Five Emerging Trends Likely to Shakeup the National Education Landscape

Two elementary school girls playing on a computer

Have you considered how quickly things change in today’s modern world? Think about it: A new company called Uber was able to overtake the number of yellow cabs in New York City in just four years. Netflix disrupted the television market in just four years by offering an internet streaming service that is predicted to gain a larger 24-hour viewing audience within the year than each of the major broadcast networks. What do these examples mean for our future? And more importantly, what can they tell us about the future of our education system?

At KnowledgeWorks, we work to digest emerging trends and signals to release an education forecast every three years that will help educators and policymakers answer these daunting questions. Our forecast, “Recombinant Education: Regenerating the Learning Ecosystem” projects significant change for the K-12 education system throughout the next decade – change marked by a dramatic shift to student-centered, personalized learning.

Here are some top insights from this forecast and accompanying infographic:

1. Learning will no longer be defined by time and place — unless a learner wants to learn at a particular time and in a particular place.

A growing number of K-12 and higher education systems have started experimenting with this trend through experiential learning models, such as competency education. Pathways to mastery have multiplied and students are beginning to have a say in how they learn. Imagine what could happen if policymakers built an education system around teaching and learning outcomes instead of time and place. A diploma would have real meaning beyond high school, and students would have faith they are ready for the next step in college and career.    

2. Learners and their families will create individualized learning playlists reflecting their particular interests, goals, and values.

The days where stand-and-deliver instruction is the norm are numbered. Many classrooms around the country have already replaced one-size-fits-all curricula with highly customized learning experiences. These learning environments enable students to take advantage of everything the classroom, community, local businesses, and digital resources have to offer. Widespread adoption of these approaches will increase engagement and achievement, particularly for students who didn’t feel challenged or connected in the traditional system.

3. Educators’ jobs will diversify as many new learning agent roles emerge to support learning.

As the learning ecosystem continues to expand and diversify, new sets of skills and roles will emerge to guide students on their learning journey. Such roles might include a community intelligence cartographer or learning fitness instructor, for example. The rise of new roles has the potential to reinvigorate the teaching profession. Talented professionals from all walks of life may discover new and exciting pathways in which they can contribute to the education system. All stakeholders could benefit from this infusion of talent and energy – especially students themselves.

4. A wide variety of digital networks, platforms, and content resources will help learners and learning agents connect and learn.

Today’s society is completely connected through digital networks and platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, while services such as Netflix, Amazon, and Uber match services and products to specific tastes. We expect to see dramatic change in the next few years as the education system begins to capitalize on digital resources emerging to support learning. These resources will expand learning horizons, improve access to data, and provide educators with valuable tools to close achievement gaps.

5. Diverse forms of credentials, certificates, and reputation markers will reflect the many ways in which people learn and demonstrate mastery.

Tests, report cards, and GPAs will no longer be the only mechanisms for communicating mastery. Students will begin to seek new ways of certifying knowledge. We have already seen some school districts experiment with programs that award badges for mastery of individual competencies or skills. As new forms of credentials take hold, stakeholders will have better information on what students know and are able to do. That has the potential to transform the way colleges and employers think about talent recruitment. It also has the potential to change the way students think about what they want from the education system.


About the Author
Lillian Pace

Lillian Pace

Lillian Pace is the senior director of national policy for KnowledgeWorks, and works to bridge the divide between Washington and the education system by providing policymakers and national leaders with insight into innovative education reform. Pace works to craft and advance KnowledgeWorks’ federal policy agenda, advocating for policy conditions that empower state, community, and school-level transformation. During her time at KnowledgeWorks, Pace has authored a number of national publications focused on competency education, collective impact, and high school reform.

Pace came to KnowledgeWorks after directing the U.S. House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education. As the subcommittee director, Pace worked on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, managing the legislative drafting process for various sections of the bill.

Pace received her Master of Public Policy degree from George Washington University and her Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington and Lee University.