Tony Richardson, Education Consultant Eumundi, Qld, Australia

Dr Tony Richardson (PhD) is a freelance educational specialist with over 35 years of teaching and research experience. Over the past 10 years Tony has been an education consultant for various government and non-government bodies, within Southeast Asia, focusing on education; primary, secondary; tertiary and VET. He is currently the Project Director for the Integration of Financial Literacy into Cambodian government schools. Tony has co-authored a number of peer-reviewed journal articles on topics relating to teachers, learners and pedagogy across several international landscapes, and also co-authored a book on preservice teacher education. He has previously presented, and continues to present, at international conferences on education topics throughout Southeast Asia.


This paper’s genesis stemmed from a discussion overheard between a McDonalds’ (Australian) worker and a customer.  

Customer: The food Halal?

Worker: Um . . .  yes, I believe so. 

Customer: Sure? 

Worker: 99 percent!     

This paper explores Future Actionable Knowledge, Deep Learning and Education through two approaches. First, by focusing on time, reflected in present and future events, and second, how present events might shape future events.

Education is a complex process because it involves humans. Therefore, when focusing on Education there are no simple one-way solutions. However, to possibly understand Education in a simplistic form one could possibly focus on the concept of time through acknowledging present, and future, events. 

Possibly, one analogy to reflect this view above is to suggest that Education is like the production of wine. There are educational outcomes that can be measured in the present, the production of a bottle of wine, but the real focus of Education is about the future, how will that wine taste in 5-, 10- or 15-years’ time? Will the future wine be a cheap option or an expensive drop? 

Generally, no one knows what the future holds, so most educators focus on present events in preparing students for future events. Consequently, what might happen if one could have a greater influence on a student’s preparation in the present, and therefore, impact on future events?  One approach might be through addressing the present, via, a focus on Deep Learning (DL) and Future Actionable Knowledge (FAK)?

The conventional view about DL is that for learning to occur it must reflect depth; for example, the individual dives into the depths of a topic by passing through its various layers of knowledge. Therefore, the deeper the student dives into the layers of the uncovered knowledge of a topic the more in-depth their understanding of that topic. 

Unfortunately, in most educational settings educators tend to focus only on the knowledge associated about the topic and not the knowledge associated with uncovering the topic. To explore this statement further let’s look at a topic; ‘Knowing how to fatten and weigh a pig.’

First, there is knowledge about understanding the processes associated with ‘fattening a pig’ and second, knowledge about understanding the processes central to ‘weighing it’. While, this topic appears to be quite simple by answering the two key points, if one dives deeper into the topic, it becomes more complex. Why? Because the depth of learning, and, as a consequence understanding, starts and finishes by only knowing about the topic; fattening and weighing pigs. 

By addressing the two points above provides a level of knowledge about the topic, however, this level of knowledge does not reflect the uncovered knowledge within the topic, located at much deeper levels. Consequently, addressing knowledge about the topic highlights only surface knowledge or Surface Learning (SL) while, uncovered knowledge addresses deep knowledge or DL.

Of course, one could delve deeply into the uncovered layers of knowledge associated with ‘pig fattening and weighing’ but really is that what Education is about? Students need to be encouraged to delve deep into the unknown, knowledge beyond the topic, because by focusing on the unknown students uncover knowledge. 

The unknown reflects the deep knowledge, the DL, acquired from thinking about not just the present event; fattening and weighing pigs, rather the unseen knowledge, the future events. For example, how might this deep knowledge impact on the student and their future? Therefore, the challenge for educationalists relates to developing strategies to address future events. One such strategy might be Future Actionable Knowledge (FAK). 

One of the seminal focuses of Education should relate to positioning students to understand present events, to help them uncover knowledge for future events, and not simply prepare students for future events by only thinking about knowledge, SK, in the present? So, how might FAK position students to focus on future events?

DL it is not about the present knowledge; the fattening and measuring of pigs, instead DL focus is on ‘the pig’. By focusing on the pig, the student is positioned to dive deeper into the layers of knowledge associated with the topic. 

Let’s apply DL and dive deeper into the uncovered layers (L) of knowledge associated with the topic. 

L1) Fattening and weighing pigs; L2) Pig meat is also referred to as pork; L3) billions of people in the world today (7.8 billion, 2022, google); L4) are forbidden to eat pork (1.8 billion Muslims; 14.8 million Jews google); L5) mainly Muslims/Jews; L6) why pork and not other meats? 

As the student engages in DL, they dive deeper into the layers of knowledge associated topic, for example, uncovering knowledge in L1 to L6.

By focusing on ‘the pig’, the present knowledge about the topic, fattening pigs, and measuring their weights, is pivoted to uncover the DL within the topic. Once the layers of knowledge, L1 to L 6, have been uncovered, FAK then aligns this knowledge to the student’s future actions by focusing on: 

1) My understanding of the world now based on this new knowledge; 

2) The impact of this new knowledge on my future and those around me;

3) Based on this impact how will I apply and demonstrate this new knowledge; 

4) To help shape a better world.

Referring back to the wine analogy; 

A good tasting wine is about future events, and how a wine tastes in the future is determined by present events (Education). Consequently, present events can influence future events, if there is a focus on uncovering those future events. Therefore, prepare wine for future events by impacting on present events, via, focusing on the wine’s place in the future (DL; FAK). 

FAK and DL through Education empowers students via, present knowledge to uncover deep knowledge, which facilitates and connects an individual to their future actions.  

Customer: The food Halal? 

Worker: Sorry, no. However, Halal food can be found at ______    

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