Which one describes your classroom or school?


20th Century Classrooms                                21st Century Classrooms



USA 1960’s typical classroom – teacher-centered, fragmented curriculum, students working in isolation, memorizing facts.



A San Francisco architectural firm establishes an alternative school providing internships for high school students.  A perfect example of real-life, relevant, project-based 21st century education.

Photo by Will Fowler from Build San Francisco 




Focus:  memorization of discrete facts

Focus:  what students Know, Can Do and Are Like after all the details are forgotten.


Lessons focus on the lower level of Bloom’s Taxonomy – knowledge, comprehension and application.

Learning is designed on upper levels of Blooms’ – synthesis, analysis and evaluation (and include lower levels as curriculum is designed down from the top.)





Passive learning

Active Learning


Learners work in isolation – classroom within 4 walls

Learners work collaboratively with classmates and others around the world – the Global Classroom


Teacher-centered:  teacher is center of attention and provider of information


Student-centered:  teacher is facilitator/coach

Little to no student freedom

Great deal of student freedom


“Discipline problems – educators do not trust students and vice versa.  No student motivation.

No “discipline problems” – students and teaches have mutually respectful relationship as co-learners; students are highly motivated.


Fragmented curriculum

Integrated and Interdisciplinary curriculum


Grades averaged

Grades based on what was learned


Low expectations

High expectations – “If it isn’t good it isn’t done.”  We expect, and ensure, that all students succeed in learning at high levels.  Some may go higher – we get out of their way to let them do that.


Teacher is judge.  No one else sees student work.

Self, Peer and Other assessments.  Public audience, authentic assessments.


Curriculum/School is irrelevant and meaningless to the students.

Curriculum is connected to students’ interests, experiences, talents and the real world.


Print is the primary vehicle of learning and assessment.

Performances, projects and multiple forms of media are used for learning and assessment


Diversity in students is ignored.

Curriculum and instruction address student diversity


Literacy is the 3 R’s – reading, writing and math

Multiple literacies of the 21st century – aligned to living and working in a globalized new millennium - aural & visual literacy, financial literacy, ecoliteracy, media literacy, information literacy, cyberliteracy, emotional literacy, physical fitness/health, and global competencies.


Factory model, based upon the needs of employers for the Industrial Age of the 19th century.  Scientific management.


 21st century model
Driven by the NCLB and standardized testing mania.


 Driven by exploration, creativity and 21st century skills

This table is printed in Developing the Curriculum by Peter Oliva and William Gordon, Pearson Publishing, The Allyn & Bacon Educational Leadership Series, 2013, page 251. 

Table was created by Anne Shaw, Founder and Director, 21st Century Schools, www.21stCentury