What makes us effective teachers?

July 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

What makes us effective teachers?

This question is at the forefront of the minds of teachers who strive to make a difference. These teachers are the ones who stress over their students, their own ‘being’ as a teacher. It reminds me that:

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Teaching in the 21st century is a challenge. Why is it a challenge? It is challenging because we are constantly having to ‘let go’. Let go of our former understanding, belief structures, and the easeness of which we do things. It shouldn’t however, distract from the essence of why we think teaching is important.

Today we are going to look at some of the techniques we can use that can help us become more effective in what we do. It is by no means exhaustive. And it is by no means stating that what you are doing is wrong. It is probably going to challenge you into thinking in a new perspective, or even challenge you into letting go of some of the beliefs that you have. This is the beauty of being a learner! We are constantly on a course in learning new things, new ways of doing, new ways of teaching, new ways to say what we want to say. Isn’t this what makes us unique? Isn’t this what moves us forward?

Is education supposed to a partnership?

A lot of talk, when we are looking at 21st century learning is looking at the link of the partnership model. Making us effective teachers within the 21st century is coming to the realisation that we are entering a partnership with our students.

If the kids come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job easier.

If they do not come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important.

Barbara Colorose

So, to be in an effective partnership with our students, we first need to understand what outcomes and support systems we can use to effectively teach in the 21st century.


Taken from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills website, the image above presents a holistic view of 21st century teaching and learning that combines a discrete focus on 21st century student outcomes (a blending of specific skills, content knowledge, expertise and literacies) with innovative support systems to help students master the multi-dimensional abilities required of them in the 21st century.

The key elements of 21st century learning are represented in the graphic and descriptions below. The graphic represents both 21st century skills student outcomes (as represented by the arches of the rainbow) and 21st century skills support systems (as represented by the pools at the bottom).

Taken from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills website the Core Subjects and 21st Century Themes indicate to us, as educators, the subjects and themes that should be forefront and centre of, not only our learning, but the learning that we should be imparting to our students.

The mastery of core subjects and 21st century themes is essential to student success. Core subjects include English, reading or language arts, world languages, arts, mathematics, economics, science, geography, history, government and civics.

In addition, schools must promote an understanding of academic content at much higher levels by weaving 21st century interdisciplinary themes into core subjects:
• Global Awareness
• Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy
• Civic Literacy
• Health Literacy
• Environmental Literacy
Learning and Innovation Skills
Learning and innovation skills are what separate students who are prepared for increasingly complex life and work environments in today’s world and those who are not.They include:
• Creativity and Innovation
• Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
• Communication and Collaboration
Information, Media and Technology Skills
Today, we live in a technology and media-driven environment, marked by access to an abundance
of information, rapid changes in technology tools and the ability to collaborate and make individual contributions on an unprecedented scale. Effective citizens and workers must be able to exhibit a range of functional and critical thinking skills, such as:
• Information Literacy
• Media Literacy
• ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) Literacy
Life and Career Skills

Today’s life and work environments require far more than thinking skills and content knowledge.The ability to navigate the complex life and work environments in the globally competitive information age requires students to pay rigorous attention to developing adequate life and career skills, such as:
• Flexibility and Adaptability
• Initiative and Self-Direction
• Social and Cross-Cultural Skills
• Productivity and Accountability
• Leadership and Responsibility

Developing a comprehensive framework for 21st century learning requires more than identifying specific skills, content knowledge, expertise and literacies. An innovative support system must be created to help students master the multi-dimensional abilities that will be required of them.The Partnership has identified five critical support systems to ensure student mastery of 21st century skills:
• 21st Century Standards
• Assessments of 21st Century Skills
• 21st Century Curriculum and Instruction • 21st Century Professional Development • 21st Century Learning Environments


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