By Amreen Pathan
Today’s climate makes today’s topic an interesting one. The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have forced every education provider to be innovative to meet the demands of learning. Irrefutably, the pandemic has impacted trends in education in ways not necessarily impartial but not wholly adverse either.
Against a backdrop of social distancing and quarantining, technology is at the forefront of these trends, particularly in an era already predisposed to and revolutionised by digital solutions and software.
Let us get down to the technicalities of the top 10 emerging educational trends.
- Remote learning
Remote or online learning is by far the most popular educational trend of 2021 albeit one born out of necessity rather than choice. Notwithstanding the social element or lack thereof between pupils as well as the increased vulnerability of at-risk pupils, online learning has borne witness to advantages of learning at home. A study looking into the wellbeing of parents and teachers during the pandemic by the Centre for Education and Youth found that 55% of teachers conveyed their optimism about the impact this (i.e. teaching online) would have on teaching and learning once back at school.
Are attention spans getting shorter? A 2015 report by Microsoft reported on an average time span of 8 seconds – only one second less than that of the infamous goldfish! Despite the validity of this figure being disparaged by the BBC, online learning has encouraged education providers to make learning accessible, engaging and fun. Learning should always be accessible, engaging and fun of course, but with the concept of location and a teacher’s physical presence being removed, learning activities must supersede all the impeding factors of learning at home.
- Use of Multimedia and Open Educational Resources
OER can be defined as the ‘teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain.’ Neither are new phenomena, however both are increasingly on the rise partly due to the pandemic, with EBooks, audio books, YouTube videos, online documentaries, TED talks, simulations, virtual labs and short lectures being accessible as either course content or selective use to close gaps between pupils and aid learning. The Khan Academy for example reached 1.8 billion views on YouTube during the pandemic. This shows the pull power of multimedia and OER based on the following benefits:
- Providing access to diverse knowledge
- Immersive experiences without leaving the learning space
- Increasing student enthusiasm and attentiveness: a study-linking problem solving to multimedia revealed that students demonstrated teamwork and heightened understanding of the project.
- VR and AR
Education provider Pearson identified virtual reality and augmented reality as a potential education trend 2021. Arguably, this is a sophisticated extension of multimedia and OER where students use sophisticated technology like VR headsets for virtual experiences like field trips, career experiences and language immersion. The Google Expeditions tool for example allows children to virtually visit culturally significant sites without leaving the four walls of a dedicated learning space.
In 2018, this is what the wellness economy was estimated to be. Now more than ever, wellbeing is at the forefront of educational priorities. The Young Minds charity substantiate this with their research finding that more than 50% of parents wanted to know how their child’s school focuses on their wellbeing. A healthier child both physically and mentally, is more likely to flourish in academia with the necessary social and emotional skills to navigate transition into adulthood. A starting point for embedding wellbeing into the curriculum can be found here.
Quite simply, ‘not all children can sit down in front of a screen all day and be expected to replicate the traditional classroom experience on Zoom or Microsoft Teams.’ What this means then is that the trend of remote learning has also encouraged newer trends in pedagogy. Senior VP of Schools at Pearson argues that accessibility must not be restricted to physicality. Instead, it should take into account a ‘learner’s experience when using that device.’ This concept is applicable whether learning traditionally or at home.
Based on this, here are new trends in education relating to pedagogy:
- Blended learning:
This is a combination of online learning and classroom presence. An insightful and research backed paper explores the different possibilities of blended learning here.
- Flipped learning
Traditionally used with those in higher education, this method of learning is exactly as its name: flipping learning on the head. What this is means is homework becomes classwork and classwork becomes homework. Flipped learning when applied repeatedly has been linked to enhanced metacognitive skills as teachers can focus on embedding the application of theory whilst pupils develop higher-order thinking skills such as problem-solving, collaboration and knowledge construction.
- Experiential learning
I could tell you what my brown butter brownies taste like. You could hear about what these brownies taste like. However, would you truly know what they taste like? The simple answer is no! Not until you taste them for yourself. This is exactly what the theory of experiential learning is founded on: experience. The man behind the theory, Professor Kolb focuses on four elements:
In school, this could look like open ended discussions, collaborative work, field trips, community service and so forth.
- Bite sized learning
Also known as, micro-learning, breaks information into – as its name suggests – bite sized chunks, which are more manageable for pupils to absorb and process. Length is only one component of it though. What makes it truly bite-sized is the simple structure dedicated to one learning objective at a time. Coined as the latest buzzword, bite-sized learning is considered to be highly efficient in terms of retention, comprehension and ease of learning because manageable, structured content if made easily accessible can be learnt anytime, anywhere.
Learners learn best when they are having fun. Video games are fun. This is what the gamification theory in education is based on. Similarly, video games are addictive. Once hooked, people are unable to let go. This is why game based elements are applied to learning to increase and sustain engagement.
Gamification encompasses elements like point scoring, peer competition, teamwork and score tables. I found this article comprehensive in illustrating the concept of this educational trend.
You probably recognise STEM as science, technology, engineering and mathematics. However, STEAM is actually an extension of STEM with the integration of art-focused subjects in the disciplinary sense. Social studies, music, physical arts are examples of this.
While STEM education seeks to address a specific gap in its given subjects, STEAM aims to provide pupils with a more universal, all-encompassing method of understanding the world around them.
Bearing in mind that nearly 60% of schools said they would move towards a hybrid model of distance and classroom learning in a recent OECD survey carried out across 59 countries, we can confidently agree that online learning is here to stay thus determining the staying power of most of the above. It will be interesting to observe how the top trend of 2020/2021 will influence further trends in education in the foreseeable future.
What do you think the crowning trends of education will be in 2021?