Pedagogical trends for 2019 balance tech with holistic learning

The Open University’s new Innovating Pedagogy report confirms the clear role that technology has to play in delivering effective teaching, without overstating its importance

The ‘Innovating Pedagogy Report 2019’, published this month, identifies ten innovations that will influence education across the world throughout 2019 and beyond. Compiled by experts from The Open University and the Centre for the Science of Learning & Technology (SLATE) in Norway, the report reveals a move towards more creative, informal teaching methods, both with and without the use of technology.

Seventh in a series of innovative pedagogy reports, this instalment describes both established and up-and-coming teaching methods. Previous reports have touched on huge global trends such as MOOCs (2012).

The ten highlighted trends from the 2019 report have both direct and indirect relationships to edtech, and the themes of learning through play, developing wonder, and encouraging empathy are all topics that are high on the list of priorities for edtech this year.

However, the report’s lead author, Dr Rebecca Fergusson, Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University, made it clear that these trends are not about simply dumping high-tech gadgets into classrooms, but more about developing educational practices that can be implemented both with and without modern tech: “Although we’ve looked at trends that make use of drones and robots, the future of teaching and learning isn’t all about hi-tech devices. This report identifies many trends that don’t require technology, and which can be tried straight away. Bringing wonder and play into learning and looking at social and emotional learning are all trends that will have a big impact on teaching and learning, without a reliance on technology.”

The ten highlighted trends in the Innovating Pedagogy 2019 report are:

Playful learning

Learning through play evokes creativity, imagination, and happiness. It focuses on process rather than outcome and allows learners to explore issues with freedom. Play provides an important alternative to the increasing focus on memorisation, testing, and performance in education.

Learning with robots

Conversations between teachers and learners are important but take time. Intelligent software assistants and robots can help a learner understand a topic by partnering with them for conversation. An artificially intelligent robot can respond quickly to frequent queries or even help a teacher with assessment. This can free teachers to direct more time towards human tasks such as exercising judgement and giving emotional support.

Decolonising learning

As education is increasingly globalised, communities are challenging the assumption that the European tradition offers the most valuable knowledge and the best ways of teaching and learning. This trend prompts us to consider education from a different perspective, showing how the world view presented to learners is often white, male and European. It is about recognising, understanding and challenging the ways in which our world is shaped by colonisation.

Although we’ve looked at trends that make use of drones and robots, the future of teaching and learning isn’t all about hi-tech devices.
– Dr Rebecca Fergusson, lead author

Drone-based learning

Using drones, students can view otherwise inaccessible landscapes, or see them from different angles. They can collect data in places that would otherwise be difficult or dangerous to access. Using drones can help learners develop new skills such as interpreting visual information from a landscape, and it enriches the exploration of many physical spaces.

Learning through wonder

A wondrous event such as seeing a brilliant rainbow or majestic waterfall creates an experience that provokes interest and curiosity. By investigating encounters in the everyday world, a desire to understand leads to learning, and learners are motivated to see a phenomenon from many perspectives. Recently developed curriculum designs and Wonder Classrooms provide new ways of bringing these experiences into classrooms.

Action learning

This is a team-based approach to professional development that addresses real problems. It is designed to improve existing skills and solve problems significant to those taking part. Learners work in small groups of diverse people with a facilitator, and each person brings a problem or issue of concern. Meeting regularly, group members find and apply solutions, encouraging shared experiences and reflection.

Virtual studios

This trend extends to the online environment the creativity, collaboration and social interaction of a physical studio. It gives learners increased access to a range of solutions to design problems and provides opportunities to work with other learners and professionals around the world.

Place-based learning

This is about using technology to extend how we use locations for education. Varied locations can be triggers for learning, for instance using the natural environment or a community setting to inspire learners. Mobile technologies are opening up new opportunities for place-based learning, providing a variety of tools to support study outside the classroom.

Making thinking visible 

Learning is more effective when students can visualise their thinking. Using visual concepts, mind maps, and writing helps teachers see their students’ progress. These visible records can become resources for student reflection, and also help teachers to identify and address student misunderstandings.

Roots of empathy

This is a classroom programme for primary-age children that helps develop empathy. A baby is brought into the classroom and is seen as a ‘teacher’. The children in the class learn about development and emotions, talk about what the baby is doing, and develop a sense of responsibility. The method has been shown to foster good social behaviour and decrease aggressive behaviour.

The report is free to download from