While drafting the first survey we plan to send out to teachers, parents and students , one of the objectives is to:
- Assess level of importance of 21st century skills and STEM learning
I was asked to explain what 21st century skills were so I researched what they are and why they are essential in today’s world?
What are 21st century skills?
21st century skills refers to a broad set of knowledge, skills, work habits, and character traits that are believed—by educators, school reformers, college professors, employers, and others—to be critically important to success in today’s world.
21st century skills can be applied in all academic subject areas, and in all educational, career, and civic settings throughout a student’s life.
While the specific skills deemed to be “21st century skills” may be defined, categorized, and determined differently from person to person, place to place, or school to school, the term does reflect a general consensus.
The following list provides a brief illustrative overview of the knowledge, skills, work habits, and character traits commonly associated with 21st century skills:
- Critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, analysis, interpretation, synthesizing information
- Research skills and practices, interrogative questioning
- Creativity, artistry, curiosity, imagination, innovation, personal expression
- Perseverance, self-direction, planning, self-discipline, adaptability, initiative
- Oral and written communication, public speaking and presenting, listening
- Leadership, teamwork, collaboration, cooperation, facility in using virtual workspaces
- Information and communication technology (ICT) literacy, media and internet literacy, data interpretation and analysis, computer programming
- Civic, ethical, and social-justice literacy
- Economic and financial literacy, entrepreneurialism
- Global awareness, multicultural literacy, humanitarianism
- Scientific literacy and reasoning, the scientific method
- Environmental and conservation literacy, ecosystems understanding
- Health and wellness literacy, including nutrition, diet, exercise, and public health and safety
Even our “best” schools are failing to prepare students for 21st-century careers and citizenship.
Tony Wagner investigated what skills students need to build successful careers? What skills do they need to be good citizens? and are these two education goals in conflict?
He began his research by talking to a number of business, non-profit, philanthropic and education leaders. This gave him an idea of what skills students need. He then went to see if US Schools were teaching and testing the skills needed the most. He investigated whether the “best” schools, which were the nations highly regarded schools were indeed the best for children’s future.
What schooling do students need?
He found seven survival skills that students need to master in order for them to thrive in the world of work:
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Collaboration and Leadership
- Agility and Adaptability
- Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
- Effective Oral and Written Communication
- Accessing and Analyzing Information
- Curiosity and Imagination
What schooling do students get?
Students often told how to do something. They aren’t eager to answer questions or they don’t critically think for themselves. They wait on the teacher to answer or help them in some way.
However in a rare class, Algebra the teacher write a problem on the board. He tells the student they haven’t seen this kind of problem before and that it will require concepts from both geometry and algebra to solve. The students work in groups to solve it. The teacher will then select one person from each group to write their answer in the board and that person will explain the process the group went through.
In this particular class students are given a complex problem and to solve it they have to apply critical thinking and problem solving skills and call on previously acquired knowledge of geometry and algebra. They have to find two ways to solve the problem and this required initiative and imagination. They have to explain their proof using effective communication. The teacher doesn’t spoon feed the students the answers, he asks them questions to push the students thinking. The teacher will randomly pick one person from the group at the end to explain the proof so every member of the group is accountable. Success requires teamwork.
What needs to be done next?
We need to use academic content to teach the seven survival skills every day, at every grade level and in every classroom.
Instruction designed to teach students to think rather than just drilling for the test or spoon-feeding them the answer.