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Characteristics of 21st Century Approaches in Education

By Andrew Button, eHow Contributor Print this article

Online learning is a major 21st century educational development.

Educational approaches evolve in response to changes in sociology and psychology. As the structure of the world and our understanding of the mind evolve, old theories of education become outmoded and outdated. In the 21st century, the world is becoming a more integrated, technological and global community, while psychology is moving toward a more nuanced and rigorous understanding of individual learning styles. Accordingly, 21st century education approaches are being defined by integrated learning technologies and student-focused teaching strategies.

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1. Use of Technology

Learning technology is one of the dominant features of 21st century education. As computer and Internet advances open new possibilities for distance and interactive education,

educators are increasingly opting to bring more high-tech learning tools into the classroom. Online tools, such as online notes, tests and assignments, allow teachers to deliver materials to students without being present. Interactive tools, such as games, models and mobile applications, allow students to learn skills while simultaneously learning course material.

Curriculum Differentiation

Curriculum differentiation has been a feature of education for decades, but has been given greater emphasis in 21st century education theories compared to 20th century theories. In 21st century education, curriculum differentiation is intended not only to enrich gifted students, but also to identify students' talents and interests and provide them with learning challenges that allow them to grow in a positive direction. One example of 21st century differentiation is the Maker Model, which differentiates according to interests, talents and skills in addition to IQ.

Emphasis on Scientific Literacy


Scientific literacy is considered to be a crucial ability for students in the 21st century. As the 21st century progresses, the world faces serious challenges relating to environmental degradation and resource depletion. In order for students to understand the challenges the world faces, they must possess a framework for understanding those challenges. Accordingly, literacy in mathematics, chemistry, biology and economics is considered essential for 21st century students.

New Approaches in Language Arts


Language arts reform was a hotly debated topic in the 20th century, and continues to be contentious in the 21st century. Traditionally, language arts courses combined communication skills with literary knowledge. Throughout much of the 20th century, students would learn grammar, composition and literary history in one interdisciplinary course. In the 21st century, this approach is considered ineffective. New language arts courses place emphasis on writing, speaking, media use and research, based on the theory that students must be able to gather and communicate information effectively in order to meet the demands of the 21st century economy.

Attention to Social Skills


The importance of social skills has been acknowledged in 21st century education theory. Twentieth century education placed considerable emphasis on rote learning from one-way lectures, an approach that subtly discouraged social interaction in the learning process. Twenty-first century education theorists have concluded that this approach was misguided. Not only do collaborative learning projects lead to improved understanding of material, but they also encourage leadership and cooperation, two skills that are of utmost importance for participants in any organization.

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