A “new” education system focusing on students is the flavour of the day, empowering them to be learners who act, and not passive recipients. We take another look at the evolving educational landscape and see how research in Singapore schools is redefining the way we learn.
Looking Back at Tradition
Research emerging from the field of learning sciences is redefining the way we understand how students learn in the 21st century.
The traditional classroom is based on a top-down structure where the teacher is seen as the only source of knowledge who should not be challenged, while students merely reproduce information they have received.
But with the changing times, we realize that this will not help tomorrow’s students, who need to be active participants in their learning. We need to focus on facilitating learning.
In the 21st century classroom, this top-down approach to learning and teaching needs to give way to new relationships between learners and teachers.
Moving beyond the Past
Findings from LSL research projects can help to enlighten us on two key areas: 21st century learning and 21st century pedagogy.
Examples of 21st century learning include: (a) Knowledge Building, (b) New Media Literacies, and (c) Game-based Learning.
Examples of 21st century pedagogy include: (a) Productive Failure, (b) Student-created Models, and (c) Play-Dialog-Performance.
These new approaches to learning and pedagogy may be combined in powerful ways – bringing them forward into the 21st century.
Pairing Knowledge Building and Productive Failure
LSL research has found that learning through Knowledge Building (KB) increases student motivation to learn. Students take ownership of their learning when they understand that they can contribute to the pool of public knowledge, or even challenge it.
KB may be paired with Productive Failure (PF) pedagogy. Victor explains, “PF is based on the premise that it can be more effective when we allow students to explore learning without providing immediate scaffolding.”
By allowing failure as students try to build knowledge on their own, especially at the outset, students start to learn by and for themselves.
The teacher adopts the role of collaborator and facilitator, allowing students time and space to explore, providing an encouraging presence, and helping only when absolutely necessary, but students control their learning progress.
Balancing New Media Literacies and Student-created Models
The research on New Media Literacies (NML) in learning shows that students need more opportunities to explore alternate media for learning, meaning making and knowledge construction.
Students who are exposed to interactions online (such as social chat rooms or peer-to-peer messaging) are found to have developed a personal voice or identity online. This, in turn, benefits their face-to-face interactions in the real world.
Teaching using Student-created Models (SCM) balances well with NML. Based on inquiry learning, this pedagogy allows students to build their own representations of knowledge. Students learn to develop an individual voice or identity as each student produces a different model.
Combining NML learning with SCM teaching balances the scales of power – traditionally seen to only reside in the teacher – by shifting some of it to the students. They are empowered to learn in their own unique ways.
Partnering Game-based Learning and Play-Dialog-Performance
In Game-based Learning (GBL) learning, as the name suggests, students learn through playing games.
As the game environment provides opportunities to enact assigned roles (such as leaders), this type of learning develops different skills (such as leadership).
“This leadership role can also be expanded to a broader learning outcome of forming identities. Students are engaged in on- and off-line identity construction in a positive way – they are more likely to view themselves as leaders or empowered learners,” says Victor.
Try partnering GBL with Play-Dialog-Performance (PDP). Allow students to first Play without prior instructions from teachers, then engage them in Dialog about their thoughts and reflections, and let them Perform real-world tasks that were simulated in the games.
Victor explains, “This model is beneficial for higher order thinking and real-life problem-solving skills development.”
By partnering GBL and PDP, students bring their positive identities formed in the games into the real world, where they can quickly apply their newly learned skills. They may then progress to higher order thinking skills and take on more advanced problems to solve.
Advancing with the Times
The times are changing and so must our way of teaching. The teacher can no longer be the only source of knowledge; this role must now be passed on to the student.
The new role of a teacher is to facilitate learning. In this educational landscape, students learn not because they are told to, but because they are responsible for themselves. Students of the 21st century must be the ones who steer their own learning.