Inspiring the Future – 21st Century Teaching

Most of us remember the traditional teacher-centered classrooms. The students were situated in nice, neat rows, not allowed to talk to each other. The teacher, the source of authority, downloads information to the students and is the sole disseminator of their knowledge. The information is then regurgitated back on an evaluative test designed to measure how much content is remembered.

Traditional Classroom
The Traditional Classroom

Inspirational? Hardly.

While lecturing has very specific and significant value, it’s not always the most inspirational way of building future leaders who are competitive, competent, and coherent.

Over 10 years ago, the Ontario Ministry of Education endorsed 21st Century learning techniques. This includes the 4 Cs: Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, Creativity.

4 C's of 21st Century Learning
4 C’s of 21st Century Learning

I believe authentic learning happens when students are allowed to engage in the 4 C’s. Moreover, I believe students enjoy a classroom setup like this and can even be inspired in this way.

A classroom setup for 21st Century learning requires an ideological shift from the traditional teacher-centric arrangement to a student-centered setup. The teacher is a facilitator, not a disseminator of knowledge. The student-centric classroom invites opportunities to coach, guide, to mentor, nurture, and inspire. These ideas are not new. As far back as ~AD 100, Greek philosopher Plutarch himself believed in this method of teaching.

“The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.”
– Plutarch

The 21st Century Classroom

The 21st Century classroom has room for the different learning styles of students. Students are able to choose what tasks, activities, and assignments they want to complete, with certain guidelines attached. Some students prefer a hands-on (kinesthetic) approach, while others may learn better by using pre-created online tutorials. Some may prefer working with others (interpersonal) while some may prefer working alone (intrapersonal). Allowing these types of choices, known as differentiated teaching, invokes a sense of choice which leads to engagement among students.

The teacher can go around to small groups of students, speak with them more individually, and answer student-initiated questions or comments, and listen to their thinking. Associating these techniques with well-organized unit and lesson plans, adherence to ministry standards, effective use of technology, and a consistent discipline plan can effectively foster the learning process – a truly individualized and personalized approach.

21st Century Classroom
21st Century Classroom

This situation creates somewhat of a teacher paradox The teacher seems to become less important. Paradoxically, by working as a guide on the side, they actually become more important.


The teacher can freely share their passion for the subject matter and for student development. This motivates. It inspires. It’s an affirmation to the students that what they’re learning is worth it and they know the teacher has their interests in priority. It gives the freedom for teachers and students to be themselves and to show passion while laughing at funny events.

It’s these types of teachers that are memorable. It’s these teachers that students often attribute their successes later in life to.

It’s a powerful thing to motivate and inspire. If used correctly, we have the ability to change the world.

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