As in any field, education evolves and innovates. While, these days, much of the excitement and noise comes from the ever-evolving scene of EdTech, different changes are happening in the field, farther away from the public eye. These changes have more to do with how and what we teach as humans than supplementing the process with technology.
Of course, not everyone agrees on what the best changes for learning and teaching are but, in general, these new views are condensed under the heading of the new learning paradigm. So, today, we’re taking a look at what these new approaches entail.
From knowledge to skills
Naturally, education scholars and practitioners work tirelessly to discover and promote the best methods for teaching children, and they have been doing so for centuries. For our topic, however, the shift towards the new learning paradigm starts with the ever-fastening pace of change in the modern world. Educators have caught on to the fact that the skills children leave school with are not necessarily the ones they require in their day-to-day.
So, the first characteristic of the new learning paradigm is a shift from knowledge-based education to a focus on skills. With information so readily available at the click of a button, cramming information doesn’t make much sense anymore. Instead, learning to find, sort, and critically evaluate information has become the prevailing skill to teach children.
From teacher-led to student-led
The view of the traditional classroom is one of a kindly yet strict teacher filling the minds of eager children with valuable knowledge. This, after all, is the method that has been the most common in our public schools and (sadly) still is in classrooms around the world.
Not so anymore, however.
Student-led learning is all the rage within the new paradigm.
Switching from imparting knowledge to igniting curiosity and creativity in children and getting them to learn by, from, and for themselves is the way the education world is looking right now. Again, technology is an irreplaceable tool in student-led learning. Combining the vast resources of the Internet with the above-mentioned ability to critically assess information is a valuable 21st-century skill to teach young people.
The importance of lifelong learning
Up until the last few decades of the twentieth century, schools were supposed to provide society with the finished product. You send a child in, it gets moulded and filled with useful information, and you get out a functioning adult, who is able to provide for themselves and their families.
These days, however, with the rise of the gig economy and general uncertainty in the future, the ability to be creative, flexible, and always learning has become the more valued skill. This also means that students need to become much more self-directed and self-regulated in their learning – focusing on acquiring whatever skills they need next.
And within the new learning paradigm, this is viewed as a never-ending process, hence lifelong learning.
Creating more holistic learning
Up until very recently, learning (in schools) was viewed as a purely cognitive process – filling your head with knowledge. But a more holistic approach is now emerging.
It’s important to note that this is far from the mainstream view. But, in general, holistic educators want to focus on teaching individuals, not their brains. This means encompassing various aspects of our humanity that have so far been neglected by public schools – spirituality, morality, and respect for all life.
Of course, these lofty goals also have much more practical applications, including learning through various senses (and not only through reading and listening as it has been the case throughout the history of the modern school system) and a focus on social interaction.
It’s not as rosy as it seems
While these are some of the ideas and directions the new learning paradigm wants to take education, the reality on the ground is (as usual) rather different. In most parts of the world, teaching practitioners are overworked and underpaid, leading to very little enthusiasm for implementing all of these brilliant ideas.
That means that despite everyone knowing what should be done, the rolling ball of education simply carries on as it has, with perhaps the wider adoption of EdTech the only goal global governments seem to be chasing. However, technology on its own cannot change learning, so a bigger emphasis on the other aspects of the new learning paradigm is certainly needed if we are to prepare children for life in the 21st century.
Although education is a notoriously conservative field that adopts changes at a glacial pace, new winds are beginning to blow.
When preparing today’s young for what is likely to be life in an increasingly uncertain world, we need to shift our focus away from a knowledge-based perspective to focus more on skills. Additionally, we need to inspire curiosity and creativity so that children feel comfortable reinventing themselves down the line. And, to address the youth mental health crisis, a more holistic approach and emphasis on general well being would be much welcome additions to national curricula around the world.
But while these ideas are circulating in academia, frontline teachers have very little time and enthusiasm for putting all (or any) of them to practice.