Looking forward to meeting the challenges of the 21st century education, educational systems need to move away from the ideas that shaped the education of earlier generations. Whereas in the past, learning in schools was curriculum-centred, where knowledge and understanding were key to measuring achievement (memory-based learning), the demands of the digital age, with its rapid technological advancement, require the shift towards learning-centred curriculum, which is skills-based learning with emphasis on application, problem-solving and other higher order learning strategies.
Although any learning is based on knowledge foundations and understanding, since the widespread availability of technology, including mobile technology, knowledge has become so readily accessible that the modern curriculum needs have changed. This means that teaching and learning, to be relevant to the needs of the modern society, must focus on developing other skills, including critical thinking, creative reasoning, imaginative solutions to problems, evaluative skills and multi-dimensional communication skills.
This shift from curriculum-centred learning to learning-centred curriculum, where the focus needs to be on developing learning self-regulation and autonomy, requires the change in assessment focus from testing aimed at assessing knowledge and understanding to assessments that match the objectives of the learning-centred curriculum aimed at teaching higher order learning skills relevant to further studies and future career development.
Since learners are at the heart of the learning-centred curriculum, some traditional teaching methods, of didactic nature, need to move way to new methodology expected to develop pupils’ learning self-regulation. As the importance of learning independence to future success cannot be underestimated, schools are faced with the challenge of developing autonomous learners capable of their own mastery of learning. Although some pupils possess a natural ability to learn effectively and therefore can be more motivated to learn than others, these meta-cognitive skills need to be explicitly taught, through the use of classroom formative assessment strategies, to develop pupils’ self-regulation essential to motivation and learning independence.
Drawing on research based findings into the importance of developing pupils’ self-regulation, we know that children who are well motivated to learn are capable of using their self-regulatory skills effectively for higher achievement, whereas children who are not skilled at using self-regulatory skills, tend to be poorly motivated and over-reliant on teachers, which has a negative effect on their progress. Indeed, Boekaerts (1995) asserts that “It is important that teachers make their students independent of their help by preparing them for bugs, by teaching them how to consult resource material and how to use their social support network”.
As these independent learning skills are essential to developing learning sustainability needed for future multiple career changes and personal development, schools need to focus on developing their learning-based curricula and effective assessment systems that engage pupils in their own learning and, through feeding forward and other formative strategies, to facilitate pupils’ mastery of learning. Therefore the shift in the locus of control from the teacher, in a more traditional curriculum-centred learning, to the pupil, in the new learning-centred curriculum, should be at the heart of education in the digital age.
Boekaerts, M. (1995). Motivation in Education. The British Psychological Society.
Dr Joanna Goodman