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21st Century Pedagogy


Even through the rhetoric over the last decade has been on topics of student-centred learning, active learning methods and building colleges of the future, the evidence of practice still demonstrates curriculum made up of discreet subjects and learning environments of classroom based delivery. Robinson (2006), Leadbeater and Wong (2010), and Mitra (2010) argue that education needs to be reformed in the light of new working practices and the Information Age. We are now digitally connected, swamped by information and tasked with challenges not envisaged less than a decade ago. Employers continually demand that school-leavers and graduates are empowered with the ‘soft-skills’ of teamwork, communication and problem-solving (Adams, 2014). As educationalist, we need to review pedagogy to enable it to be fit for purpose for our learners.


Creative pedagogy

We need to develop a creative curriculum that makes use innovative ways to evidence learning. Exploring methods that are appropriate for the content and supports the learners to express themselves in a way that shows off their skills; avoiding the reliance on ‘traditional’ methods of assessment. Web 2.0 technology has enabled the learners to take charge of the creative curriculum. Students as producers is a key part of 21st Century Pedagogy, creating video diaries and digital stories. Cloud computing allows the sharing of image files and collaborative creation, and software such as YouTube enables learners to create video original video work or showcase work created in the physical world.

Saavedra and Opfer (2012) suggest that we consider the following when devising a 21st Century Pedagogy,

“(1) make learning relevant to the ‘big picture’; (2) teach through the disciplines; (3) develop lower and higher order thinking skills to encourage understanding indifferent contexts; (4) encourage transfer of learning;(5) teach how to ‘learn to learn’ or metacognition; (6) address misunderstandings directly; (7) promote teamwork; (8) exploit technology to support learning; and (9) foster students’ creativity.”

The metacognition mentioned by Saavedra and Opfer is key to 21st Century Pedagogy. Time is needed within the curriculum to develop skills learning to handle large amounts of digital information and the tools required to support the manipulation and curation of this information. In particular, learners need to develop skills to make use of connectivism. Building knowledge and personal learning networks (PLN) to support the learner while studying in the institutions and beyond is essential for lifelong learning and employability.

It is also worth considering rewarding extracurricular activities and academic achievements with badges. Being mindful that the badges must have strict and transparent criteria to allow learners to know the evidence they need for success. These badges also make an effective tool to track progress of self- and peer-assessment.


Collaborative pedagogy

Modern school, college and university spaces have been architecturally designed to enable collaborative learning. However, teachers are still craving a classroom and reverting to their expectation of learning, which involves a constant base. We need to encourage teachers to get out of the classroom and utilise ALL of the spaces available! Mitra (2013) suggests that we can move learning beyond the classroom, or even the school, and create Self Organised Learning Environments in which the learners are empowered to use all available spaces and resources to enhance their learning.


There is a wide range of technology techniques and tools available to support collaboration across the curriculum; ranging from virtual learning environments to social media. With this in mind, we need to think ‘Mobile First’ when designing the curriculum and learning resources. 71% of people in the UK access the internet via a mobile device or smartphone (ONS, 2016). The use of mobile ready learning resource enables creativity on the go, collaboration through a mobile device and engagement through a learning resource that is always in their pocket.

One consideration is the use of social media as a conduit of communication and learning. You need to be clear on the objective of the use of social media in any curriculum setting. Using social media as Institution to create a community may not gain as much engagement as a less formal group. However, it will be clear on expectations and participant rules. You should not be concerned about students creating their own back channel to the curriculum. Learners have always needed a space to ‘sound off’ about the course and to work through issues with peers, e.g. cafe or pub. A social media space where they can do this virtually is a space the educators do not need to be.


Problem Solving pedagogy

McLoughlin and Lee (2005) advocate the problem-based learning environment to support collaboration and personalisation. In the world of work, employees are presented with problems all the time and use strategies to identify the solutions. The 21st Century Pedagogy should support the development of these skills and be effective employees of the future.

To develop a Problem-Solving curriculum, we need to lose the module structure. The learning outcomes should be designed around the exploration of scenarios and solutions, instead of discrete subjects and modules. Learners demonstrate how they have met the learning outcomes through the work that they produce. Gamification of pedagogy allows educators to set up scenarios in an engaging way to motivate learners. However, I am more interested in the way in which Gamification allows learners to fail and start-again in a safe environment, knowing that they get another chance. How many times are they allowed to do that in



What can we do within current constraints?

First of all, plan for altering those constraints at every opportunity. When we get a chance for curriculum change, make it mobile first, make use of collaborative tools, and get rid of modules. The curriculum should be problem-based and allow teachers to personalise the experience.

While we still have constraints of 19th Century universities and exam boards, we can work within the learning objectives and examination structure to develop a 21st Century Pedagogy.

Make use of:

  • Student blogs
  • Social media for communication (allowing learners to create their own back channel)
  • Allow students to be producers of material (showcase digitally)
  • Encourage team work and collaboration, with clearly defined roles and individual objectives
  • Create scenarios to allow learners to explore situations in a safe environment, rewarded through elements of game mechanics.

Make students part of the curriculum development process “design for partnership” approach that can be incorporated, as an underlying pedagogical approach to facilitate the creation of meaningful learning experiences in a technology-enhanced teaching and learning environment (Liezel, 2017).



Adams, S. (2014). The top 10 skills employers most want in 2015 graduates [online]. [1 March 2017]

Edutopia (2015) 10 Hallmarks of 21st Century Teaching and Learning [online]. [1 March 2017]

McLoughlin, C. and Lee, M.J.W. 2007. Social software andparticipatory learning: pedagogical choices with technologyaffordances in the Web 2.0 era. ICT: Providing Choices forLearners and Learning: Proceedings Ascilite Singapore2007, pp. 664-675. [7 July 2016].

Mitra, S. (2013). Build a school in the cloud (online video). TEDConference 2013. [1 March 2017]

Leadbeater, C. and Wong, A. 2010. Learning from the Extremes:A White Paper. San Jose, Calif., Cisco Systems Inc. ‪ fromExtremes_WhitePaper.pdf (Accessed 24 May2014).

Liezel, N. (2017). Students as collaborators in creating meaningful learning experiences in technology-enhanced classrooms. British Journal of Educational Technology. Early veiw online.

ONS (2016) Internet access – households and individuals: 2016 [online] [1 March 2017]

Robinson, K. (2006). How schools kill creativity (online video). TEDConference 2006. Monterey, Calif. [1 March 2017].

Saavedra, A. and Opfer, V. 2012. Teaching and Learning 21stCentury Skills: Lessons from the Learning Sciences. AGlobal Cities Education Network Report. New York, AsiaSociety. les/rand-0512report.pdf [8 July 2016].

UNESCO (2015). The Future of Learning 3: What kind of pedagogies for 21st Century? [online] [1 March 2017]

Is technology a Trojan Horse out to destroy academia?

Just listened to an interview by The Chronicle of Higher Education with Audrey Watters,, in which she discusses technology as a Trojan Horse designed to destroy academia, and that we are subject to the Silicon Valley narrative. In the interview, Audrey suggests that ‘personalisation’ through technology looses dialogue and debate and that the classroom positive collective experience. She goes onto to say that often technology is imposed on individual academics and teachers, leaving them feeling that technology is done to the classroom and not through teacher development and choice.

Though the interview states that they believe Audrey Watters is not against technology, rather that teachers to need to embrace it more effectively. For example,creating their own websites. It is well worth a listen to keep the discussion and critical debate active.