Conducting academic research and writing articles or papers is another way for educators to have quality professional development and close their own learning gaps.
My colleague Nevena Marković and I conducted our first big research at the beginning of 2019. Our research was presented at the Faculty of Education in Jagodina, Serbia, at an international conference that discussed teacher competencies in the 21st century. This was our first major conference, and we realized that educators develop best by networking and using Connections-based Learning.
Life in the 21st century is constantly being challenged by advances and changes in living and working that mainly result from fast technological growth and demands of information-rich work environments. To respond successfully to the transformed nature of work and social relationships, education systems worldwide have highlighted the key role of teachers for developing the crucial learner competences at all levels of education, from kindergarten to higher education, in the following areas: ways of thinking (creativity and innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, learning to learn, metacognition), ways of working (communication, collaboration, teamwork), tools for working (information literacy, ICT literacy), and living in the world (citizenship, life and career, personal and social responsibility and cultural awareness) (Binkley et al., 2012). Since the greatest responsibility for providing conditions for deeper learning and competence development in the classroom lies with the teachers, teacher education and professional development programmes need to help student teachers and practicing teachers develop pedagogical strategies that promote learner competence development.
Text taken from the conference introduction.
The main topic of our research is teaching young learners English following the CLIL methodology – a presentation about theme-based instruction, 21st-century skills, and why is it important to integrate content into language learning in the critical age of development and cross-curricular teaching. Along with a theme-based unit which will be analyzed and used as a practical example for the CLIL methodology.
The paper provides a methodological overview of the framework, which aims to establish the language of instruction from first to fourth grade, as well as to improve the current pedagogical practice in teaching foreign languages in general. During the planning of theme-based teaching units, in correlation with the content of other subjects, an innovative English teacher should aim to develop the 21st-century
skills and try to select the resources for the class by applying Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Besides the proposal of the framework with concrete aims and principles, interactive methods for teaching, such as the use of digital technologies and project work, are presented in the paper as well.
21st Century skills are essential when it comes to education for sustainable development and lifelong learning. In this paper, they appear as the development of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.
Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory is the basis for the use of a variety of teaching resources. Such diverse means mentioned in the activities have applications not only in learning the language but also in the development of hearing, gross and fine motor skills and acquiring knowledge from diﬀerent fields. The aims of using Gardner’s theory and development of 21st-century skills are connected, represent an inseparable unity and complement each other.
The activities of theme-based teaching units are described and analyzed through the main principles of the framework. Each activity develops a certain skill of a young speaker of a foreign language, taking into account the integration with the rest of the curriculum, the development of communication and learning autonomy. The paper concludes that this versatile approach continues to influence the development of teachers almost as much as it aﬀects the child’s development and development of language. Through innovative curricula, teachers indirectly and unobtrusively apply for a self-directed professional development program, precisely through improving the practice itself. The work motivates foreign language teachers to cooperate with colleagues from other areas to create a thematic based curriculum and integrate higher education.
Scroll through the presentation slides below.
Take a look at a digital reflection – a storytelling video about Theme-based lessons conducted in this research. This video was also used in the National Geographic Educator Certification program.
What do you think about Theme-based Instruction? Which methodological theory do you use the most while developing your lessons? What are the most important 21st-century skills, according to you?