21st century Pedagogy

Even if you have a 21st Century classroom, flexible and adaptable; even if you are a 21st Century teacher ; An adaptor, a communicator, a leader and a learner, a visionary and a model, a collaborator and risk taker; even if your curriculum reflects the new paradigm and you have the facilities and resources that could enable 21st century learning – you will only be a 21st century teacher if how we teach changes as well. Our pedagogy must also change.

So what is 21st Century pedagogy?
pedagogy – noun the profession, science, or theory of teaching.
Source: http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/pedagogy?view=uk

How we teach must reflect how our students learn, it must also reflect the world they will emerge into. This is a world that is rapidly changing, connected, adapting and evolving. Our style and approach to teaching must emphasise the learning in the 21st century..

The key features are:

  • building technological, information and media fluencies [Ian Jukes]
  • developing thinking skills
  • makes use of project based learning
  • uses problem solving as a teaching tool
  • uses 21st C assessments with timely, appropriate and detailed feedback and reflection
  • is collaborative in nature and uses enabling and empowering technologies
  • Contextual learning bridging the disciplines and curriculum areas

You will notice that Knowledge does not specifically appear in this diagram. Does this mean that we do not teach content or knowledge? Of course not. While a goal we often hear is for our students to create knowledge, we must scaffold and support this constructist process. This process was aptly describe in a recent presentation by Cisco on Education 3.0

We need to teach knowledge or content in context with the tasks and activities the students are undertaking. Our students respond well to real world problems and our delivery of knowledge should scaffold the learning process and provide a foundation for activities. As we know from the learning pyramid content delivered without context or other activity has a low retention rate.

Thinking skills
Thinking Skills are another key area. While much of the knowledge we teach may be obsolete within a few years, the thinking skills will remain with our students for their entire lives. Industrial age education has had a focus on Lower Order Thinking Skills. In Bloom’s taxonomy the lower order thinking skills are the remembering and understanding aspects. Part of our 21st Century pedagogy focuses on the move from Lower Order Thinking Skills to Higher Order Thinking Skills.

The 21st Century Teachers scaffolds the learning of the students, building on a basis of knowledge recall and comprehension to use and apply the skills; to analyse and evaluate the process, outcomes and concequences, and to make and create. For each subject the process is subtly different.

The 21st century is a the age of collaboration as well as the Information Age. 21st Century students, our digital natives, are collaborative. The growth of social networking tools, like bebo, myspace, Facebook, twitter and alike, is fueled by Digital natives and Gen Y. The world, our students are graduating into is a collaborative one. Collaborative projects like Julie Lindsay’s and Vicki Davis’s Flatclassroom project and the Horizon Project, iearns and many others are brilliant examples of collaboration in the classrooms and beyond. If you have read Don Tapscott’s Wikinomics, there are plenty of examples of the business world adopting and succeeding by using global collaboration.

In a recent blog post from the Official google Blog, Google identified these as key traits or abilities

“… communication skills. Marshalling and understanding the available evidence isn’t useful unless you can effectively communicate your conclusions.”
“… team players. Virtually every project at Google is run by a small team. People need to work well together and perform up to the team’s expectations. ”

Source: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/our-googley-advice-to-students-major-in.html

So to prepare our students, our teaching should also model collaboration. A vast array of collaborative tools are available to – wikis, classroom blogs, collaborative document tools,social networks, learning management systems – Many at no costs. If you have not tried them look at:

These tools are enablers of collaboration, and therefore enablers of 21st century teaching and learning.

Collaboration is not a 21st century skill it is a 21st century essential.

If we look at UNESCO’s publication “The four pillars of Education, Learning: The Treasure within” Collaboration is a key element of each of the four pillars.

  • Learning to know
  • Learning to do
  • Learning to live together
  • Learning to be


Collaboration is not limited to the confines of the classroom. Students and teachers are collaborating across the world, and beyond the time constraints of the teaching day. Students working with other students regionally, nationally or globally. Learners seeking and working with experts as required. This is 21st Century Collaboration
Real World, Inter-disciplinary & project based learning
21st Century students do not want abstract examples rather they focus on real world problems firmly set in a basis of understanding. They also want what they learn in one subject to be relevant and applicable in another curriculum area. For us, as teachers we need to extend beyond our areas of expertise, collaborating with our peers in other subjects to link and bind the learning in one area to the other.
Projects should be encompassing, bringing together and reinforcing the learning in the disciplines. The sum of their learning will be greater than the individual aspects taught in isolation. This is a holistic overview of the education process, building and valuing each and every aspect of the 21st Century students education.

The spector of assessment is still present in our 21st Century Pedagogy. 21st Century Assessment, is still a key aspect of teaching and learning in the 21st century. We know that this generation of students respond well to clear goals and objectives, assessed in a transparent manner.
Our students should be involved in all aspects of the assessment process. Students who are involved in setting and developing assessment criteria, marking and moderation will have a clearer understanding of:

  • what they are meant to do,
  • how they are meant to do it,
  • why its significant
  • and of its importance.

These students will undoubtedly do better and use the assessment process as a part of their learning process.

Students are often painfully honest about their own performance and that of their peers. They will in a collaborative project fairly assess those who contribute and those who don’t.

This is their education, their learning and their future – they must be involved in it.

Linked to this to is the immense value of timely, appropriate, detailed and specific feedback. Feedback as a learning tool is second only to thinking skills. As 21st Century teachers, we must provide and facilitate safe and appropriate feedback, developing an environment where students can safely and supportively be provided with and provide feedback. Our students can be very insightful and often have a better perspective than we do.

So what is fluency and why is it better than Literacy. Ian Jukes introduced me to this concept at NECC. Our students need to move beyond literacy to fluency. They need to be:
fluent in:

  • The use of technology = technological fluency,
  • Collecting, processing, manipulating and validating information = information fluency,
  • using, selecting, viewing and manipulating media = media fluency.


What is fluency compared to literacy? A person who is fluent in a language does not need to think about speech, or reading rather it is an unconscious process of understanding. A person who literate in the language must translate the speech or text. This applies to our students and their use of 21st Century media. We need them to be unconsciously competent in the use and manipulation of media, technology and information.

The conscious competence model illustrates the difference between Literacy and Fluency. The person or student who is literate is in the conscious competence category, the person or student who is fluent is in the unconscious competence category.

For us as educators, we must identify, develop and reinforce these skill sets until they become literate and eventually fluent..

Conclusion and the path forward.

For us to teach using 21st Century pedagogy, we must be student centric. Our curricula and assessments are inclusive, interdisciplinary and contextual; based on real world examples. Our students are key elements in the assessment process, intimate in it from the start to finish, from establishing purpose and criteria to assessing and moderating. We must establish a safe environment for our students to not only collaborate in but also to discuss, reflect and feedback in. We make use of collaborative and project based learning, using enabling tools and technologies to facilitate this. We develop key fluencies and make use of higher order thinking skills. Our tasks, curricula, assessments and learning activities are designed to build on the Lower Order Thinking Skills and develop Higher Order Thinking Skills. Our teaching must also be inclusive of the different learning styles our learners have. e.g VARK Visual Kinesthetic, Read/Write or Auditory learners

13 thoughts on “21st century Pedagogy

  1. Thank you so much for putting this all together for us so that we can see the big picture. I’m thinking I’d like a poster to stick up above my desk so that when I’m planning my lessons I’ll be encouraged to continue to be student centric so that my students and I together will develop essential technological fluency, information fluency, and media fluency that we need.

  2. Pingback: My philosophy of education : Teachers At Risk

  3. Pingback: Look what I found! 08/10/2009 | a whole new dianne

  4. I had been looking for a good blog post emphasizing pedagogy instead of just tools for teaching. Yours is an excellent explanation of how the tools are what we use to contextualize our subject matter and make it meaningful.
    As a former second language teacher I found idea of literacy vs. fluency concept analogous to Steven Krashen’s distinction between language learning and language acquisition. I am not in total agreement with either of these ideas, but I think they provide useful ways to discuss the various activities involved in becoming “literate” or “fluent”.

  5. Pingback: Information Age

  6. Pingback: What does Bloom’s Taxonomy really say? — Joanne Jacobs

  7. Thanks a million for sharing !! It’s one of the best articles on language teaching pedagogy that I’ve ever read.

    Looking forward to reading some more posts like this!!

  8. Pingback: Please be a teacher: A Response to Warnings and Resignation Letters | What Teachers Make

  9. That is very interesting to know that we must consider our students’s feeling and interests during our preparation. In other words I would say that teaching demands committment. I think this site is going to do good to me.
    Darus Kouadio (Ivory Coast)

  10. Pingback: A Diagram Of 21st Century Pedagogy -

  11. Pingback: Educational Origami - 21st century Pedagogy | L...

  12. Pingback: Educational Origami - 21st century Pedagogy | E...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>