Essential Skills for Educators in the 21st Century

Teacher qualities and skills are critical values in the education of the future. Teachers in the 21st century must educate for an environment characterized by innovation and continuous change. An accelerated and exponential future in which the game’s rules will not stop changing.

Why are soft skills important in the education of the future?

Soft skills are “interpersonal skills, such as the ability to communicate with others or to work in a team,” according to Collins Dictionary. In other words, they are those related to what we humans are good at:

  • Responding to the unpredictable, managing emotions.
  • Developing critical thinking.
  • Working in a team, among others.

Throughout history, educational needs have correlated with the different eras of humanity, responding to the needs of each moment. The classical education system sought to educate in such a way that students specialized in one thing, doing repetitive exercises, learning facts by heart and following orders. Industrial education emerged “as a tool that helped to improve production processes and reduce the rate of errors made during the working day.

However, as the documentary My Job, My Future (2019) explains, these skills are being automated. “We’ve been preparing for centuries to become some kind of shitty artificial intelligence,” says the voiceover of the documentary. “Have you been getting “A” in writing? Maybe you were good at it. But now it’s not so hard to find an essay generator free that will write you a text on a given topic.”

Education for the future of work

One of the challenges for today’s teachers is to help discover and enhance the talents of each student. Teaching should not focus on transmitting knowledge but on training students in the tools that will enable them to analyze information critically. How can teachers adapt?

Upskilling teachers

The training received in the classroom focuses in part on teaching how to teach and teaching how to learn, two fundamental skills that teachers have learned to value and transfer to their students. Improving this ability is part of the upskilling of teachers since it is a skill they already possess.

Within upskilling, we include new teaching techniques such as flipped class – homework and doubts in the classroom, reading the topics at home -, science-based education, active learning, project work, gamification of the classroom, neuroeducation, etc.

Reskilling teachers

Do teachers need new skills intrinsically different from teaching? Reskilling is usually oriented to professional retraining, the technological world, or a change of profession. But also, to the transfer of skills from other sectors, as happened with the need to learn to manage virtual classrooms during the pandemic.

Understanding trends in innovation is essential to adapt our education system at the right speed. The teacher figure is also changing from a transmitter of knowledge to a programmer of activities, which requires training in other areas as well.

What skills are expected of teachers?

Given that these are new fields of action and many of these skills are being studied to see if they are desirable, it is essential to note that this is still an experimental field. Among the skills that tend to stand out are:

Conveying knowledge in a way that is understandable to learners – also legible in its importance – requires communication skills, which involves empathy and being able to relate constructively to learners. Understanding them is critical, so it is never too much to learn.

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