As we continue our journey through the new millennium, changes are happening in all spheres of life, our classrooms must adapt to the modern times we are living in and equip the students to face the real world, as part of the 21stcentury workforce, after completing their education. The interdisciplinary nature is the focal point of such a classroom, which distinguishes it from the 20thcentury classroom. Strict demarcation between subjects is a norm of the past. This classroom prepares the students for their future workplace by developing their higher order thinking skills, effective communication, and technology skills, that are essential in the 21st century professional world. The curriculum must be collaborative and project-based, to reflect the real-world scenario that the students will encounter in their future.
Some of the important features of a 21st century classroom:
Integration of Technology and Multimedia– Technology has become a crucial component of our lives. The availability of multimedia tools and resources to educators and students aids in achieving the objectives of the curriculum. Being able to do research on their laptops/tablets for projects, to create websites or multimedia presentations, and other such activities augment the learning and engagement of students. It also helps the teachers to enhance their strategies and techniques in imparting education.
Provision of Collaborative Environment– Collaboration is one of the four important Cs of the 21st-century skills, the other three being communication, creativity, and critical thinking. Students should be given the opportunity to work in groups on projects and network with others including peers and experts. This will help them in building empathy, cooperation, effective communication, leadership, and acceptance of different viewpoints. All this will make them future-ready. To enhance learning, teachers should also work in collaboration with other team members taking part in team-teaching and planning collaborative activities including group projects, debates, problem-solving, and more, in consultation with each other.
Interdisciplinary Projects – Instead of studying individual subjects in isolation, interdisciplinary projects provide students the opportunity to use and apply the skills and knowledge from different subjects, thereby reinforcing their learning. It enables them to be creative by thinking outside and across boundaries.
Enquiry-Based Learning Approach – Students are encouraged to ask questions in this approach. Their curiosity needs to be triggered rather than just providing information to them. They should be motivated to present a problem statement and explore the topics themselves. This leads to better and deeper understanding of the topic along with giving the students more ownership over their learning.
Focus on Process more than Content – Though content is important, focus must be more on the process of learning. Just providing information to the students for knowledge is not as effective as providing opportunities for them to evaluate, analyse, apply, and synthesize information to develop their own understanding and opinions on topics and issues.
Fostering Creativity – Creativity is the highest order of thinking according to educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom. It requires the application of all other skills and needs to be at the core of the learning environment. The curriculum should be designed to provide opportunities to students to explore their creativity in relevant ways.
Active Learning – Students need to be engaged in learning though interactive activities like project-based and group activities that are interesting for them and facilitate them to discover new skills. Being interested enhances their retention of the knowledge acquired during the learning process.
Reflective Writing – Reflective writing in the form of journals and blogs need to be encouraged in students to reinforce their metacognitive learning. Students need to reflect on their learning experiences and processes to work on their progress.
Flexibility – In the present world, nothing, including the classrooms, are static anymore. Flexibility is the norm of the day. Flexibility of furniture, space, seating arrangement, student groupings, etc. to match the students’ needs and tasks at hand allows them to take ownership of their own learning. We have come a long way from making the students sit in rows and listen to the teacher lecturing in the front of the classroom.
Relevant Curriculum – The curriculum should be relevant to the real-life situations that the students face. It should aim to provide the career and life skills necessary for the students to become competent, capable, contributary, and useful members of the society, both at the personal and professional levels.
Problem-Solving Approach– This helps in developing problem-solving skills in students, where they learn to identify problems and find their solutions by using the appropriate skills. Some of these skills are active listening, teamwork, analysing, communication, time-management, critical thinking, and decision-making.
Student-Centred Approach – Students needs to learn by doing, by being active learners through hand-on activities. Teachers need no longer be just authoritative figures or lecturers, rather they ought to act as facilitators providing support and guidance to students. Students’ interests are to be given priority with focus on individual students’ capabilities, learning styles and requirements.
Transparent Performance-Based Assessment– Various strategies apart from normal tests can be useful in assessing the learning outcomes of the students. Some of these include quizzes, projects, portfolios, rubrics, and the like which can be used to assess their achievements, abilities and needs.
In conclusion, a 21st century classroom involves seamless incorporation of modern technology, tools, and strategies of teaching-learning, and appropriate and relevant pedagogical approaches towards preparing the students to become responsible, productive, and creative members of the 21st century progressive world.
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.