Six Educational Trends for the New Decade

Jack Creeden

As we embark upon a new decade, educators around the world are looking at ways to be certain our curricula and classrooms keep up with the changing demands of the new workplace. Although schools today come in all shapes and sizes, the common denominator that connects us is the constant presence and importance of change.

Here are Six Trends to watch for in education in the next decade:

1. The definition of education will change. We are quickly coming to accept that to be educated one does not need to sit in the same seat at the same location for a specified period of time with the same students following a proscribed curriculum dictated by an external body of so-called experts. The opportunities for self-directed learning are growing exponentially. More important, the willingness of education gate-keepers (i.e., college and secondary school admission officers and accreditation agencies) to recognize the validity of this kind of education and to offer credit for a variety of learning experiences are increasing.

2.The classroom model will change dramatically. Even the most ardent supporters of traditional schooling acknowledge that in ten years, classrooms will not and should not look like what we see today. Progressive educators are leading the way, modeling classrooms where students follow individualized paths to learning, propelled by their own innate curiosity.
Constant exploration and discovery are acknowledged as the best way for children to learn and understand advanced knowledge.We must create classrooms where students are encouraged to take risks, consider alternative models to problem-solving and see failure as one step along the way to success.

Constant exploration and discovery are acknowledged as the best way for children to learn and understand advanced knowledge.

3. The role of faculty will undergo significant changes. Based on what we have learned from neurodevelopmental science about how the brain functions and people learn best, classrooms shift dramatically from faculty-centered to student-centered. Agency over learning moves to students, with faculty serving as mentors and experts at developing cognitive and social-emotional skills. Faculty will teach students how to work collaboratively in teams and how to discern the quality of data that is readily and abundantly available from kindergarten to secondary school levels. The instructor has higher order thinking skills to teach and no longer is solely the transmitter of factual information passed on to bored students impatiently occupying classrooms for a designated period of time.
4. Social-emotional competence is increasingly important. While there is no denying the value of being able to understand vast data sets on which decisions in the future will depend, the ability of students to use those data well requires well-developed social-emotional skills. Our curricula must include strategies to help students develop self-knowledge and awareness, emotional regulation and perspective taking, especially when one is operating outside one’s own culture context.

...the ability of students to use data well requires well-developed social-emotional skills.

5. Our school and college curricula must evolve to meet the changing demands of the 21st Century workplace. TheMcKinsey Global Institute (2018) has identified the following significant changes in workplace competencies that will be needed in the future.
  • Between 2016 and 2030, demand for social and emotional skills will grow across all industries by 26%.
  • Within social emotional skills, the fastest growing demand will be for entrepreneurship and initiative taking (33 % rise in US).
  • Between 2016 and 2030, demand for higher cognitive skills such as creativity, critical thinking, decision making and complex information processing is estimated to increase in US by 19%.
  • Demand for higher cognitive skills such as advanced literacy and quantitative and statistical skills could decline or stay flat.

6.Technology will play an increasing role in supporting teaching and learning. Here it is important to understand that increased technology does not necessarily lead to improvements in learning. We should celebrate, however, the advances of technology and be certain that students at all ages make full use of technology to help them explore and discover information.

We know that technology allows students to access more data than previously imagined, but access to data alone will not lead to a well-educated student prepared for the challenges of the 21st Century. As faculty, we must be current with the best uses of technology to support the development of critical thinking and problem-solving with students.

Jeffery Selingo, writing in a March 2018 article in The Atlantic, argues that a third revolution in education will propel us into a world of change. He believes “two interdependent forces are driving us into the third revolution—the rise of smart machines and the decline of the full-time, career employee. This revolution will impact both K–12 and higher education in similar and different ways.”

How exciting to imagine what our K-12 schools will look like at the end of the next decade. To be prepared for 2030, we must continue to accelerate the changes we see at the margins of our curricula and the definitions we use to describe a school. We must continue to challenge existing assumptions about teaching, learning, assessment and what it means to be educated. To prepare students for the challenges that await them, education leaders, faculty and parents must see this as our responsibility and obligation.