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Educational philosophies, theories and systems are continually and rapidly evolving. Given the fluid landscape of education and its relationship to the world, trends in learning and instruction reflect the needs of modern-day students and offer exciting opportunities for meeting those needs. Below are six of the trends gaining traction today:

  1. Student Well-being

Rates of student anxiety, stress, depression and other mental conditions are rising. Considering the current pandemic that has forced many students to stay at home, separated from the support of their teachers and peers, these rates are unlikely to decrease anytime soon. Education Week’s Leslie Maxwell suggests that teaching approaches must put student well-being at the center. Students are fearful and angry, and many educators are turning to trauma-informed, social-emotional education to help their students cope and succeed.

  1. Rethinking the Classroom

The traditional image of the “classroom” is shifting to instructional models that encourage instructors to interact with students and provide individual attention. Educators like Robert Dillon call for schools to design facilities that prioritize function and allow students to engage in individualized learning opportunities. For example, Meadowlark School in Colorado’s Boulder Valley School District has reimagined its media lab as a “curiosity center” in which students from various grade levels interact with different “learning studios” based on their academic needs.

  1. New Roles for Teachers and Students

Just as schools have been reimagining the role of the classroom, they have also been rethinking the role of teachers. Some districts currently identify teachers as “learning engineers” who apply design thinking to curricula. On top of this change, the shift to remote learning has added the role of “emotional supporter” to teachers’ plates, even as they adjust to new modes of instruction.

The role of student is also changing. The emergence of new technologies sometimes puts students, who may be more accomplished and familiar with software programs, into the role of teacher. And at times, teachers and students are learning side by side.

  1. Artificial Intelligence

One of the big topics in learning theory in recent years is artificial intelligence (AI). As a classroom tool, AI holds a lot of potential. It can lighten the burden of teachers, as it allows for individualized learning and enables real-time feedback. With the rise in remote and digital learning across the globe, AI can offer a host of benefits. For example, Ecree, an AI-powered writing assistant offered free access to its writing software during pandemic-driven school shutdowns.

  1. Innovative Assessments

As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the U.S. Department of Education recently approved several pilot programs for innovative assessment techniques across the country. The weight of extensive standardized testing has long plagued the U.S. education system, and many educators argue students are being over-tested. States are trying out several new approaches, such as dropping redundant assessments, shifting away from end-of-year testing, and increasing teachers’ autonomy for when and how to assess students.

When the current pandemic forced a sudden shift to remote learning, many educators considered it an opportune time to rethink assessment in general. The Center for Assessment suggests that the remote contexts of learning in 2020 provide opportunities for experimentation in techniques, given that assessment expectations are already likely to be low.

  1. Microlearning

Microlearning, bite-sized chunks of information aimed at equipping students with specific skills, is a rising trend in 2020. It can involve multiple modes, texts, images, videos, audio, tests, quizzes, games or any combination thereof. Smaller chunks of content are not only easier to use, but they are easier to absorb.

According to a Northeastern University study, microlearning can reduce cognitive overload and subsequent student burnout. Furthermore, small bursts of educational material take advantage of social media and digital platforms with which students are already familiar, opening up a host of new teaching avenues for instructors.

Arkansas State University’s Master of Science in Education in Educational Theory and Practice online program will increase your general understanding of teaching and learning trends like these, as well as curriculum theory and current educational practices.

Learn more about A-State’s MSE in Educational Theory and Practice online program.


Education Week: It’s a Critical Time for Student Well-Being

Education Dive: Curricular Counsel: Small Steps Reap Big Gains in Classroom Redesigns

Education Dive: Modern Teachers Might Better Be Described As ‘Learning Engineers’

EdSurge: Teacher, Interrupted: Leaning into Social-Emotional Learning Amid the COVID-19 Crisis

Cognitive Times: The Future’s so Bright: AI in the Classroom

Cision PR Newswire: Online Writing Assistant Software Company Gives Free Access to All Students During COVID-19 School Closures

U.S. Department of Education: Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA)

Center for Assessment: Remote Learning Provides an Opportunity to Rethink Assessment (and Learning)

EdTech Magazine: What is Microlearning: The Education Tactic Stopping Student Burnout Syndrome

EDUCAUSE: Learning in Bursts: Microlearning with Social Media

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