Here at Getting Smart, we’re enthusiastic about the future of learning. We believe in sharing innovative ways to improve the teaching of students and leading of schools and districts in order to inspire anyone seeking to better their work.

However, we also recognize that many (if not most) educators are just beginning to grapple with how to adapt their practice to the shifting needs of the future. For those just getting started in the world of education innovation and improvement, we’ve created this overview of what we feel are five of the most important new teaching methods making a positive impact on students’ learning in the modern world.

Personalized Learning

Personalized learning isn’t terribly complicated in theory–at it’s core, it’s the idea that the “average” student (whom educators have traditionally designed curriculum for) doesn’t actually exist. Any given student will be somewhere near “average,” but the description can never give an individual student everything they may need. Personalized learning is a practice in which educators seek to tailor challenge, lessons and instructional style to each student’s needs.

Where it gets complicated is in the implementation. EdTech enables some wonderful new ways to monitor where students are at (we recently highlighted one teacher’s journey), but EdTech and effort alone aren’t enough. You need ways to measure success (both of the tools used and overall strategy–see our recent series on pilot design for personalized learning), and the end results will take a number of shapes (see 15 Dimensions of Personalized Learning and 8 Things to Look for in a Student-Centered Learning Environment).

However, personalizing learning is a worthy challenge. Networks like Silicon Schools see great success through rigorous and well-managed approaches to personalized learning.

Project-Based Learning (PBL)

The Gig Economy has arrived, and education as a whole has been slow to catch up. Today’s students are in for a quickly-changing future that will require uniquely human skills, adaptability, a knack for asking the right questions and the ability to manage both projects and people.

The common concerns related to PBL center around an assumption that a lack of focus on standard subject matter must be inherent in PBL, and that it won’t prepare students for college and career. However, these concerns are largely unfounded.

Teachers have a unique role in PBL, in that in many ways they become collaborators and coaches rather than instructors as they help their students navigate their challenging projects. If you’re interested in learning more, we put together a guide that can help you get started. New Tech Network also provides a great example.

Place-Based Education

What is Place-Based Education, and Why Does it Matter? This was the exact question we found ourselves asking when we first started our campaign on the subject over a year and a half ago.

We all know that it’s valuable to take time out of the classroom. We at Getting Smart also advocate for the value of beautiful shared spaces. Place-Based Ed takes this all a step further, with a focus on integrating schools and communities by leveraging the “power of place” in order to equip–through authentic learning experiences–students with the tools and skills they need to collaborate, think critically and solve complex challenges. Place-Based Ed boosts student engagement, connects students to their communities in an age fraught with feelings of disconnectedness, and improves learning.

We put together a Quick-Start Guide to Place-Based Education to help educators dip their toes in the place-based waters.

Formative Assessment

Formative Assessment is perhaps the lightest lift of this list for a teacher to begin incorporating into their practice. Formative assessment differs fundamentally from traditional summative assessment in that it is designed to provide the information necessary to make minor “course corrections” along the way, rather than judge whether or not a student “reached their goal” at the end of a unit.

It can be significantly less stressful (both for teachers and students) than summative assessment, and it is an important part of personalized learning and competency-based learning.

If you’re interested in formative assessment, stay tuned for October 19–we’ve been working with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and a few other partners to set up a great web-based resource.

Maker Education

Maker education exists at the intersection of STEM, creative projects and a “get **** done” attitude, and it’s all about giving your students a chance to engage their creative sides while having something cool (and often, though not always, tech-related) to show for it.

Photo courtesy of Lindsey Own

Many teachers find they really enjoy incorporating some “making” time into their weekly schedules, and there are limitless unique options to applying Maker Ed to the various subject areas.

If you’re looking for helpful resources, check out our list of three steps to get started, 10 things you wouldn’t think you’ll need and a list of 40 STEM networks and maker resources. If you want a fun first step after building a space, consider holding a Rube Goldberg Machine contest.

There are a million new and effective modern things teachers can try in their classrooms. These are just a few, but we think they’re a great way to get going. And if you are just getting started on the journey of innovative education practices, we’d love to be by your side–if you’d like a weekly dose of education news along with the best of Getting Smart, consider signing up for our newsletter.

And, for more ideas, see:


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