The Science of Learning Blog

January 8, 2021

2021 Education Trends

BY Cory Armes, M.Ed.

Our annual education trends post is always influenced by the challenges and triumphs of the year before. So, it’s no wonder that our 2021 trend list includes a new addition at the forefront of many conversations in 2020. 

1. Social-Emotional Health

Teaching and learning from home have taken their toll on teachers, students, and parents, and stress levels have increased significantly. We could all use a little attention to our social-emotional health in 2021.

Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria compared educator self-care to the boarding directions for airline passengers to “secure their own oxygen mask before helping others.”

Students’ social-emotional well-being will continue to be top of mind as well. Kids are resilient, but toxic stress impacts focus, memory, and overall learning.

When I was in the classroom, I would start the morning with my students sharing how we were feeling and what was or wasn’t going well. It helped all of us take a deep breath, release what was bothering us, and then move on with our day in a better frame of mind.

These moments of social-emotional learning are well worth the time spent, as they made for a better start to the day and possibly prevented later meltdowns.

2. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic in education technology. AI helps gather data to guide instruction and accelerates learner growth by adapting to individual student needs.

For example, AI-driven, adaptive programs such as Fast ForWord (ELA) and MATHia (math) allow all students in a group or class to use the same program but progress at their own levels and paces. Reports also save teachers time by pinpointing what targeted intervention each student needs.

AI also allows teachers to automate tasks like grading fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice questions. Finally, AI tutors can support students by providing feedback and monitoring their progress in real-time.

3. Hybrid Learning

Hybrid Learning has kicked into high gear to meet the demands of public health precautions, and the trend will likely continue in 2021.

What is hybrid learning? It is an instructional delivery model that combines in-person and online learning. The concept of hybrid learning has existed for years, but it was not practiced as widely before schools transitioned to hybrid learning out of logistical necessity, rather than pedagogical goals.

In some hybrid learning models, teachers simultaneously instruct some students in-person and others remotely, meaning they must monitor their physical and virtual classrooms at the same time. In others, the in-person and online synchronous lessons occur at different times.

Online group lessons allow not only for direct instruction but also for helping remote students feel a sense of community, which is especially important right now. 

Hybrid learning is often confused with blended learning as they are very similar. The key difference is that the online activities of blended learning supplement and extend the content covered during face-to-face instruction time. In hybrid learning, on the other hand, online activities actually replace some instructions that would have occurred during class time.

4. STEAM Curriculum

A STEAM Curriculum adds the arts to STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math. Rather than teaching each of those subjects separately, a STEAM curriculum blends them into interdependent units with real-life applications.

Integrating the arts not only addresses wider student interests but also allows struggling students to better understand the STEM subject matter. 

A STEAM curriculum also helps develop creativity, which is useful in problem-solving, critical thinking, and personal expression. This allows for more holistic programs and provides skills and knowledge needed for the 21st-century workplace.

5. Genius Hour aka Passion Project

An intriguing new trend called Genius Hour or Passion Project allows students to work on a project of their choosing for an hour each week. Prompt ideas include  “build a city,” “write a song or play,” or “learn about your dream job.”

As students set their own goals and pace, they develop independent thinking skills, creativity, and, ideally, a genuine love for learning.

Genius Hour includes three “musts” for students:

  • Must start with an essential question that cannot be answered with a simple Google search.
  • Must research the question using reputable websites, interviews, and/or print resources.
  • Must create something. Their product may be digital, physical, or service-oriented.

Need some inspiration to get started? Watch Daniel Pink’s TED Talk, The Puzzle of Motivation.

Looking Forword

As you look forward to a new year that will bring its own joys and challenges, consider trying things that will be good for you and for those around you.

Emerson said, “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” Here’s to a year of reaching new dimensions!

Cory Armes, M.Ed., holds a Bachelor’s degree in both general and special education and a Master’s degree in Special Education with certification in the areas of Educational Diagnostician and Mid-Management. She has eighteen years' experience in K-12 education as a general and special education teacher and educational diagnostician, specializing in working with students with learning disabilities and behavioral issues.

The Fast ForWord reading and language elementary and secondary programs can flexibly meet educators’ and students’ learning needs in person or from home. Learn more about Fast ForWord Reading for K-5 and Fast ForWord Literacy for 6-12.

2 comments on “2021 Education Trends”

  1. I have been interested in Fast for Reading for the past two years but Covenant Prep never had funding. I am now working at Lighthouse, but many of our students are former Covenant students.
    I want to write grants and request local groups to donate so we can begin Fast for Reading in both elementary and secondary. We are a small school and all students are virtual students. Far too many of our students scored below the 15th percentile on the STAR
    Reading Assessment. Please call me. 407 924 6553 Orlando FL

    1. Hi Robert, Thanks for your comment! I will have one of our reps call you. I hope we can help get your students on track!

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