21st Century Learners

21st Century Learners

“Everything changes and nothing remains still…and you cannot step twice into the same stream.”


Education is changing. It is more than new curriculum and policies, longer days and little thanks, the work of teachers and school leaders continue to play the most significant role in the growth and development of our society.

It is easy to remember your favourite teacher. Friendships that were made in the playground have continued into higher education, work, and family. For most of us this was the time when chalk dust settled on every surface and open windows offered the only fresh air. Classrooms today are saturated with WIFI and the www.

Curriculum directs what is taught and how it should be taught. In turn school leaders must then plot a path heading toward continuous school improvement. School leadership is changing. Some say these changes are not for the best while others see a career path. Leadership can be a solitary pursuit.

21st century learning was first described by Delors (1998). At the base of this learning is the belief that “knowledge is understood to always be tied to the knower; that is knowledge is subjective (Maton and Moore 2010).

The buzzing words that swam around ’21st Century learning’ seem to have been lost over the years. Perhaps consumed by the Culture War and the History War. Perhaps left in the shadows of confused government policy and the rush to make everything for everyone without funding equity, or the SRS that the GONSKI review recommended. Notwithstanding, several studies have identified the need, and strategies to place 21st century learning and teaching pedagogy in our classrooms.

Wagner (2018) proposed seven survival skills that students need to successfully engage in learning including:

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Collaboration and leadership
  • Agility and adaptability
  • Initiative and entrepreneurialism
  • Effective oral and written communication
  • Accessing and analysing
  • Curiosity and imagination

These skills are visible in the current practice of teachers and school leaders. It is easy to create a list to describe 21st Century pedagogy such as flipping classrooms, cooperative learning, problem-based learning, personalised learning, and student-centred learning.

The last 5 years have thrown bush fires, floods, droughts, and a global pandemic into our classrooms. In response, school leaders and teachers have been dynamic and flexible to best support our communities.

Effective school leadership will be required to place 21st learning and teaching into the curriculum.