The increasingly competitive global workforce of the 21st century has brought on the need for students and teachers to develop new skills and competencies in our educational systems. Given that the 21st-century classroom is characterized by innovation and project-based context, schools should adopt a 21st-century teaching and learning methods that blend creative thinking skills and employs methods of instruction that integrate modern learning technologies and real-world contexts (Wan & Gut, 2011). To this end, educators need to be prepared to serve students in the context of new expectations to meet the demands for a more skilled workforce. Accordingly, professional development training for teachers should incorporate innovative curriculum that includes modern technology skills, and practical experiences in a 21st-century classroom environment. This suggests that teachers should also learn about innovative curricula that incorporate critical thinking, complex problem solving, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking, communication and collaboration, innovative use of knowledge, and financial literacy.
How are you personally preparing to address your student’s need to develop 21st-century skills? What is your district’s plan to address these increasing demand for change? At this point, every school system should have educators and administrators actively participating in on-going professional development that focuses on building the capacity of district-level leadership teams, principals, and teacher leaders in understanding 21st-century skills and their importance. According to Wan & Gut (2011), every aspect of our education system including professional development must be aligned to prepare students with the 21st-century skills. Not only should this professional development instruct educators on the 21st-century skills, it should also incorporate modern ideas around technology, innovative pedagogies, and new understandings of the nature of 21st-century students. More specifically, the professional development activities should challenge new and veteran teachers to work within more significant teaching teams and more collaborative professional learning practices (Campbell, Saltmarsh, Chapman, Drew 2013).
Teachers of 21st-century students are increasingly experiencing classrooms where the availability and use of technology by students is ubiquitous. Educational researchers assert,
… it can be argued that there is a need within education for the greater incorporation of technology, a reinvention of the way that classrooms and schools are constructed (at both the physical and relational levels) that respond to the necessary 21st-century skills. The changing nature of technology (moving from static tools for information delivery to dynamic, user developed tools of co-creation and sharing) provides a hint as to what these 21st-century skills may be (Campbell, et.al, 2013, pg. 211).
Along with the integration of technology, 21st-century classrooms are deeply rooted in innovation and problems solving (Chesbro & Boxler 2010). This change in the learning environment for teachers and students creates a need for schools to become responsive and implement new pedagogies to that go beyond the traditional classroom pedagogy (Campbell, et.al, 2013). This is also supported by Wan & Gut (2011),
“For in-service teachers, “just-in-time” preparation that includes coaching and identification of new pedagogical tools and approaches to weave 21st century skills into content areas should be made available. Ideally, teaching academies, or other special initiatives, should exist so teachers can develop and renew 21st century skills and pedagogy in structured programs” (Wan & Gut, 2011, pg. 167).
It is difficult for teachers to teach what they have not experienced or do not know. To this end, the professional development for veteran teachers should intentionally be crafted to ensure the development 21st-century skills in collaborative non-traditional environments to help them understand the needs of the 21st center learner (Wan & Gut, 2011). The closer the professional development environments are to the student learning environments, the more the sharing of practices will lead to the enhancement of student learning (Campbell, et.al, 2013).
To summarize, the on-going professional development for veteran teachers should include activities that incorporate innovative uses of technology, pedagogy training that is designed for the 21st-century classroom, and opportunities for teachers to work in collaborative teams of teachers to foster the teacher development of 21st-century skills and competencies.
Campbell, M., Saltmarsh, S., Chapman, A., & Drew, C. (2013). Issues of teacher professional learning within ‘non-traditional’ classroom environments. Improving Schools, 16(3), 209-222.