1) Technology Integration
Technology will play a key role in establishing this type of classroom, however it is not essential. Despite all the pictures and articles depicting the need for classrooms to be a one-to-one student – devices ratio or being Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), you just need to have enough technology so students are able to conduct research, collaborate and create in small group situations.
2) Collaborative Environment
It has been shown that students engage in deep learning when they are able to communicate and express their ideas and thoughts with each other. Having areas in the classroom that promote partner and small group work situations encourages classroom discussions on whatever it is you are learning the classroom. I believe this is probably the most important skill and element to having a successful classroom. Period.
3) Opportunities for Creative Expression
Creativity is not only expressed in creative arts. In this context, it is about allowing students to express themselves and their thoughts in an authentic manner. Whether it be through notetaking, drawings or discussions, opportunities for creative expression is essential because it promotes "risk-taking" in the classroom.
4) Inquiry Based
We all know that this is a key element, yet educators are yet to fully embraced the idea of the "Big Question". This doesn't mean that students can learn about whatever they want. It is about you guiding their learning with a series of questions that are designed to engage and direct them so that the learning outcomes and goals are met.
5) Justification for Answers
Generally when we ask students how they got a particular answer, the response is either: I don't know, it just looks right, I learnt it last year, etc. If students are able to provide a reason for their answers or responses, it shows that they have gained a deep understanding of the topic/content. If they can justify the response, it shows that they have truly understood what they have learnt which also means that this new information is more likely to be retained in their long-term memory.
6) Students Self Reflection
Feedback is a key element in student learning. Students are mainly exposed to teacher feedback but there is an increasing focus on peer assessment and feedback. Student feedback/self reflection is growing in importance as it allows them to look back on their learning journey and digest their thoughts and processes.
7) Transparent Assessment
The most common name for this is learning intentions or learning goals. Learning should not be a secret. Students should be able to know what is expected of them which in turn provides them with something to aim for. The learning goals should be differentiated to the ability of the students.
8) Problem-Solving Focus
Problem-solving is a skill that your students will not only use in the classroom. It is a skill that they will definitely need in the real world. Creating an environment where students learn and have access to a variety of different strategies is important, but what is even more crucial is allowing them to practice and fine tune the strategies in the classroom.
9) Hands-On Learning
This one is really simple. Research and studies have shown that the best way to learn is by doing. This means using concrete materials, manipulating objects and putting strategies into practice. Basically anything that students can physically do to demonstrate their learning.
10) Teacher As Facilitator
The role of the teacher has definitely changed! We are no longer expected to know all the answers. Instead our role is to guide students with their learning. To ensure that they are on the right path by guiding students as they seek information and content that is relevant to them and their learning.
You do not need all 10 items on this list for your classroom to become a 21st-Century Learning Environment. These are just a few of my measures that I have set for myself.
Do you have any others to add? Let us know in the comments.