What is the best way to learn for students?

Educators feel the heat quite often–blink and they’ll miss new trends in education. As 2018 races to a close, classrooms currently employ a dizzying area of teaching methods interspersed with constantly evolving technology. As the education landscape changes at blinding speeds, how do educators keep their footing steady? The answer is quite a cliche, unfortunately: a comprehensive list of trends in classrooms to watch out for this year.

Before we delve in, however, it’s important to consider why educators should even keep track of trends in the first place. Like every generation before them, students are different now in their perception of the world, their interactions with one another, and how they feel about the role of education in their lives. Students of last year were optimistic despite being the least wealthy, dependent on technology, and rather wary of education. Yet all that is poised to change soon with Generation Z having entered colleges and universities for the first time last year–the only generation to have grown up being familiar with smartphones. This generation overwhelmingly prefers learning by doing and is considered to be inseparable from technology. With that being addressed, it is important for educators to adapt to this new generation and meet them halfway between their needs and what educators are reasonably able to provide them.

Among the hundreds of learning methods, classroom pedagogies, and technology tactics befuddling educators, here are a few that seem promising and have already produced results:

Flipped classrooms

According to a survey conducted for over 2,300 professors, more than 90% recognized the term “flipped learning”. Flip classrooms are designed to deliver material outside of class and conduct activities within a class to reinforce those concepts. This method encourages students to familiarize themselves with concepts before and engage in deeper learning during class using assessment and feedback. As always, the first step is figuring out whether flipped classrooms work for you.

Project-based learning (PBL)

Decidedly difficult to summarize and often confusing to explain, project-based learning employs the application of semester or year-long projects concurrently with classroom instruction. Although promising in its results, PBL requires a considerable amount of investment in designing the classroom experience with often limited resources while being constrained by the number of students and the nature of the material being discussed. However, studies are ongoing to determine the best way to implement this method to help students understand better and apply what they learn–definitely making this a trend to keep an eye on.

Social learning

Gone are the days when students remained strangers in lecture halls, only forced to interact when they were absolutely required to. At least that’s what every iteration of social learning forecasts over the years (it’s been around for 50). However, with the current generation all too familiar with the technology, educators are using it as a means to foster communication and collaboration in class. This allows them to engage students in a peer instruction process that allows them to do significantly better at solving problems by leveraging teamwork.

Adaptive/personalized learning

Adapting to the needs of a class is worlds apart from adapting to the needs of each and every student. While it is possible to customize learning to every student, in bigger classes it falls on technology to assist professors in meeting this challenging objective. Although adaptive learning is gaining traction, there’s a long way to go before studies can back up the method itself and the technology becomes both cheap and effective.

Social media in classrooms

Social media in classrooms is bound to raise some eyebrows and cause a little concern. After all, isn’t social media a major distraction in classrooms? Depending on who you ask, the answer can be a yes or a no. Modern educators–with help from technology–are attempting to take back attention by converting the sources of distraction into a supplement for the learning process. This is achieved by leveraging familiarity with social media and applying it to an educational setting to enhance collaboration. Social media-enhanced learning can also help students acclimate to class better and overcome their shyness in collaboration and asking questions.

Modern educators are faced with the challenge of meeting the needs of a unique generation–one that was born into an education revolution heavily influenced by technology. Future classrooms are being constructed with these new needs in mind and it’s up to educators to decide what new trend in education best fits their teaching style. In a world of–sometimes–endless choices, educators need to decide what choice is worth their while.

Sagar Shetty

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