The Key Emerging Concepts of Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century

Shepherd, Cushla
Smith, Alison
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Master of Educational Leadership
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Auckland University of Technology

In a world where change is the only constant, the perpetual challenge for educators is to provide an education for our students that will gift them with the skills and knowledge required for both their present and future. Globalisation, technological innovations, and shifting demographics are some of the key influential forces contributing to the scale of change in our society today. The rapid growth of culturally and linguistically varied populations makes it incumbent upon schools to develop their capacity to prepare teachers and students to teach and interact with more diverse groups of students and members of their school communities. It is both an educators’ role and duty to equip students for the challenges and opportunities they will face in the ‘real world’. The 21st century skills, knowledge, and attitudes we instil in our students play an essential role in helping our learners thrive in this fast changing world. Educators in New Zealand schools and across the world need to continue to reassess current leadership and teaching practice, determining what the ‘essentials’ are to best meet students’ future needs in order to bridge the gap between education today and working in a postmodern society tomorrow.

To develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes that students now need for the 21st century, leaders and teachers must engage with a meaningful enquiry-based process of significant transformation of mindset and practice to employ innovative and research based pedagogies (Saavedra & Opfer, 2012). The purpose of this research is to explore the essential 21st century skills, knowledge and attitudes that school leaders and teachers perceive are needed for students to constructively and positively participate and contribute to this postmodern society. The three questions steering this research study are: • What do teachers ‘perceive to be the essential ‘21st century’ skills, knowledge and attitudes for students ‘to acquire? • What pedagogies do school leaders and teachers perceive best facilitate the learning of these ‘21st century’ skills, knowledge and attitudes? • In what ways does school leadership practice create the conditions to facilitate this teaching and learning?

For this qualitative study, 32 educators (deputy principals, middle leaders and teachers) participated in focus group discussions regarding skills, knowledge, attitudes, pedagogies and school leadership practices perceived to be responsive to students’ learning needs within their schools, for 21st century education.

This research study utilised an interpretive approach. The findings of this research indicated that the essential 21st century skills, knowledge and attitudes students need to acquire are based around interpersonal and intrapersonal skills and critical thinking. This research strengthens the need for schools to develop new pedagogies and school leadership practices that encourage partnerships of learning. Creating conditions, systems and practices that guide lifelong learning of all key stakeholders will help everyone navigate their way in our changing world.

Concepts , Pedagogy , 21st century , Leadership
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