The forest, the trees and what to do about them: Five compelling trends in education

By Morgan Appel, director of the Education Department, UC San Diego Extension

For most teachers, pupils and parents, the return to school is but a faint glimmer on a distant horizon. For those of us involved in serving practitioners and school communities, however, the ebb and flow of education policies and related phenomena are ever present. As the Education Department looks forward to the future, we have identified a few trends that we believe will have profound effects on the endeavor.

First, we are likely to see a slight uptick in global demand across education professions based on forecast retirements and other factors, such as the expansion of online and blended learning platforms across P-20. As employers seek out practitioners to fill new or vacated positions, they are likely to focus upon skills integration versus strict specialization. Those responsible for the education of our children and adults are more likely to be purpose driven, project based and loosely coupled in an increasingly porous and fluid environment for education.

Second, the advent and adoption of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in the United States heralds a return to creativity and emphasis on metacognition, cross-curricular and reciprocal learning that attends to unique cognitive and affective needs across P-20. The cultivation of ‘sound habits of mind’ will be brought to the forefront, and assessment-heavy (particularly norm-refereed batteries), lock-step curricular adoptions will fade into the background.

pupils-1960-(1).jpgIn a third and related point, we will see marked impacts of diverse technologies on differentiation and personalization; shifting balances between formal and informal learning; and digital citizenship. In many cases, these phenomena will serve as a catalyst for a greater interdependency between teacher and student and important changes in grouping and classroom activities. As students exchange formal resources for informal sources of information, we will see an emphasis on developing critical consumers of information.

In serving educators worldwide, we understand that contexts may be different and specific needs diverse, administrators and practitioners are compelled to contend with similar issues across the globe. The "Small World" phenomenon — fueled by synchronous technologies and the need to prepare pupils for lives in an ever more integrated economy — will compel practitioners and postsecondary institutions to see both forest and trees.

Finally, we have come to learn that context is everything. Although professional development programming and related certificates/licenses must adhere to certain established parameters, we find that contextual grounding empowers practitioners at all levels. The ability to differentiate and personalize curriculum and instruction at the postsecondary level will be paramount for colleges and universities working with teachers and schools in the future.

The Education Department at Extension is committed to embracing these opportunities head on and offers coursework, certificates and credentials dedicated to facilitating the work of the 21st-century educator.

For more information about this post or Education Department programming, please contact Morgan Appel, director, at

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