The 12 Goals


Meeting these 12 Goals will bring 21st Century Learning to Life in Your Classroom

Source: Pearson

Before we get into specific mindsets, skills and practices of 21st Century Learning, it’s important to set the intention of what 21st Century Learning actually looks like and feels like. To do this, we turn to Sir Michael Barber, former Chief Education Advisor of Pearson, who shares 10 things that effective 21st Century teachers share in common in his YouTube video. We’ve also added 2 things to Sir Michael Barber’s list that we feel are important for 21st Century Learning.  


High expectations of every student

Teachers who expect that every student can achieve high standards set up an environment that promotes their students to achieve those high standards.  Education research has shown conclusively that teachers expecting their students to learn enhances student learning. 

In the mid 20th century, it was quite normal for education systems to teach some, but not all, students to high standards.Everyone would get the basics but only some would achieve high standards. 

In the 21st century, given the changes in technology and the economy, it is essential that we set out to achieve high standards for all. This is a very demanding task that we, the education profession, need to take on because children who leave school well educated have many, many more opportunities in a 21st century society and economy. The children who leave school without an education are really going to struggle in the 21st Century. 


100% participation

We are only going to achieve high expectations and standards for all, if every student participates in the learning process.
A lesson in which only some of the students are participating isn’t good enough in the 21st Century. So when a teacher is standing up in front of the class and lecturing, how is she
or he making sure that every student is engaged?
The important thing is to make sure students are engaged — their eyes are  on the teacher or they’re interacting with each other or they are engaged in a task. 100% participation is not one student, but all students.



Learning is both deeply personal and intensely social (Edward T. Hall, The Drive To Learn).  A 21st century classroom is not necessarily a quiet place.  Though at times students may be in deep reflection, often there is a kind of buzz of intellectual activity and excitement. In a 21st Century Classroom there should be lots of interaction, collaboration and social learning for students. The teachers who can create this are what Professor John Hattie from the University of New Zealand describes as “Teachers As Activators.” Teachers who can create an atmosphere of interactivity and learning are absolutely critical to the 21st Century.  


Informed pedagogy

Informed pedagogy is a level of thinking analytically and in an evidence-based way about why a certain part of teaching is taught in a particular way. The best teachers in the best education systems across the globe are able to give a rationale for why they are teaching a lesson in that particular way.

Any teacher, whatever she or he is teaching, should be able to explain and give a rationale if interrupted and asked “why are you doing it this way?” The rationale needs to be better than “Well, I’ve always done it this way.” It should be a rationale that says “I learned this from my colleagues” or “We planned the lesson on the basis of the student work we did last time and we thought this would work but we’re going to review it” or “I’ve looked at the research and it suggests that this is a powerful way to teach this sequence of algebra or geometry.” 

Informed pedagogy is very difficult to do on your own. It takes a culture in the school that encourages that kind of pedagogy and dialogue among teachers. 


Personalized LEARNING

It’s one thing to teach a class of 30 to 40 students. It’s quite different to actually know each student really well and to know what each student needs to do to get from where they are in their learning process to their next step of learning. That’s what personalization is all about. It’s about engaging each child in thinking through how they get over the barrier to whatever it is that they need to learn next. To do that, teachers need to know learners well. They need to know different strategies and not just to teach to the whole class but to tailor their teaching, follow up and give feedback to each individual student as well as to the class as a whole. Personalization is the key to getting students
to high standards. 



If we can achieve the first five areas listed above, then mastery will fall into place. Mastery is teaching students so that they don’t just cover the topic or lesson but they actually master that piece of knowledge or skills so that they can use it again and again in different contexts. They understand what the concept is, why the concept is the way it is and how to use the concept in different contexts. That kind of mastery takes practice. It takes deep learning, not just surface learning. Great teachers in the 21st Century are going to have to enable all students to gain mastery of the core elements of the curriculum. 


Challenge & inspiration

Learning is difficult. Anyone who reflects for a while on the tough things they learned will find that often it was not fun and it made their brain hurt. Maybe they felt a lack of confidence and so it felt really painful. But when they get over the hurdle and finally crack it, they feel joyful and satisfied. Faced with a difficult challenge without a really good teacher to push through, we might give up. The great teachers in the 21st Century can challenge you, inspire you and enable you to get over whatever it is that is preventing you from learning something so that you can finally learn it. 


Constant & CONTINUOUS feedback

Teachers need to know all the time whether what they are doing is working or not. Good teachers can do that from seeing the attention of the class, asking questions to check learning from individual students or the whole class, marking students’ work to see if everyone has achieved learning outcomes or not. Students need feedback like this of an informal nature on a daily and weekly basis, so that they can contribute to and be responsible for their own learning processes. Students also need more formal feedback and assessment to understand whether they have mastered content and skills. Assessments also allow teachers to compare how well their students learned to a certain set of content or performance indicators. The 21st Century teacher is going to be evidence informed and she uses data to adapt and refine her teaching to support her students learning processes. 


Increasing the use of technology

It’s hard to imagine as the 21st century unfolds that classrooms and schools will not be transformed by technology in the way that huge swaths of the economy have been transformed and indeed, our daily lives. Especially, the daily lives of students by access to Internet, computers and smart phones.  

Increasing the use of technology in the 21st Century classroom will require 3 changes: hardware, pedagogy and systems. You need to have the technology working and successful. You have to change the way teachers teach and their pedagogy. And you have to adapt the school system and curriculum to get the best use of the technology. This will take time and teachers need to be open to learning and learning from their students about how technology can be blended into learning. Technology can never replace a good teacher, but when it is blended into teaching and learning it can help strengthen learning outcomes and help students gain practical skills to transfer to other areas in their work and life. 


Collaborative planning & review

The kind of skills listed above — interactivity, 100% participation, informed pedagogy, personalization, etc. — make it very difficult for teachers to acquire these skills all on their own. A culture of collaborative planning, review and constant learning in every school will make it possible for all teachers to master the skills needed to teach 21st Century Skills.

The way that schools are organized can help to encourage collaboration: Teachers planning lessons together. Teachers learning from each other. Working on action research or community projects aimed at understanding needs, relevance and new solutions for how learning can connect back into a student’s life. Giving teachers time to watch each other teach. And to sometimes visit other schools. Collaboration is essential to growing 21st Century teachers and students across a whole education system.  


Creating a Culture of Innovation & Creativity

In the 21st century, relationship and connection are emphasized over separateness and isolation.  With complex challenges and issues facing societies around the globe, creativity and innovation are highly dependent on a connected, collaborative culture within organizations, schools and businesses.

How are we creative?  How do we come up with solutions and take ideas forward?  How do we look at the world as an opportunity to do something new and better rather than a problem in need of one correct answer? When we think like this, the world of the future ceases to be some place that we will end up and instead becomes a place we create.  We, as humans have been creating from the beginning of our existence as a species.

Innovation is an integrative process that enhances self-awareness and mindfulness to develop flexible perspective-taking along with cognitive abilities of divergent, convergent, analytic, synthesis and creative thinking to develop and test ideas to improve our world.

Though we are often sidetracked by school systems pushing us to “find the right answer,” all human beings have the capacity to be creative, generate new ideas, develop products, systems, and structures that enhance our capacities to think, live and grow both as individuals and as groups.

Learning to see things differently helps us to find new ideas, problems to solve and ways to solve them. Cultures that encourage innovation and creativity help students and teachers to become intrinsically motivated rather than looking for external rewards. Research shows that in creative classrooms, students learn to value curiosity and enjoy the search for a good answer rather than just finding the right answer.  Students learn to constantly strive to connect and create something that is more simple, applicable, beautiful, novel, balanced, precise or expansive. In creative classrooms, students and teachers learn to play with ideas instead of fearing them.     


Teaching to Create LifeLong Learners

Albert Einstein said that “insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”      

Naturally, as humans, we fear the unknown and change. But a 21st century learner understands how to lean into this fear. With great curiosity and a desire for learning, a 21st Century Learner confronts the unknown with the excitement of an opportunity to learn.  21st century learners understand how to step out of their own biases, beliefs and perceptions, so that they may welcome in the unknown and the mysterious. 

As a result, a 21st Century learner understands the importance of being a continuous, lifelong learner. This means that not only do 21st century learners gain knowledge, they gain the confidence to constantly search for new and better ways of thinking, being and doing.

In the 21st Century, learning can no longer be divided into one place where knowledge is acquired and another separate place where it is applied.  Acquiring and applying knowledge are now continually overlapping as the 21st century world is characterized by an extraordinary outpouring of ideas, data information, stories, issues and problems.  This compels businesses and industries to continually adapt algorithms, methods, systems, approaches or formula for their implementation.

21st century students and teachers are continually striving for improvement, continually growing, learning, adapting and modifying both what they know and how they know it.  Their confidence and inquisitiveness allows them to continually take a perspective of growth mindset in which they see situations, conflicts and issues not as problems, but rather as opportunities. Every situation or experience is a new opportunity to learn, to be creative, to grow, to collaborate and to be helpful.