The skills of an effective teacher in the 21st century

ICT Teaching Strategies

By Michael Hilkemeijer

In the complex, fast-changing society that our world has become known for, it is vital that teachers engage in action, inquiry and problem-solving together in collegial teams or professional development communities.  Teachers need to be committed to pursuing, upgrading, self-monitoring, and reviewing their own professional learning (Hargreaves, 2003). They are catalysts, after all, of the knowledge society and must build a new professionalism. For this to occur, they need to embody essential capabilites such as those listed below, to teach effectively in the 21st century education system.

  • Promote deep cognitive learning;
  • Learn to teach in ways they were not taught;
  • Commit to continuous professional learning;
  • Work and learn in collegial teams;
  • Treat parents as partners in learning;
  • Develop and draw on collective intelligence;
  • Build capacity for change and risk and;
  • Foster trust in processes.

(Hargreaves, 2003)

How to become an effective teacher?

To become an effective teacher then is to be able to enhance your understanding of the content you teach and be equipped with a range of strategies that enable students to learn that content. Teachers need to have the skills to teach and assess ICT capability for deep understanding and to develop students’ metacognitive skills by emphasising the use of higher order thinking in their design of ICT activities. Below are three elements of what the Department of Education and Training (Victoria) view as being the key skills of an effective teacher. Listed beneath each one are the key attributes with reference as to how you can develop student ICT capability.

1. Effective teachers draw out and work with the pre-existing understandings that their students bring with them.

  • Actively inquire into students’ thinking: Teacher intervention forms a vital part in the development of student ICT capability as it allows for the teacher to ask specific questions about the task the students are working. Research (Kennewell et al., 2000) shows that this provides a fantastic opportunity to further develop student higher order skills.
  • Creating classroom tasks and conditions under which student thinking can be revealed: The effective assessment of student ICT capability depends on the design of the ICT activity and whether the teacher has incorporated higher order skills into it.
  • Formative assessment: This is the way in which the teacher obtains information on a student’s performance. As ICT capability is composed of routines, techniques, concepts, processes and higher order skills, teachers need to assess all these in some way.
  • Monitoring student learning: This is particularly important when using ICT for two reasons. Firstly, students may appear to be using ICT effectively when in fact they are working inefficiently and failing to exploit the potential of ICT. Secondly, because of the richness of the resource, pupils may divert from the intended task without it being obvious from their behaviour.
  • Assessment: Monitoring is the best way to assess ICT capability and can be achieved by giving them something interesting to do and then monitor the approaches they use.
  • Feedback: In order to gain a valid judgement of progress and provide timely feedback for pupils, it is important to integrate assessment with teaching and learning. Lesson-based assessment is a great way to determine the effective of the lesson.
  • Preconceptions: Conceptual understanding is vital for the development of ICT capability. It underpins the learning of techniques and enables transfer of learning.


2. Effective teachers teach some subject matter in depth, providing many examples in which the same concept is at work and providing a firm foundation of factual knowledge.

  • In-depth coverage of fewer topics to allow student to grasp the defining concepts: Opportunities need to be given to students in all Learning Areas of the curriculum to develop their ICT capability.
  • In-depth study of the subject area: ICT capability is recognised by the Australian Curriculum as a 21st century skill and is embedded throughout all Learning Areas.
  • Aligning new assessment tools with new approaches to teaching: To assess student capability you need to apply different strategies for each component of ICT capability.

3. Effective teachers focus on the teaching of metacognitive skills, integrating those skills into the curriculum in a variety of subject areas.

Research (Kennewell et al. 2000) shows that the effective use of ICT encompasses higher order skills and are meta-cognitive in nature. These skills include:

  • Recognising when the use of ICT might be appropriate or effective;
  • Planning how ICT resources, techniques and processes are to be used in a task;
  • Conjecturing, discussing and testing the strategies and data to be used;
  • Monitoring the progress of problem-solving activities; making and testing hypotheses;
  • Evaluating the outcomes of using ICT for a task;
  • Explaining and justifying the use of ICT in producing solutions to problems;
  • Reflecting on the leaning that might have occurred during the task.

Remember, the issue is not whether a student knows and ICT technique or process, it is often whether they know that they know it, and thus able to decide to use it.

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