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The 5 Latest Trends in Education Research Every Teacher Should Know

The 5 Latest Trends in Education Research Every Teacher Should Know

Date posted : 15 December 2021

Education is a crucible for new trends and bold ideas. From the thriving educational research centres producing high-level academic work all the way through to the techniques classroom teachers will employ in their day-to-day work, this profession breeds audacious thinking.

Yet for those who finished their teacher training years ago, it is easy to fall behind on all the latest pedagogical theories bubbling up from all that research. To bring you up to speed on new thinking on education, we’ve outlined a few of the latest trends in educational research to arise in the last few years. Let’s see if they gel with your own approach to teaching.

1. Social-Emotional Learning

SEL is touted by its proponents as a holistic process through which young people acquire ‘the knowledge, skills and attitudes’ to live emotionally well-developed lives.

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL seeks to equip children and young people with five core ‘competencies’. These are: 

1.       Self-Awareness

2.       Self-Management

3.       Social Awareness

4.       Relationship Skills

5.       Responsible Decision-Making

This is achieved in the classroom, in family units and at a whole-school level. SEL has been credited by some research with improving academic achievement and reducing rates of depression. Given the difficulties that so many children have faced over the last two years, teachers should give some thought to how they can incorporate strategies to build their pupils’ resilience.  

2. Adaptive learning

Education and technology have a long yet often fraught relationship. Some teachers are outspoken about what they see as the damage to learning brought about by widespread smartphone use among their pupils, while others are full-throated evangelists for incorporating more digital technologies into the classroom.

Depending on which camp you sit in, you’ll either love the idea of adaptive learning or find yourself feeling a little queasy at the seepage of Big Tech-style algorithms into education. Adaptive learning seeks to use technology to create personalised, data-driven and responsive ‘pathways’ for each pupil, with automated educational systems in place to monitor student progress.

To make this a bit clearer, imagine that each pupil in a class has access to a software system that delivers course content and collects assessment marks and feedback. As a pupil makes their way through the course, the system will learn their habits and needs, and tailor what it delivers accordingly. This is not meant to replace the role of the teacher, nor does it enmtaan exclusively online learning environment. Instead, adaptive learning is meant to supplement your work and allow for each child to benefit from a bespoke learning experience.


If this excites your hi-tech inclinations, a range of adaptive learning software solutions have sprung up in recent years that might be worth checking out. However, sceptics can take solace from the fact that this trend is almost certainly years away from full fruition in UK classrooms. 

3. Connectivism

If adaptive learning is the proposed method for digitalised learning, then connectivism is its theoretical basis. 

Connectivism was first proposed by George Siemens in 2004 as ‘a learning theory for the digital age’. Siemens pitched connectivism as a new addition to the three major philosophies of learning that most trained teachers will be familiar with:  behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism. For Siemens, connectivism is more suited for a era whose main resource is information.

Its central premise is that technology is changing ‘what, how and where we learn’ by creating endlessly interlocking networks of information. Instead of treating pupils as passive receptors of a pre-defined curriculum, a connectivist teacher helps their pupils find the connections between different domains.

If this chimes with your own ideas about the most useful relationship between teachers and students, you can find out more about connectivism and its guiding principles here.  

4. Best learning moments

If you’ve ever stood in front of a class of worn-out adolescents at 3pm on the last Tuesday of term, you’ll know that not all lessons are created equal. Over the course of an 8-hour schoolday, there will always be points at which pupils feel disengaged, unfocused or just too tired to take in information effectively.  

This is why contemporary educational researchers are thinking hard about how to create ‘moments’ of deep focus and psychological absorption, during which pupils are totally immersed in their learning. This theory of 'best learning moments' is influenced by ideas from psychology about mindstates of ‘flow’

Helping students engage with their learning can involve a smorgasbord of techniques old and new, from gamification to good, old-fashioned group work.

You can find out more about the thinking behind this new trend in education here.  

5. Nanolearning

To understand what nanolearning means, it’s best to start by asking yourself two questions.

1.       How might pupils get the gist of a complex topic in under two minutes?

2.       What is the secret to the success of social media platforms like TikTok and Twitter?

Really, these two questions answer each other. Adults and kids alike are hooked on brevity. Collectively, we scroll through billions of fragmentary bits of information each day, whether those are quick bursts of audiovisual content or 280-character slivers of text.

According to its proponents, Nanolearning is about harnessing that spirit of maximum compression and encouraging students to learn more efficiently.  

Many educators might recoil in horror at the idea of taking cues from social media to teach kids whose attention spans already come at a premium. Yet there isn’t any inherent contradiction in keeping those platforms well away from the classroom while adopting their quickfire formats for a more efficient learning process. 

A 2015 study conducted by the Dresden Institute of Technology found that short content drove 22% higher information retention. However, few major pieces of high quality research yet exist on its use in school settings. As nanolearning gains prominence, we imagine it may turn out to be one of the more controversial of the educational trends we have highlighted here. 

How to get up to speed with the latest thinking in education

Teaching Personnel helps thousands of qualified teachers, teaching assistants and support staff every year find work. But we’re also dedicated to helping them develop their careers, learn new skills and advance their understanding of education as a profession and an art.

That’s why we give all our registered candidates heavily subsidised access to top-quality, fully-accredited Continuing Professional Development training through our CPD Academy. These courses will expand your knowledge of best practice, while introducing you to new trends, concepts and ideas in education.

If already you’re signed up with Teaching Personnel, simply login to the candidate portal for a look over the current courses available. If not, all you have to do is register with us for free.  

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