In January 2008, the Hawaii Community Foundation (HCF) and the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools (HAIS) began exploring the ramifications of the changing global economy on the education practices in Hawaii's schools. As a result of this discussion, the Schools of the Future (SOTF) Initiative was launched in 2009.
SOTF is a five-year, capacity building initiative designed to transform the learning environments and teaching strategies of independent schools to better prepare students for work and citizenship in the 21st century. A cohort of schools was selected in 2009 and although their approaches to this issue have varied greatly, they have largely focused on student-centered, project or inquiry-based learning that actively incorporates technology into the curriculum.
Each school in the Initiative has a SOTF Coordinator and SOTF Team made up primarily of teachers and administrators who are responsible for the implementation of their project. The SOTF Team is the vanguard of what we hope eventually will be a 21st Century transformation of the teaching and learning environments of the entire institution.
The SOTF Community of Learners -– a quarterly gathering of teams from each school for a day-long facilitated session to address common problems of practice,
The SOTF website: http://futureschools.ning.com – where schools participate in online discussions and share information on learning resources, and
The annual study tour to schools or conferences that are exemplars of 21st Century learning practices. Study tours include facilitated debriefings to help educators assess the applicability of these events to their own schools.
The insights and discoveries that are resulting from the Initiative are shared with the broader community through the annual SOTF Conference, and the SOTF website (participation is open to anyone involved in education; the site has more than 543 members worldwide, and has had more than 8,000 visitors since December 2009).
...and what we’re learning about school change is that:
Regular professional development for teachers has been key to implementing new teaching strategies,
Schools that have created internal professional learning groups guided by a clear facilitation framework have accelerated adoption of new teaching strategies,
Clear and consistent support from administration and school leadership is required; new teaching strategies without structural changes aren’t enough,
Adoption of new teaching strategies has been easier in the elementary and middle grades than in high schools where there is more concern about content coverage which is seen as being at odds with inquiry or project based learning. Also, in general, high school teachers spend less time collaborating with peers, which can slow the change process.
We continue to look for new partners and ways to grow the Initiative. We hope to eventually expand the program to more independent schools and find ways to work with Hawaii’s public schools.