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Future-focused learning and teaching

What does future-focused education mean? l Resources l Research and readings

Future-focused education - what does it mean?

  • How can education prepare students for living in the 21st century?
  • How can schooling change to meet meet the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century?
  • How can we prepare students to address "future-focused" issues such as sustainability, globalisation, citizenship, and enterprise?

Bolstad, R. (2011)1

Literature suggests we need to be future-oriented and adaptable, adopting a more complex view of knowledge, that incorporates knowing, doing, and being. Alongside this we need to rethink our ideas about how our learning systems are organised, resourced, and supported. Educators need to consider:

  • Personalising learning – how can you use technologies to build the school curriculum around the learner and more flexibly to meet learners’ needs?
  • Building an inclusive learning environment – how you use technologies to:
    • enage learners, family/whānau, and communities in co-shaping education to address students’ needs, strengths, interests and aspirations?
    • provide access to anywhere, anytime learning?
    • support assessment and evaluation processes so that these are dynamic and responsive to information about students?
  • Developing a school curriculum that uses knowledge to develop learning capacity – how can you use technologies to enable students to create and use new knowledge to solve problems and find solutions to challenges as they arise on a “just-in-time” basis?
  • Rethinking learners’ and teachers’ roles – how can you use technologies to create a “knowledge-building” learning environment where learners and teachers work together?
  • Building a culture of continuous learning for teachers and school leaders – what opportunities to participate in and build professional learning are afforded by technologies?
  • New kinds of partnerships and relationships - how can technologies be used to facilitate this?

Bolstad, R & Gilbert J, et al. (2012)2

Providing higher order, authentic learning experiences allowing students to use technologies to explore content. The principle of ako affirms the value of the pair and group learning approaches in which students interact with their peers, teacher, tasks, and resources. These are very effective approaches for teaching and learning.

Ka Hikitia - Managing for success: The Māori Education Strategy 2008–2012

Dr David Parsons, Associate Professor, Massey University explains the need to teach higher level thinking skills and develop key competencies using technology to prepare students for the 21st century.

Michael Fullan: Technology, the new pedagogy and flipped teaching
In this 2014 YouTube video, Michael Fullan talks about how digital technologies give immediate access to information anytime, anywhere. Whether it deepens the quality of learning depends on the teaching. One approach to integrating digital technologies is the "flipped classroom" where students engage with instructional content at home. This might be watching a video, a PowerPoint, or reading information. Followup activities are completed in class. In this way teachers become activators or change agents, students become partners in learning, and technologies fuel communication and collaboration.

Twenty first century learning
Professor Stephen Heppell talks about learning in the 21st century in this YouTube video. He explains learners need to be collaborative and seem themselves as global citizens in this "learning age". How can we be agile enough to keep up with new technologies and new ways of learning?


Future-focused learning in connected communities (May 2014)
This report from Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye's 21st Century Learning Reference Group aims to help inform government planning around 21st century skills and digital competencies. It suggests ten strategic priorities, including the creation of modern learning environments that are vibrant and safe, investment in high-quality content and systems, and development of collaborative networks for teachers and leaders to share ideas. The report covers potential device policies and further professional development for teachers.

Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013–2017
Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013–2017 is an updated strategy, not a brand new one. Its predecessor, Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success 2008–2012, set the direction for improving how the education system performs for Māori students.

Pasifika Education Plan 2013–2017
The Pasifika Education Plan 2013–2017 (PEP) is aimed at raising Pasifika learners’ participation, engagement and achievement from early learning through to tertiary education. 

Tataiako: Cultural competencies for teachers of Māori learners
A resource explaining the progression of the competencies teachers need to develop so they can help Māori learners achieve educationally as Māori. It provides a guide to the development of cultural competence for teachers themselves, for their employers, and for Initial Teacher Education providers and providers of on-going teacher professional development.

Ministry of Education – statement of intent 2012–2017
The Ministry of Education’s Statement of Intent 2012–2017 sets out the key elements of how they will contribute to the delivery of Government’s priorities for education. A PDF of the Statement is available for download from this page on the Ministry of Education website

Success for all – every school, every child
Success for All – Every School, Every Child, is the Government’s vision and work programme to achieve a fully inclusive education system.  

Students with special education needs
This section on the Ministry of Education site provides information about funding, services, support, and initiatives for children with special education needs.

Research and readings

Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective
This research project draws together findings from new data and more than 10 years of research on current practice and futures-thinking in education. The report discusses some emerging principles for future learning, how these are currently expressed in New Zealand educational thinking and practice, and what they could look like in future practice.

Accelerating the progress of priority learners in primary schools (May 2013)
This national report presents the findings of ERO’s recent evaluation about the extent to which primary schools were using effective strategies to improve outcomes for priority groups of learners. In this report ‘priority learners’ refers to Māori, Pacific, special needs, and students from low income families, who are not achieving at or above National Standards.


Bolstad R., (2011). Taking a "future focus" in education – what does it mean? SET

Bolstad, R & Gilbert J, et al., (2012). Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective