Contemporary Trends in Education
Education means the empowerment of individuals through the provision of learning and lifetime learning experience. It is the process of facilitating learning or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and values gained from anywhere and anytime. Formal education refers to education provided through the schools and similar established institutions for education and training; it generally conforms to a prescribed curriculum leading to some form of certification (Inter-Agency Commission 1990). There have been massive transformations in contemporary education due to rapid technological changes, showing distinct contemporary trends in education including teaching and learning methods, modes, approaches, and content.
In this entry, the contemporary trends in education are discussed critically. All sectors of education, formal, non-formal, and informal; all levels, kindergarten, primary, secondary, and tertiary; and all types, general, vocational, and special, are undergoing massive revolutionary changes. Education – the empowerment of individuals through the provision of learning – is a human right and a social responsibility (UNESCO 1990). The students need to succeed in college and the workplace and to contribute to their communities as informed and skill-based citizens in a rapidly changing world. According to Zhao (2012), educating creative, entrepreneurial students should be the focus of education with what he calls world-class learners. He says, there needs to be a paradigm shift in education that builds on students’ strengths and gives them opportunities where their talents flourish.
Education is central to improving quality of life. Education raises the economic status of families; and it improves life conditions, thereby promoting chances for economic and social well-being. Effective education is a unique means to promote participation of all individuals in their local communities and in the global society. The Paris Message issued by the Global High-Level Policy Forum noted that “the global education community has a new point of departure to respond to the scale and urgency of demand for accessible, affordable and quality higher education” (ICDE 2016, para 4). Affordability and accessibility to quality education and their sustainability are the critical concerns. Education for Sustainable Development and sustainable development for quality education are vital. Sustainable Development Goal 4 focuses on the theme “Quality Education” under the heading “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (UNESCO 2015). Quality education is however a challenge for sustainable educational development.
In the last few decades, there have been massive changes in contemporary education, teaching and learning methods, modes, approaches, contents, evaluations and assessment methods, and educational technologies that have given the students choices to learn at their own pace, space, and time (European Commission 2014; Higher Education Academy 2017; Sota 2017). Global changes especially the information and communication technological revolution has brought in rapid changes in educational technology as well as learning and teaching methods, processes, policies, procedures, and practices. There have been revolutionary changes in education sector today, and it is likely to change unprecedentedly in the future (European Commission 2014; UNESCO 2015).
In terms of content arrangement, the main text is organized into six sections. The section “Introduction” provides an introduction to education and its contemporary trends. Section “Approaches to Education and Learning and Teaching” focuses on approaches to education and learning and teaching. Section “Factors for Changing Trends in Education and Learning and Teaching” deals with some factors for changing trends in education and teaching and learning. Section “Contemporary Trends in Education and Learning and Teaching” discusses the contemporary trends in education and learning and teaching that include technologically enhanced learning and learning styles. The Section “Education and Sustainable Development” focuses on education and sustainable development, and the Section “Conclusions” is the conclusion.
Approaches to Education and Learning and Teaching
The fundamental emphasis has shifted from education to learning. The approach has been shifted toward a lifelong learning (Preston 1999; Field 2006; Aspin 2007). Another change relates to the importance of adult learning, which not only relates to the long period of learning in one’s lifetime but also connected to key responses to the needs for new knowledge and skills that are necessary throughout life and because of which one should continue learning throughout one’s life (Field 2006).
Distance and Flexible Learning
Distance education continued as an education system in which teaching and learning actions have been performed via communication technologies and mailing services by the teachers and the students that are in different environment (Tavukcu et al. 2011). Distance education is defined as “a teaching method provided through varied environment and teaching units that interaction and communication between the planners and practitioners of educational activities and students have been specifically prepared in conditions that traditional teaching and learning methods limit the application of classroom activities.” (cited in Tavukcu et al. (2011). Distance education or learning is a part of flexible and open learning. According to Al-Arimi (2014), it is a field of education that focuses on the pedagogy/andragogy, technology, and instructional system design that are effectively incorporated in delivering education to student, and student may communicate asynchronously and synchronously. The concept of interaction in distance education is important. Moore (1989) identified three types of possible interaction, i.e., learner-content, learner-instructor, and learner-learner.
Flexible learning includes distance learning as well as open learning. The Higher Education Academy (2017) states that flexible learning is about empowering students by offering them choices in how, what, when, and where they learn, i.e., the pace, place, and mode of delivery. It says flexible learning requires a balance of power between institutions and students and seeks to find ways in which choice can be provided that is economically viable and appropriately manageable for institutions and students alike. Many universities have adopted flexible learning practices. Deakin University (2009), for example, introduced flexible learning as a multilayered and multifaceted approach. It stated that, in its broadest sense, flexible learning “is a continuum of approaches in terms of time, place, pace, content and mode of learning applied in varying degrees. It further stated that its overarching purpose is to increase opportunities and options available to learners and give them greater control over their learning through a variety of learning modes and interactions. It is not an alternative form of education but an overarching driving force that provides learners greater choice.” Pedagogical philosophy behind flexible learning is that “it is more learner-centered, encouraging greater independence and autonomy on the part of the learner” (Deakin University 2009). Flexible learning is a state of being in which learning and teaching is increasingly freed from the limitations of the time, place, and pace of study. Flexibility in learning and teaching is a value principle. Flexible learning offers students the choices, convenience, and a personal approach to learning. Diversity and equality in education are critical concerns in flexible learning. Collis and Moonen (2001) in their work on Flexible Learning in a Digital World discussed about changes in learning, teaching, the support and enterprise of education, and the role of technology in those changes. They consider these changes in an integrated way using flexible learning as the integrating concept.
The flexible learning and teaching activities include (a) online and e-learning, (b) blended learning, (c) distributed, and (d) disaggregated learning.
Open Educational Resources (OER)
The goals of open and flexible approaches to teaching and learning are to provide access to educational opportunities to students which means being able to offer equitable access to learning opportunities to a student with very wide-ranging skill set and infrastructure and resources for formal education. Open Educational Resources (OER) provide greater opportunities to students to have more access to educational materials and learn at their own pace, space, and time. OER is growing rapidly (D’Antoni 2008; Geith and Vignare 2008; Mossley 2013). In 2002, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation found that Open Educational Resources (OER) are “high-quality teaching, learning, and research materials that are free for people everywhere to use and repurpose.” The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (2015, p. 2) defined OER as, “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.” OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. UNESCO (2017) stated that Open Educational Resources (OER) are “any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license…The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them...OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation” (para 1).
Student-Centered Approaches to Learning
There has been a paradigm shift in teacher-centered learning toward student-centered learning process. The four tenets of student-centered approaches to learning that can lead to deeper learning are seen as personalized learning (customized), student-owned learning (student voice, student agency), competency-based learning (proficiency-based or mastery-based), and anytime, anywhere learning (blended, project- and inquiry-based) (NMEF 2013). According to the proponents, these tenets should be applied not just at the individual learner level but throughout a multilayered education landscape that involves classrooms and other learning environments supported by educational systems and policies directed at achieving the deeper learning outcomes (NMEF 2013). According to Beus (2017), there has been an increased focus on student-centered learning through personalization, microlearning, virtual reality, and high-velocity learning that will help to improve student retention and ultimately result in more capable graduates who have experienced in problem-solving.
Factors for Changing Trends in Education and Learning and Teaching
It is a rapidly changing world. Globalization and globalizing processes are bringing technological revolutions. The information and communications technology (ICT) revolution has tremendous impact on education (OECD 2016). The computer and education technological changes have brought in educational innovations, bringing new trends in learning and teaching and education sector as a whole (Martin et al. 2011; Groff 2013), for example, App Innovation and Gamification. Meeting the learning needs of all has become a greater need than ever before, not only because of rapid technological changes but also because of the increased global interdependency of nations in their cultural and economic activities (Inter-Agency Commission 1990; Halls 1990).
Today, it is more a knowledge economy and society. The economy and labor market have been demanding work-ready labor force. The students need to develop vital networks and relationships to enable progression, gain industry and employability skills and competencies, and engage in meaningful and deeper learning activities with specific outputs. The contemporary trends in lifelong learning are seen as an artifact of the market (Preston 1999). The education system needs to prepare skillful workforce with both soft skills (e.g., personality-oriented and interpersonal skills) and hard skills (e.g., ability of software use).
Contemporary Trends in Education and Learning and Teaching
Education has become more web-based as Draves and Coates (2005) said in their work, Nine Shift: Work, Life, and Education in the 21st Century. According to Draves and Coates (2005) the term “nine shift” is used to describe the great changes that are taking place in our lives. They said “what we are experiencing in how we use our time and how we experience life derives from the phenomenon that nine hours in our day will be spent entirely differently in 2020 than they were spent in 2000” (p. 2). They further said, “what we know, and what many other technology and economic experts have widely documented, is that the Internet, and the World Wide Web in particular, is a profound new technology that has already fundamentally affected our economy… We know that we are moving from an industrial economy to an information economy” (p. 5). There has been transformation from the Industrial Age to the Internet Age as seen in Peter F. Drucker’s concept of “knowledge worker” (cited in Draves and Coates 2005, p. 4). Peter F. Drucker notes that “Both in its speed and its impact, the Information Revolution uncannily resembles its two predecessors within the past 200 years, the First Industrial Revolution of the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and the Second Industrial Revolution of the late nineteenth century” (ibid. p. 4). Drucker further notes, “The Next Society will be a knowledge society. Knowledge will be its key resource, and knowledge workers will be the dominant group in its work force” (p. 4), and he concludes, all these suggest that “the greatest changes are almost certainly still ahead of us” (cited in Draves and Coates 2005, p. 4). Today, the education processes and trends are more market- and technology-driven and will remain so in the future. The global trend is toward a problem-solving-based pedagogy. The learning is to be deeper and student-driven, and that can enable students for development of a broad range of skills and competencies in addition to the acquisition of academic knowledge.
Education is increasingly becoming international (Knight 2006). The notion of global citizenship has emerged due to expansion of both global education and the globalization of education. Over the years, education sector has witnessed the growth of private provision in education especially in higher education (Gupta et al. 2008). Good examples are the role being played by organizations such as the Apollo Group, Pearson, and Microsoft in establishing campuses. The competency-based learning approaches and online learning are blended more now than ever before and is creating an evolutionary approach to education. Today, students are seen as critical consumers and content creator. In the last few decades, the questioning of traditional teaching and learning methods and instructional systems and the search for more effective alternatives have gained momentum especially in higher education (Goldschmid 1976; Fry et al. 2009; Altbach et al. 2011). According to Goldschmid (1976), some of the contemporary trends in education are marked by (a) facilitation of student learning with an emphasis on individualizing instructions and increased use of multimedia systems and (b) new system of higher education such as the Open University or the university without walls, designed to offer radical alternatives to new as well as traditional types of students.
Educational Technology Changes and Trends in Learning and Teaching
There has been a rapid race between education and technology. Education is increasingly becoming high tech. Modern technology in education has initiated custom teaching and learning methodologies and experiences in educational infrastructure (elearning industry 2018). There is a positive effect of educational technology on learning, but the effect varies considerably (Mihalca and Miclea 2007). Educational technology research has also moved through several stages focusing at the beginning on the content to be learned, then on the format of instructional messages, and, finally, on the interaction between computers and students (ibid.). There has been a clear shift from the design of instruction to the design of learning environments and a shift from content-focused to learner-focused instruction (ibid.). With the advent of new technologies, innovative methods of data are continually being developed, which offer new options for ongoing formative, culminating summative, and alternative assessments (Freiberger 2017). More than any other technology, cloud computing is providing a new way for high-tech education (elearning industry 2018). Cloud-based education apps have made ease storing learning data. The volume of education information and data has emerged learning analytics that can boost learner engagement in education more than anything else (elearning industry 2018).
App Innovation and Gamification: There has been explosion in education-related apps (Freiberger 2017). MIT App Inventor, for example, enables students to create their own apps in the comfort of their classrooms (ibid.). At the same time, education-related games that enhance skills in English language arts and other subjects have gained popularity such as Mathalicious and Get the Math, which provide practical, true-to-life experiences (ibid.).
Digital Literacy: An increasing number of teachers using technology in the classroom and students are engaged with content via digital literacy, and, in many instances, there has been adoption of formal digital literacy curriculum and digital literacy plans (Freiberger 2017). There is a plethora of resources available about understanding digital literacy including YouTube videos, teacher’s guides, and lesson plans (ibid.).
Self-Directed Learning: The learning process is self-directed today. In addition, there have been an increase in self-directed professional development for educators (Sexana 2012; Freiberger 2017). These include interactive online webinars or videos and other content that may be streamed through web browsers (Freiberger 2017).
Collaborative Learning: New applications are making it easier for teachers to be both innovative and interactive. Interactive whiteboards and new applications create quizzes and activities for more collaborative learning in education. Kahoot, for example, is a new application at no cost for educators to download and install and conceive of fun quizzes and learning activities to enhance student engagement (Freiberger 2017). “Educreations Interactive Whiteboard” is another way for both educators and students alike to assess, jointly present, or partake in interactive activities (ibid.).
Personalized Learning: One of the contemporary trends in education is a shift toward personalized learning (Riddell 2017). The personalized learning approaches have increased significantly due to rapid advances in technology platforms and digital content (Pane et al. 2015). According to Pane et al. (2015), although there is not yet one shared definition of personalized learning, leading practitioners in the field generally look at (i) systems and approaches that accelerate and deepen student learning by tailoring instruction to each student’s individual needs, skills, and interests; (ii) a variety of rich learning experiences that collectively prepare students for success in the college and career of their choice; and (iii) teachers’ integral role in student learning that include designing and managing the learning environment, leading instruction, and providing students with expert guidance and support to help them take increasing ownership of their learning. Personalized learning emphasizes more student-centered and active learning. Debbie Morrison suggests that “personalized learning is, and will continue to be, learner-driven where learners control their learning and become not just consumers of content but active creators of content, building knowledge through collaboration and connectivity via smartphone apps” (Beus 2017, para 4). There has been a range of benefits from a shift toward personalized learning that include better student engagement, behavior, and academic performance (ibid.). Personalized learning has become one of the most talked-about strategies in education sector today especially in the schools. Public and private schools are “experimenting with new approaches to personalized learning and figuring out how best to tailor instruction to the needs and desires of individual students” (Mathewson 2017). Technology has made personalized learning more approachable and more challenging, forcing schools to draw a clear line about where to separate good pedagogy from tools that facilitate it (ibid.).
Microlearning: Microlearning is closely related to personalized learning. Microlearning was defined by Karl M. Kapp, as “the concept of delivering content to learners in small, specific bursts over time or just when needed” (Beus 2017, para 7). This learning trend breaks content into small chunks of accessible information that enable students to progress at their own pace and convenience.
High-Velocity Learning: The term high-velocity learning, as created by Steven J. Spear, means to speed up the process of imparting information by learning through discovery and problem-solving (Beus 2017, para 13). Jon Marcus explains, it is also a form of learning that is faster, more effective, and long-lasting than hours-long monologs in crowded lecture halls or classrooms (ibid.).
Expeditionary Learning: Expeditionary learning brings the learning out into the world expediting the need to learn more than what’s confined inside the classroom but even more so using the world to learn (Teachthought 2015). Students feel engaged in learning while achieving goals when exposed to learning outside. They are exemplified by project-based learning expeditions, where students engage in interdisciplinary, in-depth study of compelling topics, in groups and in their community.
Project and inquiry-based learning: There has been an emerging trend in project- or problem- and inquiry-based learning that include internships and job shadows, design thinking, and digital and physical game-based learning. This is a form of active learning that starts by posing questions, problems, or scenarios (Freiberger 2017).
Entrepreneurship Education: Entrepreneurship education has expanded rapidly in two decades or so which has resulted in a proliferation of offerings in universities (Kuratko 2005; Morris 2014). This has resulted in a growing trend in vocational education.
Trends Toward Technologically Enhanced Learning
Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): Consistent with the growth of private provision in education, there was emergence of what is now known as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), a model for delivering learning content online to any person who wants to take a course, with no limit on attendance. MOOCs are now popular trend in the online learning landscape that has its roots in the Open Educational Resources (OER) and distance learning technologies (Dabbagh et al. 2016). The term MOOC was coined in 2008 by Dave Cormier to describe the connectivism and connective knowledge (ibid.). MOOCs are delivered online and the courses are free or “open.” MOOCs provides flexibility of access to course materials from anywhere at any time. Different types of MOOCs exist that reflect varying learning theories and pedagogical principles (cited in Dabbagh et al. 2016). They all provide universally accessible and affordable quality education to thousands of learners who otherwise would not have access to it (ibid.). MOOCs are seen as forcing rapidly evolving technology-enabled evolution in higher education (University of Queensland n.d.). Free education has materialized in the form of Massive Open Online Course as a direct result of students wanting to learn but not having the resources to do so. This is a new expression of lifelong learning. Online, open, and flexible education systems thus provide capacity for higher education, supported by a range of non-formal learning activities such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
m-Learning or Mobile Learning: Mobile technology opens the door for a new kind of learning (Martin and Ertzberger 2013; Teachthought 2015; Dabbagh et al. 2016). Mobile learning is growing faster, globally. As mobile devices become more ubiquitous, mobile learning for students support anywhere, anytime access to learning opportunities and open multiple pathways to learning. The instructional design of mobile learning requires that learning become more modular and contextual to provide flexibility and clear outcomes (Martin and Ertzberger 2013). Mobile app development for education is providing a new way for need-based learning.
E- Learning: E-learning is emerging as a new tool due to advancement in technology (Rosenberg 2001; Reuters 2017). E-learning is the employment of technology to aid and enhance learning. The term “e-learning” has been in existence since 1999. The term such as “online learning” and “virtual learning” emerged later. With the introduction of the computer and Internet in the late twentieth century, e-learning tools and delivery methods expanded rapidly. E-learning is the use of computer and internet technologies whenever and wherever students need education. E-learning is, therefore, suited to distance and flexible learning, but it can also be used in conjunction with face-to-face teaching, in which case the term blended learning is commonly used. Some of the trends in e-learning include (i) a contextualized learning, digital learning design addresses the needs of learner; (ii) use of video; (iii) microlearning; (iv) social e-learning, (v) m-learning; and (vi) content curation-user-focused e-learning content, including blogs, forum threads, guides, and videos.
Cloud Computing: The software applications and advent of tools such as Google provides for educators more choices and make learning process easier. The cloud computing is rapidly changing the field and models for deploying and leveraging technology in academic institutions.
Virtual Learning: With technological changes, the concept of “classroom” has been shifting toward “virtual learning spaces.” There is more emphasis on community outreach, blended learning, and mobile learning that is enhanced with more interactions in online discussion forums and interactive multimedia experiences in the virtual learning spaces (Keppell et al. 2012).
Changing Trends in Learning Styles
There has been changing trends in students’ learning styles. Skonard (2015) noted that “gone are the days when students have to rely only on text-based – or even video-based – tutorials.” While those are still effective, new types of learning styles have emerged, offering online learners more interactive experiences like writing code directly in the browser or completing online challenges as part of the learning process (Skonard 2015).
Students to have increased input and control over their own learning.
It promotes student-centered learning and collaboration.
Lessons and content are more accessible.
Give parents access to their children’s video lectures.
It is more efficient.
It can create or exacerbate a digital divide.
It relies on preparation and trust.
It increases time spent on in front of computer – instead of people and places.
Trends in Special Education
Educational opportunities for students with disabilities have in many countries altered dramatically since the introduction of the normalization principle in the early 1970s; the initiation of the first World Conference on “Education for All” in Jomtein in 1990 (UNESCO 1990); the development of the influential Salamanca Statement in 1994 (UNESCO 1994); and the opening of the World Education Forum at Dakar in April 2000 (UNESCO 2000; Forlin and Ming-Gon 2008). Emergence of new technologies has led to a lifelong learning process that can enhance inclusive education.
The field of digital literacy will continue to grow in importance in the coming years as new approaches to learning via new technologies are emerged (Freiberger 2017; OECD 2016). Collaborative learning is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years as well. The concept of anywhere, anytime learning will gain increased focus in the future. Design, creativity, entrepreneurship, performance, and innovation combine to foster some of the most student-centered educational environments in the future. Virtual reality is gaining momentum but has vast potential to provide students with active learning activities (Keppell et al. 2012). The possibilities for expanding the student’s learning environment through this medium are infinite, and virtual reality will become a more dominant trend in the future. Micro-credentialing, digital badging, and Open Educational Resources (OER) will take a future center stage where there will be more participatory learning opportunities available for teachers as well as learners (University of Queensland n.d.; Mossley 2013). With increasing pace of educational technology and volume of education information and learning data, the learning analytics will grow, and it will not only make learning and teaching decision-making easier but will also boost the learner engagement in quality education.
Education and Sustainable Development
Education is an essential tool for achieving sustainability. We live in rapidly changing world where knowledge and innovation are the major drivers of development (UNESCO 2014). Good quality of education and learning are becoming important determinant of well-being of individuals and the progress of countries (ibid.). Education for Sustainable Development and sustainable development for quality education are vital. An important distinction is the difference between education about sustainable development and education for sustainable development (Esdtoolkit n.d.). The former refers to an awareness lesson or theoretical discussion, while the latter is the use of education as a tool to achieve sustainability. It calls for giving people knowledge and skills for lifelong learning and find new solutions to their environmental, economic, and social problems. There have been great social, cultural, and economic impacts on worldwide learning, including lifelong learning (Field 2006). Creation of a knowledge society and an economy is prerequisite for sustainability. Promoting quality lifelong learning, “Opportunities for All,” is needed in all settings and at all levels of education. Open and Distance Learning (ODL) is playing a vital role in lifelong learning process. The provision of flexible learning pathways, as well as the recognition, validation, and accreditation of the knowledge, skills, and competencies acquired through non-formal and informal education, is important. Many sustainability scholars contend that realizing the innovation, creativity, imagination, and success of new approaches for solving problems requires new paradigms in education (Dale and Newman 2005; Miller et al. 2011; Brundiers and Wiek 2011; OECD 2016). Dale and Newman (2005) speak of the need for sustainable development education that emphasizes problem-based interdisciplinary learning. Miller et al. (2011, p. 178) viewed that “building sustainability knowledge requires a fundamentally different approach to the ways academic institutions organize research and education and relate to society.” Brundiers and Wiek (2011) propose sustainability research education that provides problem- and solution-oriented educational opportunities for students to work on real-world sustainability problems with entities outside of academic institutions.
With technological revolution and rapid global changes, the contemporary education has been witnessing a massive shift in emphasis, content, methods, and pace of teaching and learning. The information and communications technology (ICT) revolution has set in motion on deeper learning processes. There has been a clear paradigm shift from teacher-centered toward student-centered learning processes. With the rise of Open, Flexible, and Online education, the notion of “education in a borderless world” has gained prominence. The contemporary trends in education attempt to better prepare the students to have lifelong learning in order to succeed in a world that is continuously evolving. There remains, however, a need to capitalize on the contemporary educational trends to help build capacity in education, improve access to and quality of education, and achieve sustainable educational development goals and the goal of Education for All.
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