Innovating Pedagogy: Which Trends Will Influence Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning Environments?

Also note our review of the current 2016 edition of the Innovating Pedagogy Report.

In November 2015, the Open University released the latest edition of its ‘Innovating Pedagogyreport, the fourth rendition of an annual educational technology and teaching techniques forecast. While the timelines and publishing interval may remind you of the Horizon Report, the methodology for gathering the trends is different.

The NMC Horizon Team uses a modified Delphi survey approach with a panel of experts, the ‘Innovating Pedagogy’ report is authored by a team of OU researchers. The 2015 edition was compiled in collaboration with SRI International. As in previous years, the report discusses ten innovations that are on the brink of having a profound influence on education.

Overview of 2015 Innovating Pedagogy trends timeline

10 Innovative Pedagogy Trends from the 2015 Edition:

  1. Crossover Learning: The concept of crossover learning refers to a comprehensive understanding of learning that bridges formal and informal learning settings. A shift towards crossover learning requires adjustments in curricular planning and assessment techniques through competency-oriented learning outcomes and recognition of diverse, informal achievements with badges.
  2. Learning through Argumentation: To fully understand scientific ideas and effectively participate in public debates students should practice the kinds of inquiry and communication processes that scientists use, and pursue questions without known answers, rather than reproducing facts. ‘Learning through argumentation’ is a process of proposing, critiquing, and defending ideas among peers.
  3. Incidental Learning: Learning that is unplanned and oftentimes unintentional characterizes important milestones in early childhood such as language acquisition, motoric development or social skills. A subset of informal learning, incidental learning occurs through unstructured exploration, play and discovery. Mobile technologies can support incidental learning by providing just-in-time information, connecting learning to a wider community and curating learning artifacts or other outcomes of unplanned activities. An example is the app and website Ispot Nature.
  4. Context-based Learning: Learning is situated in a specific context which the learners co-create. Mobile applications and augmented reality can enrich the learners’ context. An example is the open source mobile game platform ARIS.
  5. Computational Thinking: The skills that programmers apply to analyze and solve problems are seen as an emerging trend in the K-12 curriculum and related to problem-based learning in general. An example is the programming environment SCRATCH.
  6. Learning by Doing Science with Remote Labs: The report identifies as an important innovation the remote access to real scientific experiments. Students gain access to equipment and materials and conduct experiments that focus on scientific inquiry, beyond the practical handling of apparatus. A collection of accessible labs is ilab
  7. Embodied learning: While involving the body is essential for some forms of learning, such as playing sports or performing surgery, Embodied learning also relates more generally to how physical activities can influence cognitive processes. Data gathered through wearable devices could help optimizing physical activities during the learning process.
  8. Adaptive Teaching: The report uses the term Adaptive teaching to describe intelligent tutoring systems – computer applications that analyse data from learning activities to provide learners with relevant content and sequence learning activities based on prior knowledge.
  9. Analytics of Emotions: As techniques for tracking eye movements, emotions and engagement have matured over the past decade, the trend prognoses opportunities for emotionally adaptive learning environments.
  10. Stealth Assessment: In computer games the player’s progress gradually changes the game world, setting increasingly difficult problems through unobtrusive, continuous assessment. This approach has been termed stealth assessment and it is starting to be applied to educational games and simulations.

6 Themes of Pedagogical Innovation

Based upon a review of previous editions, the report tries to categorize pedagogical innovation into six overarching themes:

 “What started as a small set of basic teaching methods (instruction, discovery, inquiry) has been extended to become a profusion of pedagogies and their interactions. So, to try to restore some order, we have examined the previous reports and identified six overarching themes: scale, connectivity, reflection, extension, embodiment, and personalisation.”

  1. Delivering education at massive scale.
  2. Connecting learners from different nations, cultures and perspectives.
  3. Fostering reflection and contemplation.
  4. Extending traditional teaching methods and settings.
  5. Recognizing embodied learning (explore, create, craft, and construct).
  6. Creating a personalized path through educational content.


As in previous edition the Innovate Pedagogy report’s focus on teaching over technology makes for an interesting and compelling read. As in previous editions, some trends describe long-standing concepts such as informal or incidental learning that are established research areas. In some cases, the resource section of the trends appeared rather eclectic and not well aligned with existing tools or approaches.

As an example, though not mentioned in the report, collaboration scripts are an established CSCL technique to leverage technology for supporting learning through scientific argumentation (trend #2 ‘learning through argumentation’). In the case of ‘embodied learning’ (trend #7), Khan Academy is highlighted in the resource collection – without clarifying how Khan Academy video materials are supposed to support embodied learning.

Furthermore, provocative claims such as ‘Until recently, education has been designed to minimize the effects of context on learning’ would profit from providing supporting sources that allow readers to come to their own conclusions. As with all trend forecasts, the prediction of possible futures is difficult and flawed with implicit or explicit agendas.

The Innovate Pedagogy report certainly adds a unique voice to the landscape of current EdTech trend reviews, and therefore is a must-read for practitioners and researchers alike. The six overarching themes connectivity, reflection, extension, embodiment, and personalization offer a useful compass when planning new approaches or discussing the merits of innovative techniques.

Further Reading

Follow these links to blog posts and EdITLib resources to further explore selected trends:

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  Comments: 1

  1. Dr. Charles E. Stull

    While innovative pedagogical themes are interesting we must be careful not to abandon the tried and true research-based theories from such fields as Adult Learning. As an example my research insights into the innovative theme “Connecting learners from different nations, cultures and perspectives” have been effectively informed by models of Adult Learning applied to learning in virtual teams.

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