Inspiration for your next resource: our dictionary of top teaching trends

by Emily Schickli and Gabe Baker

We’ve compiled a list of some of the top teaching trends in case you want to explore and experiment with them in your resources. For a more in-depth look at how to apply some of these education trends in the classroom, check out our article on designing resources that foster 21st Century learning environments.

Caveat: this short dictionary list is by no means exhaustive or meant to be final; we’ve gathered a bunch of some of the most popular education trends that are here and expanding, but of course we haven’t covered them all. If you would love for us to highlight another great teaching trend that you think your fellow authors should know about, please send us an email at

Assessment for learning / formative assessment /diagnostic - Probably the most tried-and-true education strategy is the way that educators test how well a student learned something: by assigning a test, quiz, or other type of assessment at the end of a unit or lesson. While summative assessments are great tools for measuring success, educators need to also know what the student knew before a lesson or unit to actually map out growth.

Help educators analyze student learning outcomes by creating a diagnostic that students take before engaging with your resource. Moreover, you can include assessments for learning midway through a unit to help students check in with themselves and their teacher. Assessments for learning may look like tests, but they don’t have to be counted in students’ grades. Ungraded, they can foster a growth mindset (see below) by encouraging students to recognize mistakes and work harder to tackle them before falling behind as well as celebrate how much they’ve learned in the process.

Blended learning - Like gamification and flipped classrooms (see below), blended learning is a teaching practice that has students learning at least part of the time via digital and online media. Definitely one of the ever-evolving teaching practices, blended learning in the classroom could look like any number of things. In your resources, you could try experimenting by including a few lessons that focus on digital content and interactions, such as creating a class wiki or maintaining a blog discussion, or you even could create a whole unit taught through virtual lectures, spaces, and classrooms.

Collaborative activities - The ability to collaborate effectively is widely recognized as an increasingly valuable asset. Teaching resources can give students opportunities to work with each other and their teachers. Collaboration gives students the opportunities to negotiate different perspectives and work towards a common goal. Collaborative lessons can foster debate and dialogue, and they require the ability to articulate and listen to viewpoints.  Web-based tools provide rich, convenient opportunities for in-class and out-of-class collaboration.

Computer science - With Barack Obama making a YouTube video urging Americans to learn computer science, and the “Hour of Code” becoming a national educational movement, coding is officially “in.” But, an hour of code isn’t nearly long enough! Besides being an eminently practical discipline in our digital age, computer science requires clarity of thought, the elimination of ambiguity, and keen attention to detail. With elements of math and grammar, combined with the growing prevalence of digital technology in society, computer science is interdisciplinary, modern, and cool.


Digital literacy - Students who are digitally literate use technology to create, discover, and collaborate. The landscape of digital technology is rapidly shifting, and admittedly, what constitutes “digitally literate” is something of a moving target. It’s up to teachers to maintain familiarity with what’s out there and what’s on the horizon, and to take a thoughtful, broad approach to fostering students’ familiarity with the digital landscape. With an increasingly competitive job market and positions that rely on at least a basic understanding of online research, digital products, and technology, teachers need to integrate more opportunities for fostering these skillsets into the classroom to help students succeed after graduation.


Flipped classroom - Many educators are now testing out flipped classrooms, which is where students watch the lecture at home, take notes, and then come to class to ask questions and do their work with help from their teacher. As a TES author you have a great opportunity to help educators flip their classroom by creating virtual lectures that their students can watch at home. For more details on how you may create a resource that facilitates this, check out our article on designing resources that foster 21st Century learning environments.


Gamification and game-based learning - Who doesn’t like playing games? More and more, teachers are integrating video games into the classroom to facilitate students’ love of learning, and here’s why: games provide students with intrinsic motivation to keep learning even as the material becomes more difficult. Moreover, students can internalize content much more easily when their brains are focused on healthy competition or play.


Gamification focuses more on using game parameters in the classroom to teach various subjects and skills versus game-based learning has a learning object that is within the game itself. As a result, a game-based learning lesson may include an activity in which students actually create their own game or virtual world, one of the most popular games being Minecraft. Wanting to add a gamified twist to your resource? Check out Scratch, which is a free tool and community that allows educators and students to create and share stories, games, and animations.


Grit - “Grit” isn’t just for Westerns anymore. Students who don’t give up when faced with challenges both in and out of the classroom are more likely to succeed in this competitive world. In your resources, you can help educators cultivate their students’ tenacity by creating assignments that are just beyond student’s zone of proximal development, encouraging educators to provide timely, thorough, and clear feedback on assignments, and by emphasizing process and revision over product. See Growth Mindset for more.


Growth mindset - When students take on a “growth mindset,” they attribute their success to hard work and effort rather than an innate ability to succeed. Teaching students to practice a growth mindset rather than a “fixed” mindset can make a huge difference in the classroom. When a student faces failure and has a fixed mindset, he or she will be tempted to give up because he or she is not smart and can’t change the result. With a growth mindset, however, a student can detach an act of failure from his or her definition of self, and with renewed effort and a willingness to ask for help, that student will put in the work to later succeed. Based on Carol Dweck, PhD.’s groundbreaking research and book, many schools are rushing to teach the growth mindset. Learn more about her work here.


Project-based learningProject-based learning has a rich heritage. John Dewey was a prominent advocate for PBL, an educational approach which provides opportunities for sustained inquiry about a complex problem or question. These problems often have a real world context, helping students see that there is more than just a grade at stake. Well-designed projects will have students searching for and evaluating various sources, thinking creatively about solutions, and often producing something that can be displayed inside and perhaps outside of the classroom. Here are some other essentials for Project-Based Learning, and here’s the audio from an interesting panel about PBL.


“Real World” Relevance - Many older textbooks are filled with practice problems that are situated far from the realities of students’ lives. As a result, students are right to wonder how their schoolwork bears on their lives outside of school. Creative teachers and teaching resources give students the chance to see how even the most abstract, theoretical concepts can be practical and worth exploring, for the sake of the world at large -- not just the classroom.


Social emotional learning (SEL) - Students who are socially and emotionally intelligent can empathize with others, recognize and understand their own emotions, and be partners in supportive, positive relationships. They’re able to resolve conflicts, negotiate, and make responsible decisions that balance their own needs with the needs of others. Teaching resources with an SEL perspective may encourage students to listen to different perspectives, to give and seek help, and to build positive relationships with their peers, schools, and communities.


State Standards alignment - The Common Core State and Next Generation Science Standards make up an extensive state-led movement that works to define what each student should know by the end of each grade level in three core subjects: Math, English, and Science. The Common Core, which provides standards for math and English, have been adopted by 43 states. However, many textbook publishing companies and schools have been slow to assist teachers with the transition to these standards. As a result, you have a unique opportunity as a TES author to meet the demand for quality, Standards-aligned materials. You can learn more about the Common Core here and the Next Generation Science Standards here.


Web-based or online learning - Most of your potential customers are classroom teachers, but let’s not forget the non-traditional educator, such as a tutor, online instructor, academic support specialist, or homeschooling parent or guardian. These educators in particular may benefit from a different kind of teaching resource: the complete, online class. Many top universities are now offering MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) to students everywhere, and these classes include everything from daily lessons, virtual lectures and discussions, to final summative assessments. Why not create one for educators assisting independent learners? Many middle or high school students (elementary is often a bit young for an all-inclusive, mostly hands-off online course) could benefit from your unique approach. When you’re creating this kind of resource, think about how you would translate your entire class from fall to spring to a digital space.