You are on page 1of 15


Contemporary Teaching Strategies

Background/An Overview
A growing number of business leaders, politicians and educators are united
around the idea that students need 21 st century skills to be successful today.
It is exciting to note that we live in a time that is so revolutionary that the
students demand new and different abilities.
Many educators, policy makers and even the general public would respond
with a resounding that is impossible when challenged to adopt a new
paradigm of education for the 21st century. However, with the demands of
the times, a growing number of educators are putting the best efforts in
accomplishing the impossible.
The assignment or mission of educators nowadays is to truly take education
into the 21st century. It is not enough to say that we are already living there.
Technically, it is the 21st century, but our schools are not there. Our
challenge now is to reinvent schools for the 21 st century for the sake of the
young generation, our students, and the welfare of our world.
So what is 21st century education? It is bold. It breaks the mold. It is
flexible, creative, challenging and complex. It addresses a rapidly changing
world filled with fantastic new problems as well as exciting new
The 21st Century
The new millennium was ushered in by a dramatic technological revolution.
We now live in an increasingly diverse, globalized and complex, mediasaturated society. Our students are facing many emerging issues such as
global warming, famine, poverty, health issues, a global population
explosion and other environmental and social issues. These issues lead to a
need for students to be able to communicate, function and create change
personally, socially, economically and politically on local, national and

global levels. Even kindergarten children can make a difference in the

world by participating in real-life, real-world service learning projects. One
is never too young nor too old, to create change that makes the world a
better place.
Emerging technologies and resulting globalization also provide unlimited
possibilities for exciting new discoveries and development such as new
forms of energy, medical advances, restoration of environmentally ravaged
areas, communications and exploration into space and into the depths of
the oceans. The possibilities are unlimited.
21st Century Skills
21st century skills address the whole child, the whole person and are
interdisciplinary, integrated, project-based, and more, and are learned
within a project-based curriculum by utilizing the seven survival skills
advocated by Tony Wagner in his book: The Global Achievement Gap:

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence
Agility and Adaptability
Initiative and Entrepreneuralism
Effective and Written Communication
Accessing and Analyzing Information
Curiosity and Imagination

Definitely, to develop in our students the needed and relevant 21st century
skills, adapting to a new paradigm of education is imperative. This new
paradigm of education is inspired by constructivism or the constructivist
theory espoused by John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, Lev Vigostky
and Maria Montessori.
Constructivism views learning as that which occurs as the learners are
actively involved in a process of meaning making and knowledge

construction which fosters critical thinking and develops motivated and

independent learners. This framework holds that learning always builds
upon knowledge that a student already knows; this prior knowledge is
called a schema. Students learn how to learn by giving them the training to
take initiative for their own learning experiences. Students work primarily
in groups and learning is interactive and dynamic. The curriculum and the
teaching-learning process are student-centered and the main focus or
emphasis is on social and communication skills, as well as collaboration
and exchange of ideas. The most common methods employed in a
constructivist classroom are:
Experimentation students individually or in small groups perform
an experiment and then come together as a class to discuss the
Research projects students research on a topic/s and present their
findings to the class.
Fieldtrips allow the student to put the concepts and ideas discussed
in class in a real-world context. Fieldtrips are followed by class
Films provide visual context and thus bring another sense into the
learning experience.
Class discussions this technique is used in all of the methods cited
The constructivist learning design consists of six (6) important
Situation As the teacher, what situation are you going to arrange for
the students to explain? Give this situation a title and describe the
process of solving problems, answering questions, creating
metaphors, making decisions, drawing conclusions or setting goals.
This situation should include what you expect the students to do and
how students will make their own meaning.
Groupings There are two categories of groupings:

How are you going to make groupings of students: as a whole

class, individuals, in collaborative teams of two, three, four, five or
more, and what process will you use to group them; counting off,
choosing a color or piece of fruit, or similar clothing? This
depends upon the situation you design and the materials you have
available to you.

How are you going to arrange groupings of materials that students

will use to explain the situation by physical modeling, graphically
representing, numerically describing, or individually writing about
their collective experience. How many sets of materials you have
will often determine the numbers of student groups you will form.
Bridge This is an initial activity intended to determine students
prior knowledge and to build a bridge between what they already
know and what they might learn by explaining the situation. This
might involve such things as giving them a simple problem to solve,
having a whole class discussion, playing a game, or making lists.
Sometimes this is best done before students are in groups and
sometimes after they are grouped. You need to think about what is
Questions Questions could take place during each element of the
learning design. What guiding questions will you use to introduce the
situation, to arrange the groupings, to set up the bridge, to keep
learning going, to prompt exhibits, and to encourage reflections? You
also need to anticipate questions to encourage them to explain their
thinking and to support them in continuing to think for themselves.
Exhibit This involves having students make an exhibit for others of
whatever record they made to record their thinking as they were
explaining the situation. This could include writing a description on
cards and giving a verbal presentation, making a graph, chart or other
visual representation, acting out or role playing their impressions,
constructing a physical representation with models, and making a
video tape, photographs, or audio tape for display.
Reflections These are the students reflections of what they thought
about while explaining the situation and then saw the exhibits from

others. This would include what students remember from their

thought process about feelings in their spirit, images in their
imagination, and languages in their internal dialogue.
attitudes, skills, and concepts will students take out the door? What
did students learn today that they wont forget tomorrow? What did
they know before; what did they want to know; and what did they
21st Century School, Teacher, Learner, and Curriculum
Schools will go from buildings to nerve centers, with walls that are
transparent, connecting teachers, students and the community to the
wealth of knowledge that exists in the world. The classroom is expanded to
include the greater community.
Teacher from primary role as a dispenser of information to orchestrator
of learning and helping students turn information into knowledge, and
knowledge into wisdom. The 21 st century requires knowledge generation,
not just information delivery, and schools need to create a culture of
Learner students today are referred to as ikids and digital natives and
todays teachers as digital immigrants. Todays students are digital
learners they literally take in the world via the filter of computing devices:
the cellular phones, handheld gaming devices, and laptops they take
everywhere, plus the computers, TVs and gaming consoles at home. Many
are multitasking listening to music while surfing the Web or instant
messaging friends while playing a video game. However, Dr. Michael
Wesch, member of the Advisory Board for 21st Century Schools points out
that although todays students understand and how to utilize these tools,
many of them are used for entertainment only, and the students are not
truly media literate.
Curriculum - schools in the 21st Century are laced with a project-based
curriculum for life aimed at engaging students in addressing real-world
problems, issues important to humanity, and questions that matter. Service
learning is an important component and is laden with environmental
awareness and issues and students are assisted in finding answers to
environmental problems. The curriculum is not textbook driven or

fragmented but is interdisciplinary or integrated, thematic, project-based

and research-driven. It is connected to the community local, state,
national and global. The curriculum incorporates higher order thinking
skills, multiple intelligences, technology and multimedia, the multiple
literacies of the 21st century, and authentic assessments.
Knowledge is not memorization of facts and figures, but is constructed
through research and application, and connected to previous knowledge,
personal experience, interests, talents and passions. The skills and content
become relevant and needed as students require this information to
complete their projects. The content and basic skills are applied within the
context of the curriculum, and are not ends in themselves.
The 21st Century Global Classroom
Students from countries all over the world collaborate on important
projects. In order for our students to be prepared to navigate this 21 st
century world, they must become literate in 21st century literacies, including
multicultural, media, information, emotional, ecological, financial and
cyber literacies. Students can learn that through collaboration, not
competition, they can work together to make the world a better place.
Students use technologies, including the internet, and global collaboration
to solve critical issues.
There is a need to consider that no one size fits all or one style fits all.
Each school should be designed with the students and the goals of the
school and community in mind. The design takes into account the kind of
spaces needed by students and teachers as they conduct their investigations
and implement their projects. Spaces are needed for large groups, small
groups and for independent work. There is plenty of wall space and other
areas for displaying student work.
Specific Characteristics of 21st Century Teaching: The Traditional
vs the Contemporary
Time-based Lessons are dissected
with corresponding
time allotment for

Change To



Results are made

evident in terms of


each topic and at the

end of allotted time,
instruction is stopped
whether learning has
taken place or not.
Teachers are the
Studentcenter of information
and provider of
information. Teachers
spend most of the time
in stand and deliver
information to
students through
direct information.


Memorization of
discrete facts in the
subjects areas i.e.
reading, writing and


Lessons focus on the

lower level of Blooms

accomplished or
solved and
performances done.

Teachers act as
orchestrators of
student learning and
creators of a
productive classroom
environment. They
coach students as they
work on authentic
projects through
research while
assimilating the
Focus: What Core subjects are the
substance of the
know, can
elementary classroom
do and need but not the only focus
to do
instead the jumping
off point of core
learning on problemsolving,
information and
media literacy, global
literacy adaptability,
collaboration and
Learning is designed
and Doing
on the upper levels of
Blooms Taxonomy
synthesis, analysis

comprehension and
application through
direct instruction and
moves at a pace to
ensure that all
materials are
presented, whether it
is learned or not.

and evaluation.
Teachers design
projects to address
essential academic
standards. Student
performance on
projects demonstrates
proficiency or
deficiency with
respect to standards.
Intervention is done
for students not
meeting the
Memorizin Teachers spend most
Teachers have
g and
of the time involved in Information students use
Recall of
direct instruction, with
information to
information assessment occurring
develop authentic
as a test at the end
projects where
where recall of
mastery of
information is tested
information is
demonstrated in the
way information is
used in the project.
All students receive
Teachers group
the same instruction.
students based on
configurati One size fits all.
Configuratio student needs.
n Based on
Instruction is seldom
to the whole group.
Rather, instruction
occurs with
individuals, pairs, or
small groups as
The class is conducted Interdiscipli Teacher have students
in an isolated manner nary
complete projects that
without connections to
are designed to use
other subjects or
information and skills
that cut across other
subject areas. Some


Students are
encouraged to work
individually, in
isolation within the 4
walls of the classroom
classroom designed
for the emerging
industrial age of the
19th century based on a
factory model.
Quiz and
Student performance
is assessed through
Assessment paper-and-pencil tests
s; Paper
requiring the recall of
and Pencil




Teachers follow
textbook chapter by
chapter, page by page.
The textbook is the
major source of


projects and
assignments may be
done collaboratively
between two or more
classes i.e. history,
science and language
arts a study on the
advancement of a
barangay or town.
Teachers allow
students to work
collaboratively with
classmates on
projects and network
with others in and out
of the school and even
around the world as
well as with external
Teachers utilize
projects as well as
other products and
performances as
assessments to
determine student
achievement and
needs. Assessments
are tailored to the
talents/needs of the
Students use multiple
sources of
information including
technology, to find
and gather the
information they
need. They keep
journals, interview
experts, explore the


as a luxury

Teachers are the main

users of technology,
primarily as a means
of presenting

into the

are treated
purely as

Students are strictly

students in the real
sense; involved in
strictly academic
endeavors i.e. note
taking, listening to
lectures, reciting
according to context of
lessons, etc.

Students as
workers in
and lifelong

teach to one

Teachers teach
addressing one
learning style nearly
all the time i.e. always
talking only, or always
giving notes on the
board only. Teachers
also expect student
outputs to always be
the same all the time
i.e. all work is
submitted in written

address the
styles of all

internet, or use
computer software
programs to apply
what they learned or
to find information.
Teachers have
students regularly use
technology to find
e with each other and
experts, and to
produce and present
their projects,
assignments, and
Teachers set up
student assignments,
projects, and
performances to allow
students to operate
the way a person
would be working in
the field in the real
world i.e. as a
scientist, writer,
mathematician, etc.
Teachers use different
means of presenting
Methods are based on
the preferences of
individual students or
groups. Students are
able to convey
information to the
teacher via their
assignments in a



Teachers give direct

instruction in having
students memorize
facts, concepts and


Teaching in Closing the door and

working alone with no
contact or help from
outside the classroom

Teaching in

Teaching to Students become

bored because school
is not engaging and
they feel they have to
power down.

the 21st

variety of modalities,
based on their
preferences i.e.
written, spoken,
music, acted out, etc.
Through projects,
teachers have
students learn how to
ask the right
questions, do an
investigation, get
answers, and use the
information so they
can continue to learn
throughout their lives.
Teachers take part in
co- and team
teaching, as well as
collaboratively with
department members
to improve student
Teachers consider to
utilize the unique
characteristics of the
21st century brain and
the habits of the 21st
century digital native
to provide engaging
and effective

An Overview of a Student-Centered Classroom

(On a separate sheet for group work to elicit students reactions and reflections)


Pat Gray, a Saskatoon teacher, has intuitively acquired a constructivist

theory of teaching English language arts over the course of his teaching
career. His secondary language arts program exemplified the attributes of
constructivist teaching: learner-centered instruction in a democratic
environment; active learners who build and create meaning and
knowledge; learners who hypothesize, question, investigate, imagine and
invent; learners who reflect and make associations with prior knowledge to
reach new understandings.
Colorfully illustrated childrens dictionaries, student-created serial
postcards indicating imaginary holiday adventures, and visual responses to
poetry decorated the hallway leading to Pats classroom. In the classroom
itself, an abundance of student work was displayed throughout the room.
Posted on all available bulletin board space was an uncommon and diverse
array of written and visual student productions, sometimes several revised
drafts of a written creation being exhibited to demonstrate the process
involved in the product. In one corner of the ceiling was a compelling
mobile, an imaginative and sensitive response to literature, as evidenced by
the representation of characters, Laura, Amanda, Tom, and Jim, the
characters from Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie. There they
hung, delicately suspended in their own separate worlds, connected only by
a thin filament of thread, the infrangible ties of family and past history.
And at the back and center of the room was an imposing five foot tall oak
tree! With some ordinary construction paper, marking pens, and an
interesting and resourceful treatment of various other types of art
materials, an inventive group of students had depicted an intriguing and
fascinating response to To Kill a Mockingbird. The oak tree was, in fact, a
museum to house important artifacts from the story.
The room was filled with red geraniums in terra cotta pots and contained
round tables instead of the usual students desks, and although the first
class of the day hadnt yet begun, the room already contained many
configurations of grade nine students with an obvious sense of ownership of
the classroom are they engaged themselves in an assortment of activities.
One student busied herself watering the geraniums while two students,
contorted faces pressed close to the aquarium glass, tried to engage the gold
fish in a conversation. At a corner table, a huddled couple intently
examined a Life magazine while next to them, a lively group of three or four
students was occupied in transforming a rather large chunk of white Bristol
board into a lively looking collage. Their teacher was surrounded by a small


group of laughing students involved in some discussion, with ease and

comfort as they interacted with him, and the affection they seemed to have
for him, it being only the second week in September and Pat being new in
the school. It was obvious that the student enjoyed living there!
The following day, the class arranged themselves in groups in which they
had begun working in the previous day. They were involved in a group
translation into contemporary English of Julius Caesar, each of five groups
translating a different act. In their attempts to modernize and present
Shakespeares work, students were required to come to an understanding of
characters and events in the play, which would determine verbal and
nonverbal representations. Later, the students would enact, in full
costume, one scene of their choice from their contemporary constructions,
with the remainder of the scenes to be presented in a readers theatre.
While the costumes for the enactment would be contemporary, the students
had to make decisions regarding the most appropriate costumes for each
character based on their own interpretations of and transactions with
Shakespeares text. The exercise was an experience from which they would
come to an understanding of linguistic evolution and character
development. The groups had interesting and entertaining discussions as
the members in each group negotiated interpretations of Shakespearean
discourse and debated how particular characters might say their new
constructions. In the meantime, Pat visits each group, to provide assistance
where necessary, and probe to elicit personal responses and to encourage
depth in their discussions like Whos your favorite character in your act?
Cassius! Tell me about Cassius. Why do you like him? And so the
conversation went on and the class continued.
An Overview of a Student-Centered Language Arts Instruction
Student-centered activities in any subject area can range from very simple
to sophisticated and complex depending on the teachers learning
objectives. If a teacher were to devise a student-centered activity, the first
thing that needs to be established is an educational objective. The teacher
would then need to think of a meaningful activity which would, at the same
time, help students to reach the objective and to explore and construct
knowledge based on what theyre reading and what they already bring to
the activity. The teacher would also need to reexamine the mechanics of
how to run a class and would have to entrust a lot to the students. This is
demonstrated in the following activity involving The Prologue to the


Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, which Pat developed to achieve a

variety of language arts objectives.
The class and the teacher begin by examining the linguistic evolution of the
English language including Middle English in which Geoffrey Chaucer
writes. The teacher provided each student with Chaucers text in Middle
English. Next, the teacher gave each student a pronunciation guide.
Finally, to the whole class, the teacher read the Introduction to the
Prologue in Middle English, and as a class, they translated it. The teacher
then provided a brief character sketch of each character in the Prologue
after which each student elected to join a character group of his or her
choice, for example, the squire, the groups task being to become an expert
on the particular character which they had selected. Each group was then
provided with a chart on which they were to record the various aspects of
their characters condicioun. The groups next undertaking was to rehearse
a dramatic oral reading of their characters portion of the Prologue. In so
doing, each group began, with assistance, when required to come to an
understanding of their character. Then each group was expected to
thoroughly research their character in order to come to a better
understanding of the historical persona on whom Chaucer based his
literary rendering and to place that character into a social, historical, and
cultural context. The preexisting character groups were then split up, and
students were instructed to form new groups of four or five none of which
could contain more than one of the same character. Then their task was to
complete an activity called Table Talk at the Tabard in which each group
was to bring to life each of the characters. By the time the students had
seen everybody elses presentation, they had at least a passing knowledge
of, and an appreciation of, all of Chaucers characters along with the
language of Chaucers time.
The synthesis
The student-centeredness of a constructivist classroom is clearly
apparent in a reader response approach to literature.
Recognizing the significance of the unique experiences that each
reader brings to the reading of a selection of literature, the teacher in
a response-centered approach seeks to explore the transaction
between the students and the text to promote or extract a meaningful


This places the student in a central position in the classroom since

exploring this transaction seems unlikely to occur unless the teacher
is willing to relinquish the traditional position of sole authority,
thereby legitimating the unique experiences that all members of the
class bring to the reading rather than just those experiences the
teacher brings.
The resulting perception and effect in the classroom is evident in
students recognition that the discussion is a legitimate one involving
questions to which nobody knows the answer. It isnt a treasure
hunting game where they are trying to guess what is in their teachers
head, but a process that creates meaning and knowledge.
From a constructivist perspective, where the student is perceived as
meaning-maker, teacher-centered, text-centered and skills-oriented
approaches to literature instruction are replaced by more studentcentered approaches where processes of understanding are
In a discussion of language arts instruction based on constructivist
theories of language use and language development, Applebee (1993)
suggests that: rather than treating the subject of English as subject
matter to be memorized, a constructivist approach treats it as a body
of knowledge, skills, and strategies that must be constructed by the
learner out of experiences and interactions within the social context
of the classroom.

Understanding a work of literature does not mean memorizing

someone elses interpretations, but constructing and elaborating
upon ones own within the constraints of the text and the conventions
of the classroom discourse community.
A constructivist student-centered approach places more focus on
students learning than on teachers teaching.
A traditional
perspective focuses more on teaching. From a constructivist view,
knowing occurs by a process of construction by the knower. Lindfors
(1984) advises that how we teach should originate from how students