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25 methodologies that every 21st century education professional should know

Flipped Classroom, Design Thinking, Project-Based Learning… just a few of the most popular modern teaching methodologies that every school should employ as a core part of the learning experience and delivery. We’ve all heard these terms, but are they just ‘buzz words’ or a fad? Learnlife’s co-founder Dr Stephen Harris argues that not only are they here to stay, but they are critical to any school’s learning approach if we want to help learners thrive and succeed in an uncertain and volatile world.

How many lessons have you sat through in your life with the same methodology used repeatedly by the teacher? We’re all familiar with the scene: teacher at the front of the classroom, desks facing forward, pupils expected to sit and listen to the teacher imparting knowledge and wisdom from the front of the room. In any real world professional context this approach would be seen as dry and dull -- not conducive to providing a creative and stimulating environment. With more research and resources available to educators than ever before, there is no excuse not to adopt engaging and innovative learning methodologies rather than falling back on the stale and stagnant traditional classroom approach. The era of educator omniscience and one-way learner-educator interaction is over. And with it, Learnlife -- an innovative learning community based in Barcelona and fast gaining momentum in the world of education -- is welcoming others to support a new approach: one that places the educator in a polivalent role of mentor, coach, guide and confidant, and places the learner at the heart of the learning experience, combining a multitude of different learning methodologies (25, to be exact) to deliver a truly personal learning experience.

There are countless teaching and learning methods available. Learnlife has researched and gathered the best practices from around the world with the purpose of developing a broad toolkit of options for educators and schools from around the world to access. From the research gathered, a list of 25 methodologies has emerged. With ongoing research, this list continues to grow.

Education has traditionally favoured one dominant learning methodology above others; direct, teacher-led instruction. This is regrettable because a methodology that positions learners as passive receptors of content and knowledge restricts learning opportunities. It does not prepare them to become the creative change agents the world needs to address the challenges and uncertainties we face.

What are some of the benefits to this approach?

  1. A key approach to nurturing a strong love of learning is the educator’s selection of methodologies.
  2. Research highlights that the brain can grow synapses - a process known as synaptogenesis - which is specific to varied learning experiences.
  3. Using diverse methodologies exposes learners to varied experiences that ultimately can increase learner agency and support the skills that can encourage self-determined learning.
  4. A brief synopsis of each learning methodology.

New teaching methodologies are changing the educational environments around the world and driving better academic performance among students. Below we share a quick overview of the main innovative approaches that educators have forged over the last few years and that every 21st century teacher should be acquainted with.

They are facilitated by educators and designed to be learner-led, with support provided through mentorship and coaching. They encourage learner autonomy by cultivating the habitual skills of self-determined learning. Learner-led learning encourages an environment of discovery, innovation, and learning from mistakes by failing-forward. It provides learners with a higher sense of agency and purpose.

However, in the current context of the pandemic and the upheaval this has caused to traditional education, one of the biggest benefits of the trans-disciplinary and diversified methodological approach, has to be the ability to offer a broad and flexible range of evaluative approaches to learning, which include peer to peer evaluation, 360 reviews and other continuous evaluation methods as adopted in real world professional contexts.

Multi-skills approach to learning
Diverse methodologies create a multi-skills approach to learning and encourage learners to explore tasks using wide-ranging, high order skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, creativity, collaboration, digital literacy and communication.

The definitions of the first 5 of the 25 learning methodologies below reflects the research undertaken at Learnlife. There are existing variations to the methodologies outlined, for example the naming of a methodology may differ. The important concept is that to promote personal learning, educators must draw from the eclectic range available to them.

The list of diverse methodologies is not definitive and captures as many that have emerged to date or are discussed in contemporary global learning contexts.

Place-Based Learning
Learning is captured through participation in projects for school or in a community. It immerses students in local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities and experiences, and uses these as a foundation for learning immersion in any subject area.

Experience-Based Learning
Learners are guided on a journey that introduces them to a new cultural and contextual experience which begins with ‘place’ as the starting point. One key feature is that learners analyze their experience by reflecting, evaluating and reconstructing to draw meaning in light of prior experience.

Peer-to-Peer, Crowd-Sourced & Social Learning
This involves the gathering and sharing of knowledge and understanding among peers. In varying social contexts, it enables a platform for learners to access information that they may not be otherwise privy to, which creates more authentic, real-life learning experiences and more equitable learning opportunities.

Project-Based Learning
Students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to authentic, engaging and complex questions, problems or challenges. The learning often connects various subject areas using transdisciplinary or interdisciplinary approaches. 

Challenge-Based Learning
Learning which involves solving real-world challenges. This method is collaborative and requires participants to identify big Ideas, ask relevant questions, discover and solve challenges, gain in-depth subject area knowledge, develop 21st-century skills and share thoughts with the world.

Some schools or educational establishments choose to focus on one or two of the above methodologies, but in a new learning paradigm a diverse range of methodologies is crucial to cater to the unique needs of every individual in a learning community. Realistically, any learning guide might have the capacity to successfully deliver six to ten of the methodologies from the list of 25, which might form the ‘toolkit’ they draw from. In a collaborative learning context the aggregation of multiple teacher capacities and strengths should provide a rich variety of methodologies to diversify the learning experiences in the overall community. Exposing learners to as diverse a range of learning methodologies as possible remains a vital component to preparing them for an agile and uncertain future global landscape.

So, where to start? What’s the first step that educators should take to deliver diverse learning methodologies?  “The first step is to familiarise yourself and your learning team with the 25 methodologies document. Discuss learning approaches and assess and evaluate whether your team is using any methods listed and if there is room for improvement. An in-depth discussion around any newly discovered methodologies might form the basis for embedding new ideas relevant to your learning community,” says Dr Stephen Harris, co-founder and Chief Learning Officer at Learnlife. This familiarisation should then swiftly be followed by surveying learners, experimenting and evaluating new methodologies, observing and tracking usage and ensuring continued training and development opportunities for educators. 

Examples in Action

“We have compiled a list of examples of schools, organisations and education departments who deliver specialist programmes on one of the diverse learning methodologies. In some cases methodologies overlap with organisations demonstrating more than one exemplar approach. Our hope is that this serves as a kind of hands-on guide for other schools who are wanting to innovate and modernise their learning approach,” says Harris. “We believe that only through collaboration and sharing learning experiences can we truly evolve as a global learning community.”

Learnlife has published a list of the 25 different methodologies in action and associated partner organisations in education who exemplify best practice. If you would like to feature in the list of 25 methodologies, please get in touch with a summary of your learning approach and how you are adopting a given methodology in practice.

To join the Learnlife community and get the latest news on how our community of educators, changemakers and thought leaders is evolving, sign up via www.learnlife.com

Your brain has a potential for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.’ Michael J. Gelb