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 you teach changes as well.
Your pedagogy must also change.

So what is 21st Century pedagogy?


pedagogy - noun the profession, science, or theory of teaching.

Key features

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

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The key features of 21st Century Pedagogy are:
  • building technological, information and media fluencies[Ian Jukes]
  • Developing thinking skills
  • making use of project based learning
  • using problem solving as a teaching tool
  • using 21st C assessments with timely, appropriate and detailed feedback and reflection
  • It is collaborative in nature and uses enabling and empowering technologies
  • It fosters Contextual learning bridging the disciplines and curriculum areas


Knowledge does not specifically appear in the above 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 constructivist process. The process was aptly describe in a recent presentation by Cisco on Education 3.0 [Michael Stevenson VP Global Education Cisco 2007]
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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. 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.

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Thinking skills

Thinking Skills are a key area. While much of the knowledge we teach may be obsolete within a few years, thinking skills acquired 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. 21st Century pedagogy focuses on the moving students from Lower Order Thinking Skills to Higher Order Thinking Skills.
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The 21st Century Teacher scaffolds the learning of students, building on a basis of knowledge recall and comprehension to use and apply skills; to analyse and evaluate process, outcomes and concequences, and to make, create and innovate. For each discipline in our secondary schools the process is subtly different.


The 21st century is an 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 and myspace and the like, is fueled by Digital natives and Gen Y. The world, our students are graduating into is a collaborative one.
Collaborative projects such as 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. These projects, based around tools like ning or wikis, provide students and staff a medium to build and share knowledge and develop understanding.
For example:
My own students are collaborating with students from three other schools, one in Brisbane, another in Qatar and a third in Vienna; on developing resources for a common assessment item. Collaboratively, they are constructing base knowledge on the technologies pertent to the topic. They are examining, evaluating and analysing the social and ethical impacts of the topic. But perhaps even more holistically they are being exposed to different interpretations, cultures and perspectives – Developing an international awareness which will be a key attribute in our global future.

Don Tapscott in Wikinomics, gives are many 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. ”

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 are available at no cost. If you have not yet tried them, look at:
  • wikis – wet paint and wiki spaces
  • Classroom blogs – edublogs, classroomblogmeister
  • Collaborative document tools – Google documents, zoho documents
  • Social Networks – ning
  • learning managements systems – Moodle etc
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 collaborate across the planet, and beyond the time constraints of the teaching day. Students work with other students regionally, nationally and globally. Learners seek and work 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. They want what they learn in one subject to be relevant and applicable in another curriculum area. As teachers we need to extend our areas of expertise, collaborate with our teaching peers in other subjects and the learning in one discipline to learning in another.
Projects should bring together and reinforce learning across disciplines. The sum of the students learning will be greater than the individual aspects taught in isolation. This is a holistic overview of the education process which builds on and values every aspect of the 21st Century students education.


Assessment is still a key part of 21st Century Pedagogy. This generation of students responds well to clear goals and objectives, assessed in a transparent manner

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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 it is significant
  • why it is important.
Such students will undoubtedly do better and use the assessment process as a part of their learning.
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 assessment is the importance of timely, appropriate, detailed and specific feedback. Feedback as a learning tool, is second only to the teaching of thinking skills [Michael Pohl]. 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. Students are often full of insight and may have as valid a perspective as we teachers do.


What is fluency and why is it better than Literacy?

Ian Jukes introduced this concept at NECC. He asserts that 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 is 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.

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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.

To teach using 21st Century pedagogy, educators must be student centric. Our curricula and assessments must inclusive, interdisciplinary and contextual; based on real world examples.
Students must be key participants in the assessment process, intimate in it from start to finish, from establishing purpose and criteria, to assessing and moderating.
Educators must establish a safe environment for students to collaborate in but also to discuss, reflect and provide and receive feedback in.
We should make use of collaborative and project based learning, using enabling tools and technologies to facilitate this.
We must develop, in students, key fluencies and make use of higher order thinking skills. Our tasks, curricula, assessments and learning activities must be designed to build on the Lower Order Thinking Skills and to develop Higher Order Thinking Skills. We must also look at different learning styles to. e.g VARK Visual Kinesthetic, Read/Write or Auditory learners

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