •  how to accurately interpret perspective
  •  workable solutions for knotty problems

Horizon scanning can be done in myriad ways – online, in conversations, site visits, through research

articles. What is important to remember, is that you should do it. Without drawing on what is happening in

spheres outside of your own, you may be missing the strategies and practices that would turn your idea

into a great solution.

i http://www.ics.nsw.edu.au/tongarra/home

ii https://elevate.aisnsw.edu.au/Pages/Default.aspx

iii https://elevate.aisnsw.edu.au/Documents/Unleashing_Brilliance.pdf

iv Hanna, D., David, I., & Francisco, B. (Eds.). (2010). Educational research and innovation the nature of

learning using research to inspire practice: Using research to inspire practice. OECD Publishing

v http://www.school21.org.uk/

About Authors

Dr Kate Bertram
Principal of Calderwood Christian School
How could horizon scanning be best used in your school’s learning and planning cycle?
What are the learning questions your school is trying to solve?
What are the geographies and sectors that may help your school surface solutions to your learning questions?
Case for change