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Aurora Institute

11 Big Trends for 2016: Predictions and Changes Ahead in K-12 Education

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Susan Patrick

Issue(s): Issues in Practice

In Getting Smart’s blog What’s on the Horizon for EdTech & Education in 2016, I predicted the following upcoming trends in K-12 education:

“Online learning will hit the mainstream as K-12 education systems leverage technology to increase access to educational opportunities and seek improved equity. Blended learning continues to dramatically change instructional models by providing real-time, data-driven instruction and opening up multiple pathways for students to learn. However, the biggest shift will be driven by education systems moving toward personalization for each student’s unique needs, interests, passions and competency-based pathways.”

I wanted to expand on this prediction with what I think are the top 11 trends looking forward to 2016 that will shape the future of K-12 education (yes, mine goes to 11):

1. New Definitions of Success

Redefining success for students takes center stage as education leaders and practitioners ask communities what a meaningful high school diploma looks like for students and the workforce—including knowledge, skills, social emotional intelligence and important dispositions for future success. This requires rethinking the importance of student work evidence, bridging informal and formal learning, student exhibitions and portfolios. Educators and community leaders work together to bridge the range of meaningful project-based learning opportunities across education and communities within “phenomenon-based” curriculum redesign, which is relevant and meaningful to students and their communities.

This is a turning point in U.S. K-12 education as education leaders explore the implications of a more flexible ESSA for state leadership, district local control and system alignment to set high expectations and close achievement gaps. This is redefining what it means for a student to be prepared for college, future careers, a living wage in a global economy and effective citizenship by rethinking conceptual frameworks of student achievement and ensuring equity.

2. Rethinking Measurements

Education systems begin to rethink addressing every student’s needs upon entry and benchmarking, as well as taking gateway measurements and exit exams more aligned to student needs. Systems realize they need to design around “not yet proficient” students at every step of an academic career, while offering stronger student supports and educator supports in reaching success. This drives the need for systemic changes that cross between education, social services and greater connectivism to communities’ needs. New definitions of student success, including a broader conceptualization of evidence of student mastery, will expand to include project-based learning with student exhibitions and redefining what success looks like at graduation.

3. Student-Centered Environments

Design, creativity, entrepreneurship, performance and innovation combine to foster some of the most student-centered educational environments. This will empower students with voice and choice in how they learn, showing work on what they have learned and providing powerful, personalized learning experiences.

4. Personalized Professional Development

Teacher’s personalized PD—managing change and their own PD every day—teachers are now learning on the go, in real-time, every day and situated in context. The old models of professional development for attending seminars selected by administrators on certain days is quickly becoming outdated. The shift for educator roles in next-gen learning models requires some fundamental shifts in professional development models, where teachers are co-designing their own PD in real-time and “micro-credentialing” their informal and formal learning, much in the same way students do in next-gen learning models that are highly personalized.

Personalized PD means identifying learning goals, how they will learn, what they will learn and when they will learn—including a combination of blended, online learning, service-based learning and active workshops that are more hands-on in making the changes happen. Micro-credentialing of the knowledge, skills and abilities developed will have long-term implications for teacher licensure and certification in the next decade. (To learn more about micro-credentialing, see Getting Smart’s podcast below: “Rethinking Educator Professional Development with Micro-Credentials.)

5. Managing Change

Education leaders are managing change at a frenzied pace (along with the rest of society’s leaders). K-12 education environments are designed for slow reaction to change, but as the world changes and becomes a place that requires constant innovation—so must our leaders take on roles for managing change for continuous improvement.

6. Data Informed Decisions + World-Class Standards

Data poverty in K-12 education from the 1990s and 2000s built a foundation for conversations around reform based on standards-based education. This creates a foundation and blueprint for new conceptions of student mastery as evidence moves beyond simple annual data points to assessments of student readiness for next levels of learning, loads of data based on evidence and student work, college and career readiness and navigating life toward leadership and active citizenship. Standards still matter to achieve world-class, internationally-benchmarked levels of learning but academics, skills and knowledge come together in new ways to support whole child development. I repeat: world-class standards are critical for ensuring equity.

7. Balanced Approaches: Asking To What End

Input models of quality and accreditation are re-examined as evidence builds data-rich environments for exploring multiple measures of student outcomes and continuous improvement of systems using “balanced scorecard” approaches to ensure quality. System designs shift to ask whether students are getting what they need in real time. This shift works to align our systems to ensure our youth are being prepared for the jobs that emerge in the future, especially around design, innovation, robotics and new fields leveraging technology.

8. Programming, Robotics and the Maker Movement

Schools are being designed with programming as a new language that students must know. Whether it is built upon an hour of coding, maker challenges, and robotics competitions, students need important programming and coding skills to succeed in a digital economy. The combination of the maker movement with robotics is important to foster innovation hubs in cities, as well as much-needed, relevant educational experiences in K-12 which include coding and programming. From Richmond, Virginia to Silicon Valley—the ability to code is taking on an unprecedented level of importance. Programming and innovative designs can and will change the world.

9. Neuroscience, Youth Development Research and How Kids Learn Best

Too often instructional models don’t focus on starting with the research on how students learn best. What goes on when students actually learn? How do we design new models that build upon the research for how students learn best? An important trend will be to shape the conversation on innovation and new learning models based on the research for youth development theory and neuroscience in the design from the inception of planning and shaping new learning models.

10. Mobile Learning

As devices become more ubiquitous, mobile learning for students and adults will support anywhere, anytime access to learning opportunities and open multiple pathways to learning. Mobile learning is growing faster than ever globally. The instructional design of mobile learning requires that learning become more modular, contextual, and “bite-sized” to provide flexibility and clear outcomes before moving to the next level of learning. Powerful tools are needed to ensure learners can connect, collaborate and communicate effectively in an academic setting on the go.

11. Cloud Computing  

Although software application service models have been around for more than 30 years, the advent of tools such as Google provides for educators and cloud computing is rapidly changing the field and models for deploying and leveraging technology in academic institutions and K-12 learning environments. Hosting is remote.

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What are your top K-12 education predictions for 2016? Share your thoughts with us in the comments or tweet us using @nacol.