“When teachers design learning experiences in a way that both challenges learners and sets them free to DO real things in the real world, it’s awe-inspiring what happens.” – Maria Langworthy, USA

When we first spoke with Maria Langworthy last year, she was leading a research effort on innovative teaching and learning. That program, known then as “LEAP21,” has become “21st Century Learning Design” (21CLD). “The 21st Century Learning Design professional development has really taken off,” says Langworthy. 21CLD’s focus on professional development is based on rubrics for developing students’ 21st century skills, conceived by ITL Research (Langworthy is the global director). In the last year, the Pearson Foundation has joined Microsoft Partners in Learning as another global sponsor of 21CLD. “We’ve seen 21CLD initiated with teachers in Singapore, Chile, the United States, Brunei, and South Africa,” notes Langworthy. “It has also expanded in many more schools in the original research countries.”

Today, Langworthy shares what the research behind 21CLD means – and, as her work has shown, that the right professional development for teachers can make or break student outcomes and potential success in the “real world” of the 21st century.

What is the most significant change in the world of education you’ve observed in the last year? Why?

The growing recognition of the gap between our education systems and the nature of work in a knowledge-based, technology-driven world. 

What have you learned in the last year as part of your professional development that you would like to share with our readers?

What’s been most profound for me is to see how these new learning designs impact students. When teachers design learning experiences in a way that both challenges learners and sets them free to DO real things in the real world, it’s awe-inspiring what happens. I’ve seen examples of what kids can do – from creating water purifying systems in another country, to seven year olds developing digital games that incorporate curriculum goals, to Nigerian students organizing to bring street children into their own schools. This is the kind of learning that can change our world for the better.

What are you most encouraged about in education right now?

It is still at its early stages, but I am beginning to see broader public awareness of the youth unemployment problem. Now it is time to connect the dots between education, future work, and 21st century skills development.

Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?

Right now I am most excited about self-regulation, or “learning to learn.” John Hattie’s “Visible Learning” research suggests that the most progress in learning happens when students develop the capacity to reflect on where they are in their own learning journey and to begin to guide their own learning.  Teachers can help develop this capacity by providing supportive feedback combined with an opportunity for students to refine their work based on feedback.

Where do you see your professional path taking you next?

I’m very interested in exploring two related themes. The first is an extension of the ITL Research work, looking more broadly at pedagogy and how 21st Century Learning Design can be integrated with other aspects of effective teaching. The second is delving deeply into the learner’s perspective in this first quarter of the 21st century. How would students redesign learning? And how do 21st century skills lead to better future work?

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One Response to “When teachers design learning experiences in a way that both challenges learners and sets them free to DO real things in the real world, it’s awe-inspiring what happens.” – Maria Langworthy, USA

  1. Jennifer Bevill says:

    I attended a professional development session given by Maria and I found it to be one of the most beneficial sessions I have ever experienced. Being introduced to the ITLResearch was eye opening. It all just makes sense and lays out what we should be doing to prepare our students to be professionals. I have started to introduce my faculty to the rubrics and research; the teachers are looking forward to learning more, as am I.

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