This post is the first in a series where changes in education will be examined. Cultural context, characteristics of teachers, educational strategies, and the role of technology will be examined.
Seventeen years into the new millennium and educators continue to debate what makes an educator in the 21st century effective.
Some would say that the traditional ways of teaching and managing a classroom have stood the test of time and continue to be best practices. Others believe that this century brings with it a paradigm shift in learning that requires new approaches to teaching. Let us consider a few areas of teaching in this discussion.
20th Century Education
Twentieth century education provided a teacher-centered classroom with compartmentalized curriculum and students working independently to memorize facts. The teacher operated as the “sage on the stage;” the giver of all knowledge. Students sat at desks in neat rows. In upper grades, students moved from classroom to classroom at the sounding of a bell. This form of education worked well for an industrialized nation and a world that depended on standardized products.
21st Century Education
The world has changed drastically in the past twenty years. Digital technology revolutionized communication and collaboration opportunities. Change happens at rapid pace. Divergent thinkers and critical thinkers contribute to our world of knowledge. Our world has become more dependent on knowledge-workers who can solve problems. These changes demand a change in the educational process.
Twenty-first century education promotes a student-centered classroom with authentic, relevant, collaborative project-based learning. The teacher serves as the “guide on the side;” the facilitator of learning. Student seating is informal or in learning groups. Classrooms are spaced around a learning center where students freely move about to gather the information needed to solve problems. This form of education is needed in a world that changes continuously and is connected globally.
Learning moved from a passive state to an active state in the 21st century. Rather than focusing on content contained in a specifically chosen textbook, students can now gather content through their own research. Rather than working in isolation to find answers within the pages of an assigned book, students can now work collaboratively with classmates and even with others around the world through the advances in educational technology.
In the past, too often, students did not connect what they had learned in one subject with another. Twenty-first century education curriculum is integrated and interdisciplinary. Literature, math, science, and writing for example can all be interwoven. Twentieth-century education focused on literacy in reading, writing, and mathematics. Multiple literacies such as media, computer, digital, information and technology are recognized in 21st century learning.
Assessments transitioned from the teacher judging the accuracy of the work produced by students to more authentic forms of assessments. These include self-assessments, assessments by peers, and even assessments by a public audience in some cases. Rather than averaging numbers to determine a grade, grades are based on what was learned.
Next week, we will examine characteristics of 21st century educators.
Rose H. Henness is an Associate Professor at Calvary University. She teaches in the Education Department and the Ministry Studies Department. Ms. Henness is a doctoral student at Dallas Theological Seminary. Her special interests are educational technological, education reform, pedagogy, andragogy, discipleship, and women’s studies.