Log in

What does it take to be a 21st Century teacher?

Last week, in response to the leadership wero or 30 day challenge, Warren Hall posted a commentary about the desirablity of looking at new teaching applicants that display dispositions of how to use technologies effectively for teaching and learning. Or, in other words, someone who has the ability to have strong pedagogical understanding and knowledge of how e-learning tools can benefit learning - rather than thinking of someone who might have great ICT skills.


Suzie's blog post, Using ICT tools to reflect on your own teaching about teachers as reflective practioners in is also invaluable in this discussion.


A wee while back I wrote about similar ideas - in regards, to what makes a 21st Century teacher and thought some of might be a relevant to the contributions in November 30 day challenges.


21st Century education defines a teacher as someone moving away from the "dispenser of information" to someone who is the "orchestrator of learning and helping students turn information into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom." Our roles are changing from traditional sage on the stage to sage and guide on the side. 


So what characteristics does the 21st Century teacher need? Doug Johnson in his Blue Skunk blog post on the 21st Century teacher asks, Are the new skills needed by teachers to use technology effectively “technology” skills or “teaching” skills? One response to this, is the Contemporary Teacher Skills Checklist from Tom March, who drafted a list of 21st Century skills continuum with references to web based and pedagogical skills. 


Andrew Churches summarised Eight habits of highly effective 21st century teachers in both the New Zealand Interface Magazine and his Educational Origami as:
1. Adapting
2. Being visionary
3. Collaborating
4. Taking risks
5. Learning
6. Communicating
7. Modelling behaviour
8. Leading

Churches writes that a 21st Century educator is one who is highly adaptive to change and is able to visualise what their students need to be successful 21st Century citizens. They know how to use new technologies and tools to help enable this to happen.


They need to be effective and accessible communicators while modeling and using appropriate tools for collaboration. They need to be brave to take risks with their learners and in-turn trust their students as co-constructors of learning.


A 21st Century teacher must also be a life-long learner themselves, staying current with learning theory and effective pedagogy. They need to model those characterstics deemed as the 21st Century skill set and lead by example. 

To view the full post, go to http://bit.ly/uML1kB


  • Mike Wilson

    On a bit of a tangent here. I agree with what you are saying above and find it somewhat frustrating that “best practice” does not necessarily lead to “best results” in the current system.

    For me it becomes more difficult to define an effective 21st century teacher as the focus in secondary schools remains entrenched in traditional assessment results.

    Those who display co constructed "guide on the side" ICT heavy lessons (often inquiry driven) often have students who are engaged and excited to learn and students that show excellent critical thinking skills.

    The problem in the current examination driven system is that this often however does not lead to higher achievement in traditional assessments.  The majority of teachers that constantly achieve high results in NCEA external examinations and Cambridge style assessments are very content driven and base their lessons on their personal knowledge of the subject and their ability to “take control” of the students learning. Co construction from my observation can be non existant. With these teachers they probably only meet 4 of Andrews habits, however are very effective teachers in terms of student achievement.  


  • Tessa Gray

    Hi Mike, thanks for sharing this perspective. It certainly is a good reminder of the realities and the challenges teachers face. It would be a shame to think that assessment/examination practices are not helping to inform decisions about effective teaching practice - and instead the tail wags the dog, so to speak.

    I'm wondering how many secondary schools have restructured their curriculum - with new ways of teaching and assessing and are finding improved outcomes for students, including external exams as a result of this? 

  • Jesse Te Weehi

    Effective practitioners are ones which find and bring out students strengths and passion, then give them tangible successes in these areas. So the qualities I see that are needed are unrelenting tenacity and belief in every students ability to be good at something. Having good communciation skills and paying attention to see how students interact with them in different situations to help them find their passion and strengths. Then creating authentic situations to prove that they (student) are good at what they are passionate about. Then comes the hard part of keeping that passion alive long enough within students so they continue to work hard, learn about themselves and go from success to success (amongst all the neccesary failures) and can then apply that in different areas of their lives.

    Our current examination system often does not capture the deep learning of students in finding out about themselves nor does it provide an authentic situation for them to test their progress. But the leeway our curriculum does provide, means when teaching to our Internal standards we can mould our programmes to provide these authentic situations that provide real value and meaning to student progress.

    So although best practise may not always lead to great examination results it will lead to a student finding out more about themselves and their passions. I know which one I will count as being an indicator of my effectiveness.

  • Tessa Gray

    Just found this post, THE 21ST CENTURY SKILLS TEACHERS SHOULD HAVE, which has some fantastic embedded resources, including the following e-book with a set of recommendations for the 21st century teachers to consider when preparing today's students for the future. These include:

    • Share and model the use of current internet tools
    • Participate in professional networks
    • Assist students as they build their learning networks
    • Provide sufficient learning opportunities for students to become digitally literate
    • Inspire every child to be quality digital global citizens

    View and download the e-book: The 21st Century Skills Teachers and Students Need to Have. There are discussion starters in this easy to read format - well worth sharing with colleagues.

  • Tessa Gray

    Found this post in Facebook today: The 20 Digital Skills every 21st Century teacher should have (Educational Technology and Mobile learning) and it includes technical skills for creating blogs, note taking, detecting plagiarism, editing sound/video, curating and using digital content (infographics, video and more) in the classroom as well as using online networks for professional learning as well as having a digital portfolio.

    Whew! A lot to ask or relevant to today's teaching? What do you think? What would be your top 3 most desirable digital skills?