“We need to shift the focus from grades to learning.” This is a big statement to make, full of complex notions and far-reaching ideals. We live in a world where test scores determine the end goal for most schools and universities, making it close to impossible for us to imagine an alternative, but despite our rigid system, the conversation is moving. There’s talk of skills, mastery, innovation, technology, collaboration, connectivity, personalization… So how do we stop talking and start doing? There are simple ways for educators and parents to teach students the real value of learning, away from the pressures and inaccuracies that stem from testing, which begin with the following:

1. Teach Them Not to Neglect Their Skills

Despite the importance of the test score to pass that initial threshold into career and college life, skills are what’s really needed once you get there. By maintaining a focus on the 5 C’s and beyond, students are ensured the basic necessities to strive for success within 21st century society. Encouraging continuous development and mastery of skills, students can really prepare themselves for what awaits, finally realizing the potential that tests often fail to recognize.

2. Don’t Restrict Learning to the Curriculum, or the Classroom

The great thing about learning today is that many of the restrictions that once existed no longer do. Through the use of mobile technology, instruction is reaching through the classroom walls, creating a self-paced environment where students can learn at home, or on the move. With more flexible solutions at their fingertips, educators are embarking on more ambitious projects that explore learning beyond the curriculum, maintaining a focus on 21st century skills.

3. Highlight the Importance of Social Interaction and Collaboration

Today’s employers, and today’s world, expect a lot more than good test scores. Without the social skills to accompany a high GPA, it’s very difficult to meet these expectations. Key factors in student development, social interaction and collaboration, are often pushed aside as skills to be developed outside the classroom. However, by incorporating these essential skills into their learning, students begin to appreciate the value of effective collaboration and relationship-building in helping them to reach their objectives, and to increase their confidence in everything that they do.

4. Consider the Influence that Technology Has on their Lives

21st century students and graduates are expected to be online. Not only that, they’re expected to be competent technology users who use it in a way that reflects their personal and professional life, leaving a positive digital footprint. Its growing influence means students need to be taught how to become digital citizens who use the internet for development and learning purposes, and invest in the right tools that can help them to achieve their goals.

5. Let Them Take the Reigns

With more control over their learning, students are empowered and motivated to master their learning to the best of their ability. Personalized learning environments promote voice and choice, as students take responsibility for their own progress, using different resources and tools that reflect how they learn best. With access to multimodal resources that offer as much freedom as possible, personalized learning technology supports them throughout their learning, providing a student-driven, self-paced alternative to what they’re used to.

Like what you’ve read? Join 21st century educators making the move from grades to learning with the next generation learning platform.

About the author:


Lorna Keane specializes in language teaching and has taught in second and third-level institutions in several countries. She holds a B.A in languages and cultural studies and an M.A in French literature, theory and visual culture. Follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

Image credits: Purple Sherbet Photography / CC BY 2.0