Monday, May 23, 2016

Exploring a VUCA World Context

At the Ministry's Provincial Mathematics Learning Day last week, where the renewed math strategy was rolled out to board supervisory officers and coordinators, I was introduced to a new-to-me acronym. 

Alright, as a newbie coordinator, I was introduced to a LOT of new-to-me acronyms, but one in particular really stuck with me...


It was used not as a noun, but as an adjective... for describing the world context for which we are preparing our students.

We've all seen videos like this one, relating just how quickly society is changing:

For me, the biggest takeaway from these videos is always that many of the top-ten in-demand jobs within the next few years have not even been invented yet, or are trying to solve problems we haven't even dreamt of. 

Into what kind of world will our students graduate? 

That's where VUCA comes in. The future will be:

  • Volatile: rapidly changing, unstable and transitory
  • Uncertain: not likely to follow past trends, unpredictable
  • Complex: having many facets and interconnectedness
  • Ambiguous: open to many interpretations

And it is our job as educators to prepare our students for this new work force. How can we do this? How can we expose our students to this kind of context, but still maintain a safe atmosphere - where it is okay to take risks and even fail as we learn and improve - in our classrooms?

A little more poking around online turned up this graphic, which can help give teachers a focus when it comes to helping students adapt and thrive in a VUCA environment. It is written from a leadership perspective, but has a lot of good direction for me, when I am giving my students 21st Century-style problems to solve, or rich tasks to conquer. I often wonder if I am being too "hands-off," and this will help:

VUCA is a new lens through which I can view and guide what we're doing in class, all to prepare my students for this brave, new world. It will be interesting how this guides my job next year as a coordinator and coach for teachers also preparing for this new future of education.


  1. Hey Heather,
    I remember the first time I heard the acronym VUCA. I had no idea what it was, so I quickly googled it. I have to admit that it didn't really sit well with me. My immediate reaction was that it put an incredibly negative lens on the unknown. Does this mean that our students must all prepare for the worst, but hope for the best? Seems so pessimistic. I like this chart as it does put a positive spin on dealing with VUCA. But it also embodies aspects of human nature that are (or should be) timeless. Do I need a new prescription for my rose-coloured glasses? :)

    1. When we first heard the acronym VUCA, ALL of us at the table scrambled to write it down... how had we not heard of it before? It's been around for decades! I agree that there is a foreboding sense of the unknown associated with it. But I was also pleasantly surprised to see *other* VUCAs online, like Vision, Understanding, Clarity, Agility (similar to the Leading Through VUCA graphic here), and Vibrant, Unreal, Crazy, Astounding! I like that last one - so full of potential! :)

  2. I think another issue here is that VUCA (or "exponential change", or robots taking jobs...) isn't taken seriously. I was so thrilled to hear a provincial education leader talk about it because I don't hear it elsewhere. We stick to 5-year strategic plans that were outdated before all 15 pages were printed a thousand times. "We're not ready for change" is heard often.

    Ready or not it is where we are. Google is advertising for passengers to sit in their driverless cars in Phoenix - $20.00 per hour. Uber is piloting driverless cars in Pittsburgh. It's shifting, and textbooks won't get our kids where they need to be.

    The key, though, is that change presents amazing new opportunities! Are we preparing our children to take advantage of those opportunities?

    Keep asking questions!


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