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How can we prepare students for the future?

For a while I have been curious on how educators are preparing students for the future. My motivation was to gain these insights in order to make more effective learning resources for educators. So this October I did a study to learn how teachers are preparing students for the future through the use of real-world problems and life skills. The study primarily used a survey with questions for educators to share what they are doing and what challenges they are facing. 


On October 30th we also had a webinar panel discussion that dove deeper into how to best prepare students for the future. Joining the webinar we had three of the study participants: Aida an ESL teacher in New York, Lane a math teacher in Missouri, and Shawn an ESOL teacher in Georgia. You can watch the full recording here: link



Who Participated?

In total we had 18 educators participate in the survey with the majority being in the subjects of language/english (39%) and subjects of STEM/STEAM (33%). We also had responses from teacher librarians, history teachers, administration and a diverse mix of education consultants. Our participants were from 10 different states in the US and two provinces in Canada, which can be seen in the map below.


Teaching Life Skills and Real-World Problems

At the start of the survey teachers were asked to choose the life skills they felt students needed most and how they are currently teaching them. It was great to see that there is a clear consensus on which life skills educators believe are most important for students:

  • Critical Thinking (72.2%)

  • Problem Solving (66.7%)

  • Communication (66.7%)

How each educator taught life skills varied greatly. A few mentioned they use team work, project based learning and design thinking. Yet there is clearly not one approach to how students can learn life skills. From my perspective if there is such a clear idea of which life skills are important to students, can we as educators come together to agree on some of the best ways to support students to develop these skills?

Educators were also asked to choose which real-world problems they taught by selecting from the different Sustainable development goals from the UN. For this part there is less of a consensus on which real-world problems are most important. Here are the top 6:

  • SDG #3 Good Health and Wellbeing (83.3%)

  • SDG #4 Quality Education (66.7%)

  • SDG #9 Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure (61.1%)

  • SDG #11 Sustainable Cities and Communities  (61.1%)

  • SDG #15 Life on Land  (61.1%)

  • SDG #16 Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions  (61.1%)

What is interesting to compare it to the SDGs that the 120+ Thrive Facebook group members voted on, which are primaliary high school and post secondary students.

  • SDG #4 Quality Education (26%)

  • SDG #13 Climate Action (25%)

  • SDG #5 Gender Equality (19%)

  • SDG #12 Responsible Consumption and Production (16%)

  • SDG #11 Sustainable Cities and Communities (15%)

  • SDG #3 Good Health and Wellbeing (15%)

From this comparison you can see that there is only an overlap of three of the SDGs between the educators vs teachers. Of course it is important to note that the data from the educators and students are from different locations, with only some overlap in Ontario, Canada. Still we as educators should make sure that we allow students to explore real-world problems they strongly care about. Ideally students should have the freedom to find the real-world problems that interest them the most. It’s clear both students and educators want to learn/teach real-world problems, so how can education be changed to better achieve this?


Teacher Challenges & Requests

For the final part of the survey educators were given the chance to share the challenges they face when trying to implement real-world problems and life skills into their classrooms. As this part was open there was a wide range of responses. The main two challenges educators mentioned was having limited time and finding it difficult to adhere to standards/curriculum. From the responses it’s clear that educators are interested in exploring new ways to make students future ready, yet face hurdles to achieve that. So what needs to change in the education system to better support educators in doing so?


As mentioned earlier, the results of this study will be used by Thrive to create meaningful and effective content for educators. So we asked educators what resources they are most interested in. Here were the top 3 requests:

  • 1 hour Real-World Problem Activity (66.7%)

  • 1-4 week long Team Project Real World Problem (61.1%)

  • 1 hour Life-Skill Activity (44.4%)

For any educator who wants to get our free future ready resources, you have a few options:

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