The Importance of Developing 21st Century Skills in the Classroom
Parents, educators, employers and policymakers worldwide realize that school leavers must enter the labor market with 21st century skills if they are to succeed in a technological environment that keeps on changing at neck-break speed.
Different organizations and institutions highlight different skills, but there is a detailed and comprehensive outlay of some critical 21st century skills every student will need to succeed in the future. Applied Educational systems divide 21stcentury skills into three categories: learning skills, literacy skills and life skills.
Learning skills are comprised of critical thinking (finding solutions), creativity (thinking outside the box), collaboration (teamwork), and communication.
Literacy skills involve information literacy (understanding facts, figures, statistics, and data), media literacy (understanding how and where information is published) and technology literacy.
Life skills include flexibility, leadership, initiative, productivity and social skills – all of them skills that are needed in personal as well as professional life.
Many experts agree that collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication are the most critical skills needed to meet the workplace challenges of the 21st century. Future-proof your students and develop those 4 skills. Here are some tips on how to do them in the classroom:
Create opportunities for students to work together on projects where each student takes responsibility for a specific aspect of the project.
Groups of students could also be challenged to tackle a real-world problem. This class at St Stephen School Students worked together on a 3D Printing project, which benefited their teacher’s child.
Another great idea is to let students work together on the same design. Every student in the group contributes a new design element so that everyone in the group has contributed to the project by the time it’s finished.
Creativity is best elicited by open-ended design challenges e.g. Design your ideal school.
A good way to encourage creativity is to limit some aspect of a design challenge, like limiting the materials that can be used to create a plane or even a bridge. Asking students to come up with as many ideas as possible for a design challenge also encourages creativity.
To encourage critical thinking, teachers can ask students to analyze a real-world problem, listing the issues and possible solutions as they see them.
To encourage critical thinking in the design process, teachers can ask students to come up with a list of questions that can guide their design process, for instance: Could another material work better/ be stronger? Is there another way to….?
A typical exercise that develops communication skills is to formulate and express an opinion. This is why doing peer review of each other’s designs or coding is so valuable for students.
Teachers can also ask students to explain their design process. What were they thinking, where did they start, what was the next step and why?
Teaching children to code is a sure way to enhance their communication skills. Writing code requires students to express complex ideas in a simple way. Coding also leads them to organize their thoughts and synthesize information in order to come up with a solution.
Because computers are not intuitive, learning to code forces students to think carefully when they communicate.
One reason we need students to master as many of these skills as possible is the fact that the future is an unknown entity.
In the future, life and work will be more complex in ways that we can’t foresee now. The more we focus on young people’s ability to tackle complex problems, the better they will fare in the future and the better chance the world will have of surviving and flourishing.