3 Education Trends to Watch for the Upcoming School Year

education trends
(Image credit: Unsplash: Javier Allegue Barros)

We’ve seen technology adopted in education more widely from 2019 to 2021 than it may have been used in the previous ten years. Education is encountering an ever-evolving reformation that will hopefully create a better system for learning and teaching on the other side of the pandemic. 

As a result of this overwhelming adoption, some transformational trends may be headed our way. Micro lessons, integrated whole classrooms, and reconsidering assessments are three trends supported by research that we should be following as we move into the upcoming school year. 

1. Micro Lessons 

When we think of micro credentialing, we think of incremental competency-based learning modules. A recent study conducted during COVID-19 modeled the long-running impact of the pandemic and determined that we will need more than just remediation to support learning gains next year. 

The study suggests a reorientation to curriculum that is aligned with learner needs. Personalizing instruction through blended learning methodologies is certainly one tool teachers could use to reorient students to the curriculum. Teaching in mini lesson format with intermittent formative assessment helps the teacher determine where the learner is with every incremental lesson. Just like micro credentialing but at a much faster pace. The learning gains, according to the study, could be as much as a full year when teachers utilize blended learning alongside intervention strategies. 

2. Integrated Whole Classroom 

We have learned to use a lot of technology sitting in our living rooms or home offices, and some of us have become quite savvy to connect a variety of devices and gadgets to our laptops in order for our classrooms to feel immersive and engaging. But what does that mean for physical classroom design? 

The research on active learning is extensive and much of it is focused on the use of interactive technologies. A new study calls out that it isn’t who or even what you teach but rather how you teach that makes the difference in learning outcomes. The study was conducted at the university level but can apply to all levels K-20. Polling, response apps, small group instruction, collaborative activities, and peer instruction are some of the effective strategies identified in active learning. Evidence shows that experience teaching matters because teachers with experience using technology as a primary teaching tool are more likely to incorporate effective instructional strategies into the online environment, which yields higher student outcomes. The study further revealed that when this occurred, there was no evidence disadvantaged groups were further disadvantaged. 

Thinking about classroom design as having all the necessary technologies -- interactive panels, individual devices for students and teachers, integrated software, integrated hardware solutions, accessible high quality digital content, interactive applications -- along with a teacher who is well equipped to design classes that incorporate effective instructional strategies will yield high performing students, no matter who you are teaching!

3. Rethinking Assessment 

Assessment is necessary to measure student progress but it doesn’t necessarily need to require one hundred questions on a test. Rethinking the way we measure student progress is something we should prioritize as we reimagine school. 

High-stakes tests ultimately measure moments in time that are incredibly far apart from one another. Formative and benchmark assessments provide a much clearer perspective of where the learner is with their learning on an ongoing basis. Considering portfolio assessment is another alternative to high-stakes assessments and it enables the students’ voice to be present in their own knowledge assessment. 

A study out of Sweden suggests computer-based tools for formative assessment provide powerful resources for creating and delivering assessments. The computer-based tools remove bias from the grading process and increase efficiency of the feedback loop during the time the test was completed and graded. Computer-based assessments can range from software with embedded assessments to a solution that enables teachers to create and grade assessments. The use of these varieties can accelerate the learning process as well since teachers will have ready access to assessment results and may design their instruction accordingly. This use of assessments as an informative tool rather than an evaluative tool provides a more authentic use of assessments as a learning tool. 

Of course, other trends will be in view during our exodus from COVID, but these three can make the difference in how students learn and re-engage with school. As you plan for next year, be sure to consider instruction, assessment, and the tools needed for success in the classroom. The intentionality around these things could make all the difference.

Dr. Kecia Ray is a strategic thinker and a proven leader in K12 transformation. She serves as Tech & Learning’s Brand Ambassador and is the founder of the consulting service, K20Connect  

Dr. Kecia Ray

Dr. Ray's career includes designing technology within the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and directing technology research through Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Science Outreach programs. As a district administrator for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, she led the award-winning design, implementation, and evaluation of instructional technology programs, including instructional design for online and blended learning environments, redesigning physical learning environments, redefining school libraries, and establishing the first virtual high school to award the diploma. She leads K20Connect and other passion projects supporting K20 education around the world.