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8 Undeniable Traits of the 21st Century Teacher

8 Undeniable Traits of the 21st Century Teacher

By Mike Daugherty

Before you read this article, take a moment to type 21st century into the Google search bar. Google attempts to help you by finishing your search query—the first suggestion to round out the query is “teacher.” This tells us that there are a lot of people interested in knowing exactly what a 21st century teacher is.

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After some extensive research across a variety of websites, case studies and discussions, we’ve found that there are eight specific characteristics that can be seen in every 21st century educator. Do these traits describe you?

Student Centered

The all too familiar “mage/sage on the stage” approach to teaching is no longer relevant for these modern classrooms, where the focus is shifting away from the teacher as the keeper of knowledge. Now, 21st century teachers lead discussions while guiding students down a path of learning with the web, social media and other digital solutions.

Forward Thinking

A 21st century educator is progressive. They understand how quickly the world is changing due to seemingly unlimited access to increasingly powerful technologies. These forward thinking educators look to prepare students for success as a citizen of the future.

More: 5 Digital Citizenship Lessons for 21st Century Learners

Actively Engaged

Studies have shown that authentic learning happens when the students are actively engaged in their learning. A 21st century teacher strives to involve the learners whenever possible. Classroom time focuses on interactive activities for the students to participate in—teaching by doing.


Flipping the classroom goes hand and hand with engaging the students. In a flipped or blended model, students are given resources, such as videos, to watch prior to attending class. The teacher then leads a discussion around the content while students are in class. During this time, students demonstrate understanding by completing an activity, worksheet or lesson—this work is done in class as opposed to at home.

More: 5 Easy Steps to a Flipped Classroom


Modern educators look to stay relevant with students by adapting their lessons to include the use of technology and social media. This doesn’t mean that every lesson is recreated to incorporate technology—these tools are used when appropriate to enhance a lesson, gather formative or summative data, or present the material in a new, more familiar or engaging, way.


Social media and mobile technology is embraced in the classroom, not excluded. The instructor not only values the social media revolution, but eagerly participates in it. A 21st century teacher uses social media to showcase student success, build their PLN, and connect with parents, students and the community.

Lifelong Learner

Our research indicated that 21st century teachers take pride in their knowledge base. They never stop learning. These are people who routinely seek out opportunities to learn about new techniques and technologies to help them hone their professional craft.

More: Build Your PLN by Following These Social Media Accounts


Collaboration was sprinkled throughout every article, post and case study in our research on this topic. Progressive teachers are collaborative in a variety of ways. They work together to create lessons plans and they openly share those plans with anyone who is interested. They present their ideas at conferences and on professional development days in the hope that they can help others.

Does this accurately describe a 21st century teacher? Did we miss something? Use the comments section below to let us know.

21st century teacher


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