Given the focus of my blog entries, it goes without saying that today’s exemplary teacher will have a capacity with using technology to engage students in learning that involves critical thinking, collaborative problem-solving, creativity, inquiry and media literacy. Finding ways to have students use iPads, iPods, smart phones, blogs, wikis and such social media as twitter and facebook will be indicative of teachers who are in touch with the reality of today’s students and their global perspective.
But in our enthusiasm for everything that is tech, we have to be careful not to overlook the many other practices that define a professional teacher in the 21st Century. Today’s teacher works with the big ideas of an integrated curriculum and establishes learning goals that align with the curriculum and allow the students to work on authentic tasks. These tasks will involve inquiry and the use of higher order thinking skills. Days of working through a textbook are replaced with a project-based approach. Rich learning tasks that support literacy and numeracy are developed and include differentiated instruction to allow multiple points for students to engage in the learning, with particular attention being paid to students who have special needs. The teacher is skilled at making instruction personalized and precise. The teacher scaffolds the instruction going from modelled and shared to guided and independent demonstrations of learning. A variety of kinds of assessments are used to ensure all students are able to demonstrate their learning in ways suited to them. The teacher uses such assessment tools as rubrics, anchor charts and exemplars to help students be able to articulate the success criteria for the learning goals. There is a gradual release of responsibility as students become more independent with the learning tasks and more capable of self-assessment. Diagnostic assessments are used to be precise about a student’s level of proficiency with various skills and competencies for the learning goals, and students receive precise, descriptive and timely feedback in order to bump up the quality of their work. The teacher provides multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know and can do. Further diagnostic assessments are used to determine if the selected instructional strategies are having the desired impact on student achievement. Interventions are initiated in cases where students are stuck. Teachers work collaboratively to both design such assessment tasks, and to analyze the student work for clues as to the instructional refinements needed. Working with student achievement data is an integral part of the planning for student success in a culture of high expectations for each student. And all of this very skilled and busy work happens in a respectful and caring environment, again crafted by the teacher who ensures ample opportunity for student voice in these activities. Students and their parents will need to see that the teacher cares about each student and their own dreams and aspirations before there is any appreciation for the teacher’s technical skills. These are some of the practices you would see from an exemplary 21st Century professional teacher who would also be engaging parents in the academic and character development of their children. Please feel free to comment on additional best practices one would see 21st Century teachers doing on a regular basis!