Online course

Testing Times in the Classroom: Challenges of 21st Century Education

Explore debates surrounding education in the 21st century - how has education changed and what are the concerns for the future?

Testing Times in the Classroom: Challenges of 21st Century Education

Challenge the way you think about the key issues affecting education today

Are schools too focussed on assessments? Is education just about profit? Does the classroom affect children’s creativity? These are some of the questions that surround education in the present day.

On this course, you will discuss these questions in depth and understand some of the recent major changes in education. You will explore a range of key concepts, including how education might now be considered a business and the link between education and economic growth. You will reflect on your own schooling experiences as well as look at possible educational alternatives for the future.

Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsStudent debt. Teaching to the test. Depressed and anxious students and teachers. The reproduction of social inequalities. These and other related concerns have increasingly come to dominate educational discourse. Why is it that these and other senses of disquiet have increasingly occupied [? centre ?] place in the world of education? In this series, we'll be examining these and other concerns about the contemporary world of education. We'll begin by investigating the purposes of education. Examining debates about the nature and aims of education. And the ways in which previous generations have imagined this. Using this as a platform, we'll then look at more recent reforms of education. And the extent to which they've enabled schools, colleges, and universities to realise their transformative potential.

Skip to 1 minute and 2 secondsAnd then, finally we'll consider issues of social justice-- the extent to which educational institutions have enabled social divisions to be narrowed or widened.

What topics will you cover?

  • What education means in an era where assessment rules and where big data and key performance indicators are key.

  • In what ways education is now routinely linked to economic progress.

  • Whether the purpose of education has changed in the 21st century.

  • What positive alternatives exist to challenge dominant instrumental thinking? How have these been enacted and how can we learn from them in our own educational thinking?

  • Whether education can be considered as a business or corporate activity?

  • Other visions of education including social justice.

When would you like to start?

  • Available now
    This course started 14 January 2019

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Reflect on your own educational experiences and consider how these might relate to contemporary concerns
  • Describe some of the major changes which have occurred in education in recent years and also identify thoughts, ideas and practices which might have remained the same/similar over time
  • Discuss forms of alternative education which are practiced in current education systems
  • Investigate some of the affordances of technology and creativity in education
  • Explore possibilities for social justice in the current education system
  • Evaluate a range of perspectives to identify some alternative answers to the big questions asked about contemporary and future education

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone with an interest in education, including teachers, students, and parents. This course will also be of interest to an international audience. No prior qualifications in education are required.

Who will you learn with?

Alexandra Allan

Dr Alexandra Allan is the Director of Education in the Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter. Her research has focused on a range of topics relating to equality and diversity in education

Karen Walshe

I am experienced teacher and teacher educator and lead the MA Education online programme at the University of Exeter.

David Hall

I'm Professor of Education at the University of Exeter. My work focuses upon education policy and the impact of large scale educational reform upon those who work and study in educational institutions

Who developed the course?

The University of Exeter is a Russell Group university. It combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction.

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Join this course


  • Access to this course for 6 weeks
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes


  • Unlimited access to this course
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes
  • Certificate of Achievement to prove your success when you're eligible
  • Download and print your Certificate of Achievement anytime