Understanding of 21st Century Skills and Outcomes Early in this century, leaders and visionaries in the business and education communities joined together to recommend the skills needed to enrich the lives of those living in the 21st century and to make them more successful in their work.
Business leaders were especially outspoken in their call for a workforce well versed in 21st century skills. In a recent survey, business leaders were asked about the skills most needed for readiness for today’s business environments.
The highest ranked skills for students entering the workforce were not facts and basic skills; they were applied skills that enable workers to use the knowledge and basic skills they have acquired. For example, the most desirable skills identified were work ethic, collaboration, social responsibility, and critical thinking and problem-solving. Employers also see creativity and innovation as being increasingly important in the future.
Current thinking about these skills is based not only on recommendations from business leaders, but also on research about how people learn. Much of the early research on this topic was carried out by cognitive psychologists during the 1970s and 1980s and focused on how individuals, especially experts, learn and solve problems. Although fruitful, researchers realized that their work did not take into account the rich environment in which individuals worked to solve problems— environments filled with tools and colleagues. This realization has led to the study of learning and solving problems in social environments.
Essential design principles for the 21st century high school—rather than a more prescriptive school reform model. While the design principles themselves are not new, what is new is that the complexity that characterizes most education reform models has been stripped away, enabling the principles to produce immediate benefits and results. Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow—Today
Learning in the 21st Century Applying this philosophy, ACOT2 has identified six design principles for the 21st century high school:
Six Design Principles
•Understanding of 21st Century Skills and Outcomes.
Establishes as a baseline that educators, students, and parents must be well versed in the 21st century skills that students need to acquire to be successful. Teachers should be able to make relevant and useful choices about when and how to teach them, and whether or not students are making progress toward their personal demonstration of accomplishment.
Rethinking what we teach must come before we can rethink how we teach.
•Relevant and Applied Curriculum.
Offers an innovative vision of what the learning environment should be by applying what we know about how people learn and adapting the best pedagogy to meet the needs of this generation of learners. Students should be engaged in relevant and contextual problem-based and projectbased learning designed to apply 21st century skills and that is provided using a multidisciplinary approach. Curriculum should apply to students’ current and future lives and leverage the power of Web 2.0 and other ubiquitous technologies.
• Informative Assessment.
Identifies the types and systems of assessments schools need to develop to fully capture the varied dimensions of 21st century learning as well as the independent role students need to take on in monitoring and adjusting their own learning. Assessments used in the classroom should increase relevant feedback to students, teachers, parents, and decision-makers and should be designed to continuously improve student learning and inform the learning environment.
• A Culture of Innovation and Creativity.
Acknowledges the fuel that drives today’s global economy and, in turn, its importance in both student learning and the school environment. As a result, schools should create a culture that supports and reinforces innovation for student learning and leverages the creativity and ingenuity of every adult and student in their environment to solve their unique problems. Additionally, the teaching and learning environment should generate the continuous development of those skills. Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow—Today 12 Learning in the 21st Century • Social and Emotional Connections with Students. Gives appropriate recognition to the personal, professional, and familial relationships that determine the health, growth, and cognitive development of a child within the family, school, and community. Specifically, each student should have a clear and purposeful connection to the social environment in school, with at least one adult who is purposefully in tune with the student’s learning preferences, learning interests, and social connections.
• Ubiquitous Access to Technology.
Underscores the essential role technology plays in 21st century life and work and, consequently, the role that it must play in learning. Students and educators need 24 by 7 access to information, resources, and technologies that engage and empower them to do background research, information and resource gathering, and data analysis, to publish with multiple media types to wide and varied audiences, to communicate with peers and experts, and to gain experience and expertise in collaborative work. Part II of this report explores each of these six design principles in detail, including the current research that supports their inclusion in this approach. Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow.
Six key characteristics for a 21st century curriculum:
1. Involves collaboration and community
2. Is based on authenticity and relevance
3. Leverages real-world tools, resources, and methodologies
4. Incorporates a rich continuum of teaching and learning strategies
5. Is grounded in rich content with a 21st century context
6. Creates linkages to the outside world