Paving the path towards 21st-century education
Education entails a life-long learning process.
Even though this field has been in existence since time immemorial, we have to look at it as a rookie soldier needed to be armed and changed all the time.
Education and classroom teaching
Classroom teaching is like going to war–that is war to promote meaningful, holistic education. In effect, the classroom is a battlefield, with students as either my soldiers or comrades.
Henceforth, just like going to war, planning and preparation are important aspects to bear in mind to be able to meet the learning objectives and the needs of learners.
We personally believe in the significance of educational planning in classroom teaching.
There were times when teachers would only plan for what they would do in their class minutes before they would step into the classroom.
They might have been able to finish a session doing something with their students and making them busy with tasks, but the question was whether the task was meaningful or not.
This kind of question are answerable with substantial basis if there’s a properly structured programme–starting from a syllabus, a curriculum, subject area aims and objectives, vertical and horizontal planning, unit plan, and down to the lesson plan.
With an educational programme planned and individual learning sessions properly organized, last minute planning won’t take place and activities can just be carried out and evaluated properly with the given set of aims and objectives. Activities can be well-defined based on the specified aims and objectives and not just random activities from thin air.
No matter how good a last-minute, random activity is but if it does not have any relevance to the aims and objectives and if it cannot be evaluated using such aims and objectives, then it won’t be effective at all. In the process of teaching and learning, “the starting place for all effective instruction is designing and communicating clear learning goal.” (Marzano, 9)
Every time teachers plan a lesson, they need to look at stating aims and objectives as requirements of lesson planning.
For some, these might just be plain words in black and white needed to start the lesson plan with.
However, after studying several programme plans and individual lesson plans, setting and communicating clear aims and objectives could lead to a more structured and meaningful teaching and learning process.
It spells out a huge difference when objectives are understood and applied because these objectives reflect the planners’ knowledge not just of the content but most importantly the learners themselves.
With this, the programme plan and the individual lesson plan become targeted and focused. Hence, the activities and assessments, even the resources, facilities and materials, get to be geared towards the aims and objectives.
21st-century education activities and learners
Activities based on the aims and objectives result from careful designing of programme plan and individual lesson plans.
Such activities can help facilitate active learning and help to motivate and engage all learners. Teaches should come up with activities to motivate and engage students in the learning process. After which, a methodology should help evaluate the effectivity of such activities.
In the process of thinking and facilitating activities in class, teachers to tend to overlook the goals and objectives of the lesson.
Setting goals and objectives
Usually, as a person and a teacher, we are very much particular with the ends rather than the means. Hence, we would highlight the importance of giving clear directions and simply finishing work on a given period of time.
All the while, we had this preconceived notion that a completed activity automatically meant accomplished objectives. It is delightful for teachers to just look at completed mind maps or essays without even having a second look at the aims and objectives.
Upon working on this article, we have reflected on the significance of relating activities back to the goals by communicating it among the learners and of evaluating activities based on these questions:
- Does the activity help students effectively interact with new knowledge?
- Does it practice and deepen their understanding of new knowledge?
- Will it generate theories or generalisations about new knowledge?
With these guiding questions, certain activities can further strengthen students’ conceptual understanding of the text:
- Collaborative Goal Setting: Goal setting in groups helps students be aware of the acquisition of new knowledge. By articulating the goal to the class, the teacher could have an initial idea whether the students have learned certain key words. At the same time, students get to identify their individual learning goal.
- Cooperative Learning: The general learning atmosphere of a 21st century class revolves around cooperative learning. As the students form learning groups, this provides them opportunities to discuss with their peers certain matters that they need to clarify. Furthermore, this leads to differentiated learning and teaching. In effect, each group could be identified as having similar skills set or interest.
- Articulating Research through Mind Mapping or Note-Taking: Enabling students to record their research related to the concept and the content could lead to deepening understanding of the concept. To facilitate differentiation, students could either make mind maps or take down notes in bullet form to record their research. In the process of research, the teacher guides the students by giving suggested key words and by probing students while doing their research. Teachers need to ask their students about what they have researched. Then, they need to move from one group to another randomly to formatively assess their research skills. For the research to be more effective, students have to generate their research questions based on their learning goals. Hence, this will help them know what they are looking for.
- Reflection Writing and Sharing: An interactive class defines 21st century education. It is just proper to integrate language mechanics when students write their reflections and share them to the class. This is a great opportunity for students to practice their writing and speaking skills, and for the teacher to give feedback on their language skills. More importantly, what they write in their reflection may lead to a wonderful opportunity to generate theory. This can also explain such generalisation. By asking students to reflect based on what they’ve done in a class with varied goal-oriented activities, they could be able to formulate big ideas.
More importantly, these activities won’t fully serve its purpose if the students won’t have any idea as to why they are doing these. Teachers must ensure that “learning goals pertain to specific activities” (Marzano, 13). Students must understand these goals in every activity.
The Process of Designing a Learning Programme and Individual Lesson Plans
Designing a learning programme and individual lesson plans does not take overnight despite the technological perks of 21st century education.
This is one thing that people from the outside realms of the academe would tend to take for granted.
Teachers do not only teach.
Teaching ultimately doesn’t happen in a snap. Well, effective teaching to be more precise. For an effective teaching and learning to take place, teachers need to carefully design a learning programme and individual lesson plans. And, this definitely does not happen overnight.
Generally speaking, with a learning programme and individual lesson plans, teachers could be able to identify learning goals. Also, these can track students’ progress, and eventually ‘celebrate success’.
Success does not happen in an instant.
Formulating a specific learning programme with specific learning aims and objectives is an important tool in education. Knowing the flow of the lessons with specific objectives enables teachers to confidently guide their students in reaching their learning goals.
It is every teacher’s responsibility to come prepared to class. Preparation entails helping the students practice and deepen their understanding of new knowledge.
As one cliché goes, ‘You can’t let a blind lead the blind.’
21st century education is not about the evolution of gadgetry. It is about polishing tested practices and harnessing basic social dynamics. Careful planning and cooperative learning define the modern classroom.
Consulting one’s peers and learners could actually lead to a broader realisation than what a self-evaluation and introspection could provide.
On-going evaluation from learners and colleagues opens up doors to a more meaningful reflection. We need to evaluate current beliefs and practices towards a more sustainable 21st century education.
Marzano, Robert and Brown, John. A Handbook for the Art and Science of Teaching. USA: ASCD, 2009. Print.
Marzano, Robert. Designing and Teaching Learning Goals and Objectives. UA: Marzano Research Laboratory, 2009. Print.