The 21st century student

The 21st century student

It seems to me that teaching English is changing. No longer are we merely lords and ladies of verbs, nouns and communicative functions. These days, we are responsible for the social and emotional development of our students.

Speaking the language is no longer the only outcome of our lessons. Now, we are expected to create rounded individuals who can safely enter the ‘real’ world with all of the life skills, the soft skills, the 21st century skills that they need to be successful in an ‘ever-changing’ world. Sometimes, I pine for the good old days, but most of the time, I embrace this new focus.

But what does this new focus mean for us as teachers? How do we become 21st century English teachers? The answer lies in the third letter of the alphabet. Usually people talk about the 4Cs as 21st century skills, critical thinking, communication, cooperation and creativity. I think it is time to add two more Cs to the list; community and curiosity.

Community

Asking students to cooperate and work together is a central component of the communicative approach. After all, if we are going to communicate in a foreign language, we need someone to communicate with. Cooperation in one thing, but a sense of community is another. If a class feels that they are all in it together then they will provide a safety net to those who are falling behind. Learning is not a competition. There isn’t only one winner; everyone can win, but also everyone has something to offer. Those who see themselves as less good at English might have other strengths, maybe knowledge in other areas, maybe good interpersonal skills or maybe just enthusiasm and a smile.

Curiosity

It is said that curiosity killed the cat, but curiosity should have much more positive publicity than that.  Curiosity is the source of all great learning. What if? Why? How? are questions that take us on journeys of discoveries. But curiosity is important in other ways. If we can encourage our students to ask why they made mistakes, and how they can put it right, then they can develop a healthy approach to learning, one where they will see mistakes as experiments that lead to better results, in other words develop what Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset.

English teaching is changing. And although occasionally we might look back with rose tinted spectacles at simpler times, it is changing for the better. The future belongs to the young. Let’s prepare them for it.

 

On the 23rd of March, I will be back in Belgrade, this time with my close friend and long-term collaborator in all things ELT, Laura Moulton. We will be looking at how we can adapt our teaching to give students the skills they will need to survive in our fast-changing world. I would like to invite you to join us at what promises to be a very interesting and fun event.

 

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Gareth Davies
Gareth Davies Autor

I am Gareth the Storyteller. I bring stories alive for adults and children alike. I specialise in graded stories for English language students. 
I have an MA in Creative Writing from Cardiff University and have told stories in the UK, China, Croatia, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. You can often find me telling stories at venues across Cardiff and I am a member of the Society for Storytelling.
As well as being a storyteller, I have the DELTA qualification and have worked in English language teaching for over twenty years as a teacher, teacher trainer and materials developer. I've developed materials for Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and the British Council and taught for Cardiff University in Cardiff and International House in the Czech Republic, Spain and Portugal.
As a teacher trainer, I've visited over forty countries and have collected a range of traditional stories on my travels. Now, I am combining my two passions and bringing traditional stories to the English language classroom. 

To find out more about my teaching background please visit my teaching page here.

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