Written by Andrew Ellingsen and Sarah Zbornik, DCSD Instructional Coaches
One of the “buzz words” in education recently has been the term 21st Century Skills. With everyone from US Representatives to President Obama to countless other celebrities and politicians weighing in supporting the idea, the term is often thrown around without a lot of context.
What are the 21st Century Skills? Who is responsible for teaching them? Why should we care?
The Partnership for 21st Century Learning (www.p21.org) groups a disparate set of skills together as 21st Century Skills. The skills are grouped into four main categories:
The last group, the 4 Cs, are also listed by the Iowa Core Companion as “Universal Constructs” because of the manner in which they can be woven into classrooms regardless of grade level or subject matter.
Because of the universal nature of these skills, the responsibility for teaching them isn’t isolated to an individual teacher or course. Rather, it falls to all of us to incorporate them into our classrooms where appropriate. Should we throw out all of the other good teaching we’re doing to highlight only the 21st Century Skills? Of course not… That being said, there are likely places in each of our classrooms to weave the 4 Cs into the myriad ways students interact with content knowledge.
Earlier this month, the College & Career Clubs hosted a webinar titled “Crisis in Middle School: Catching Them Before They Fall Through the Cracks.” In it, the moderator shared that academic readiness in 8th grade impacts college & career readiness more than anything that happens academically in the high school years (The Forgotten Middle, published by ACT). By the time a student is in high school, if they don’t see a) that what they’re learning is connected to life after school and b) that they are capable of having a meaningful future once school is done, there is a much higher likelihood that they will end up dropping out of school.
The presenter went on to share that one of the primary ways to engage students in the content is to create project-based learning. Having a chance to take what they’ve learned and apply it to solve problems in real-world situations allows students to engage with the 4 Cs in a meaningful way and to identify their own skills, interests, and strengths.
By incorporating the 4 Cs into a student’s daily experience with school, we can make a significant impact that will long outlast their time in our classroom. Developing skills in Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, and Collaboration can not only encourage students to engage with the curriculum in more meaningful ways but also prepare them for a future the world we’ve come to know as a quickly shifting landscape of new technology, innovations, and careers.
Where do the 21st Century Skills fit in your classroom? How can you incorporate them into the teaching you’re already doing? Join the conversation by commenting below!
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