Equally important to 21st century learning is the application of learning science research and principles to learning methods and the design of learning activities, projects, assessments and environments. Principles of effective learning important to 21st century education practitioners include:
• Authentic Learning - learning from real world problems and questions
• Mental Model Building - using physical and virtual models to refine understanding
• Internal Motivation - identifying and employing positive emotional connections in learning
• Multi - Modal Learning - applying multiple learning methods for diverse learning styles
• Social Learning - using the power of social interaction to improve learning impact
A particularly effective learning method that incorporates these principles are group learning projects driven by an engaging, real-world questions or problems. These inquiry- and design-based, collaborative learning projects are a powerful learning method especially suited for building the essential 21st century skills-and-knowledge listed in the rainbow model above. Students in well-designed and managed learning projects often produce artifacts (reports, models, simulations, presentations, inventions, videos, etc.) that can be evaluated for both understanding of content knowledge and the proficiency level of a range of 21st century skills. Students’ collections of projects, often placed in structured electronic portfolios, can provide rich evidence for increasing competence and achievement over time.
Achieving a new balance of learning practice that supports an expanded set of learning goals and a broader definition of student success is a significant challenge to often change-resistant educational systems around the world. The interlocking support systems of education - standards, assessments, curriculum and instruction, professional development and learning environments - all have to shift together to provide a solid infrastructure for 21st century learning.
Schools, districts, provinces and entire national education systems are successfully moving toward a 21st century learning model, motivated by the need for an educated workforce and citizenry capable of meeting the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.