10 Popular Educational Trends and What You Need to Know

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The COVID-19 crisis is changing the educational landscape, often in unpredictable ways. It’s tough to know exactly what the upcoming school year will look like, but by keeping up on current trends in the educational sphere, you can return to school next year informed, whether you’re in a classroom or teaching at a distance.

We’ve rounded up 10 educational trends and issues you should keep an eye on and consider researching for your classroom. Some, like social-emotional learning and digital citizenship, have long been important—and they may require even more focus this year. Others, like genius hour and bite-sized learning, are recently arrived educational trends that may have a helpful place in your classroom.

1. Self-Care

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other world events, teachers and families may all be more overwhelmed than ever. This year, as schools moved to online learning and teachers scrambled to adjust their curriculum, many teachers, students, and parents gained new appreciation for the value of self-care.

While we don’t fully know what the 2020–2021 school year will look like yet, it’s sure that taking care of your overall health and well-being will be essential for students, teachers, and parents alike. You may want to include assignments that help students manage stress and make time for your own self-care as a teacher.

2. Blended Learning

Blended learning is a school or classroom structure in which students learn partially from direct teacher instruction and partially in more self-directed activities.[1] This mixture might be perfect if students are learning from both school and home next year. Although it’s still difficult to predict how and when students will return to school, many voices in education—including Forbes contributor Enrique Dans—believe that blended learning will be on the rise this school year.

3. Personalized Learning

Over the past few years, personalized learning has been on the rise. Why keep an eye on personalized learning? When school curriculum is adaptive to a student’s unique needs, it’s more likely to promote student progress because each child can move at their right pace.[2] Plus, adaptive software programs allow teachers to use the same program for all students in their classroom—including those with learning disabilities.

4. STEAM Curriculum

You may be familiar with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum and how it prepares students to enter the workforce with practical, high-demand skills. But adding the arts alongside these subjects (thus creating STEAM: STEM plus arts) can improve your students’ academic performance.

For example, adding art assignments to science and math lessons can help low-achieving students understand STEM subjects better. And it improves creativity—a useful skill for any academic subject.[3] Plus, STEAM curriculum is shown to provide students with a more well-rounded and practical education than STEM alone.[4]

5. Genius Hour

Genius Hour is a fairly new educational technique that allows students to work on self-paced and self-chosen projects for an hour each day.[5] This encourages students to practice their creativity and independent thinking skills, and they can also develop a genuine love of learning. If you’re looking for ways to improve student engagement in your classroom, genius spaces may be a trend to keep tabs on.

6. Digital Citizenship

For students, digital citizenship is defined as the ability to use technology and the Internet both effectively and appropriately. Good digital citizenship is increasingly necessary, but as assignments and lessons traditionally done in person move online, students need the skills to develop a healthy relationship with digital media.

7. Bite-Sized Learning

Bite-sized learning is an educational technique that provides students with brief, intensive activities that target specific academic skills. In a guest post with Cambridge University Press, teacher trainer Jade Blue describes it as an approach that “takes into account the contemporary demands of learner lifestyles that might hinder longer periods of focused study and time spent in the classroom.”

If classes continue to be primarily online next year, bite-sized learning activities may be especially useful. A strategic use of brief activities to teach new skills allows teachers to take into account a student’s limited capacity for long and focused lessons from home. Or, if students return to your classroom, this technique can still be useful for making the most of time spent in class.

8. Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

Social-emotional learning continues to be an important buzzword. When teachers take time to nurture both a student’s educational and social-emotional development, academic progress improves and classroom behavioral issues diminish.[6,7] And with the COVID-19 crisis changing many students’ lives in stressful ways, social-emotional learning will continue to be a necessity for their well-being.

9. Gamification

Looking for ways to make learning fun for your students? Gamification, a learning strategy that involves using games and rewards to teach students, is a strategy with plenty of both advocates and critics.

Many rightly discourage the use of external rewards for learning, but others counter that when the games and rewards tap into a child’s intrinsic motivation to learn—like rewarding a child who completes a reading log with a chapter book of their own, for example—the benefits can be profound. Students who play gamified activities in class can learn to value learning as its own reward and become active, engaged learners over time.[8,9]

10. Experiential Learning

Experiential learning is a strategy that, according to the UC Denver Experiential Learning Center, allows students to develop knowledge and skills in a setting outside of the classroom. For elementary students, options for experiential learning may be limited. But you can still make the most of this strategy by taking students on field trips (virtual or otherwise) and providing students with assignments that encourage them to learn outside of school.


  1. Staker, H., and Horn, M.B. Classifying K-12 Blended Learning. Retrieved from eric.ed.gov: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED535180.pdf
  2. Pane, J.F., Steiner, E.D., Baird, M.D., Hamilton, L.S., and Pane, J.D. How Does Personalized Learning Affect Student Achievement? Retrieved from rand.org: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9994.html
  3. Hardiman, M.M., JohnBull, R.M., Carran, D.T., and Shelton, A. The effects of arts-integrated instruction on memory for science content. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, March 2019, 14, pp. 25-32.
  4. University of Houston. Art could help create a better ‘STEM’ student. Retrieved from sciencedaily.com: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131203091633.htm.
  5. Fink, J.L.W. Genius Hour in the Classroom. Retrieved from scholastic.com: https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/18-19/genius-hour-in-the-classroom-/.
  6. Durlak, J., Weissberg, R.P., Dymnicki, A., Taylor, R., and Shellinger, K. The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions. Retrieved from casel.org: https://www.casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/PDF-3-Durlak-Weissberg-Dymnicki-Taylor-_-Schellinger-2011-Meta-analysis.pdf.
  7. Payton, J., Weissberg, R.P., Durlak, J.A., Dymnicki, A.B., Taylor, R.D., Schellinger, K.B., & Pachan, M. The Positive Impact of Social and Emotional Learning for Kindergarten to Eighth-Grade Students: Findings from Three Scientific Reviews. Child & Youth Care Forum, Jan 2011, 40(4), pp. 303-17.
  8. Glover, I. Play As You Learn: Gamification as a Technique for Motivating Learners. Retrieved from shura.shu.ac.uk: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/7172/1/Glover_-_Play_As_You_Learn_-_proceeding_112246.pdf.
  9. Buckley, P., and Doyle, E. Gamification and student motivation. Interactive Learning Environments, April 2016, 24(6), pp. 1162-1175.

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