The world is changing at a faster pace than we can actually handle. By the time we master an app, thousands more have already been launched. New words are constantly being added to the English language even as you are reading this article. When we are under the impression we have finally reached a stage in life when we can relax a little and rely on all that we have learned up to this moment, life shows us that we only actually know 5% of what there is out there to learn, no matter what area of expertise we work in.
We live in an immensely diversified world. People come from different backgrounds, speak languages we sometimes have not even heard of and some of us want to accomplish plans others would never dream of in a lifetime!
However, schools are still teaching as if we lived in the industrial era. Students sit, staring at each other’s backs, listening to teachers lecture. Students learn the same content, at the same pace, and are being tested for something they will probably never use in their careers or lifetimes.
In order to prepare our students, who live in a bubble under their parent’s and school’s supervision, we need to go beyond content, curriculum and course books. We need to change the way we teach. Easy? Definitely not!
Some teachers understand this change and try to overcome it by adding fascinating topics to their curricula, or maybe by learning how to use an outstanding technological tool and implementing it into the classroom, making students a little less passive inside the class.
A shift in our fixed teaching mindset and attitude has to take place. What teachers do not realise is that when we implement the 7 C’s, we do not have to add anything to the class. We have all we need. The change is in our approach, our attitude, our mindset, in the questions we ask, and most of all, how we ask certain questions. We do not need students to answer questions, but prepare them to ask the essential questions. This prepares them more for their future than counting on content-based classes where students are supposed to raise their hands in order to answer the teacher’s inquiries.
Speaking of the 7C’s, which are they?
Critical thinking – it relates to problem solving, analysing solutions and project-based learning;
Communication – it relates to teaching students how to do oral presentations, work on their inter-personal relationships and how to use the medias in a sensible manner;
Collaboration – this skill helps students understand how to work in groups and the importance of teamwork, compromise, understanding and accepting;
Cross-cultural understanding – understanding other cultures helps students reflect upon their own culture; tolerance and acceptance are aspects we need to work on inside our classrooms;
Computing – Effective use technology-related tools;
Career – working on life-long learning;
Creativity – classrooms need to build on students’ creativity, design learning, implementing strategies for artful presentations.
If we are able to spice up our classes by having a little more student agency and less teacher-centeredness, designing activities so they include the seven points mentioned above, teachers will spend less time having to worry about engaging and motivating students. Much has to be changed regarding what we are doing in the classroom. Our roles have changed. Instead of demanding certain attitudes from students, they should be able to decide how they want to learn. Our role is to guide them along the way. The education system is shifting, and as we all know, when things shift, things shake. Changes will always cause clashes and meet up with big resistances.
Course books should be used as a guide and our students’ interests as the main input in our classes. Having clear goals in our minds related to grammar points or functions, clear views of our students’ interests, instruction that is based on creative activities where students can be agents of their learning is a good start. The shift from teacher-centered to student-centered classes is much easier said than done. Nevertheless, we need to begin sometime. Here are some ideas:
- Changing the way we ask questions in the classroom. Have students ask the questions;
- Working more on well-designed projects;
- Having clear learning goals beyond the language;
- Using learning centers for mixed-ability classes;
- Having students teach their own peers;
- Having students work more in groups and collaborating with each other;
- Teaching culture through language;
- Allowing students to be creative and use their own learning styles in presenting their work;
- Bringing the world into the classroom;
- Differentiating your instruction within the three phases (content, process and product);
- Allowing space for students to be active and agents of their learning process.
If our students do not learn the way we are teaching, we definitely need to change the way we teach. Students of the 21st century have skills we teachers do not yet embrace. It is time we do so. It is not an easy task; in fact, the shift is quite drastic. However, language should be the means of leaning a topic and not the end product.