Developing a new pedagogy fit for the 21st century

Myddelton College is providing its students the essential skills required to be effective in a technological future, says Headmaster Andy Howard

Education is broken and needs radical change to be fit for the world our young people are going out into. Some, if not most, of the basic tenants that our educational systems are built on are no longer fit for purpose on the modern world. The three ‘R’s, whilst being important, are no longer the pinnacle of learning they once were and a new set of skills, identified by many different organisations, including the CBI (‘Gateway to Growth survey, 2014), CIMA (75% of school leavers lack essential skills’) and the British Chamber of Commerce (88% of businesses believe school leavers are unprepared for the world of work). As a result of this, successive legislation has focussed on eliminating the stresses by simplifying the curriculum, narrowing the experience and introducing more and more high stakes testing, both for the individual students and the institutions that provide the educational experiences.

Education, throughout the whole of the western world, if not beyond, has been through a slow process of gentle evolution, but unlike natural evolution, has not produced the strongest system, due to a continual pull back to the ‘good old days’ of ink wells and chalk dust. The past has become a drag on our educational system and as such is damaging our future. Rather than just continuing the status quo, it is time to reconsider why and how we deliver education the way we do.

In 1897, John Dewey, Philosopher, Psychologist & one of the first Educational Reformers, wrote an article titled “My Pedagogical Creed” (1897). In it, he sets out his beliefs on what education is and should be – most of these are still valid today. One, in particular, holds a strong resonance: “The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alteration of old beliefs.” (Dewey, 1897)

The past has become a drag on our educational system and as such is damaging our future

This is what we are doing at Myddelton College. Set in 39 ½ acres of prime Welsh countryside, in the heart of the Clwyd range, and in sight of the Snowdon range, Myddelton College is a brand new independent boarding school, breathing life back into buildings that were built over 150 years ago as an innovative school in its day. With a motto of: More than Just an Education, we have high ambitions and even higher aspirations for our students: we are aiming to be a great school; “Being a great school requires more than just providing the best possible education; it requires a different view of what education is.” 

At Myddelton College, we take the broadest possible view of education and our students, whether boarders or day students, are exposed to a wide range of activities that encompass the whole experience of what it means to be human. And this demands a completely new pedagogy, with 21st Century Skills at the heart of how we teach.

Already a Microsoft Associate Showcase school, we are putting not just technology, but the essential skills required to be effective in a technological future, at the centre of our curriculum. Following research sponsored by Microsoft, our pedagogical framework is based upon 6 skill areas identified as the new three ‘R’s:

Collaboration
Knowledge Construction
Self-Regulation
Real-world Problem Solving
Effective use of ICT
Skilled Communication 

These six skills are interwoven in to our lesson design, impact our routines and structures & have resulted in innovative classroom layouts; everything about Myddelton College is designed and adapted to ensure these ‘soft’ skills are grown and developed in all students.

Most professions have changed over the last century and a half beyond recognition, but if a Victorian teacher were to visit a modern classroom, they would probably feel quite at home. Not so at Myddelton; if the ghosts of staff from the school’s opening, 150 years ago, were to visit us, they would see a very different environment. Our classrooms do not have blackboards, whiteboards or even smartboards on the walls, but HD flat-screen TVs, with teachers’ desks banned and no ‘front of class’. . . All staff & students access their material through Microsoft Surface devices, using the full power of the Microsoft Office 365 ecosystem, sharing, collaborating and learning together in a very modern way. 

About the author

Andrew Howard. B.Sc.(Hons), PGCE, M.A., NPQH
Andy Howard is currently CEO & Executive Headmaster of Myddelton College, in Denbigh, North Wales. With over 26 years’ experience in education, working in all types of school around the country, Andy is now opening a brand new Co-educational Independent Boarding School, based on a completely re-written pedagogical framework, putting technology and 21st century ‘soft’ skills at the heart of the school. Andy is also a member of the Microsoft Education Advisory Board, providing advice to Microsoft on the development of their products for the educational market.