Thursday, April 5, 2012

21st Century Skills vs. Standardization

In education we find ourselves locked in a struggle between developing 21st century skills and skills that are needed to do well on standardized tests.  In our current state of standardization it is very difficult to focus specifically on skills that matter.  These are skills like; problem solving, communication, collaboration, information and ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) literacy, flexibility and adaptability, self direction, leadership, and responsibility.  Students will need to have these skills to be able to compete in the future.

As I finish up 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in our Times I question myself, are we doing enough to prepare our students for the future?  Or are we too focused on increasing proficiency levels at any cost?  Is it possible to meet proficiency levels and instill these very important skills?

Trilling & Fadel reference a Thinkquest called, The SARS Project throughout the book as the type of project we should be using to prepare our students for the future.  The team communicated and collaborated online.  Most were in different time zones which required quite a bit of coordination.  The students won multiple awards for this project.  Their passion for the topic sparked their creativity, and deepened their understanding.

Trilling & Fadel found,
"Using knowledge as it is being learned - applying skills like critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity to the content knowledge - increases motivation and improves learning outcomes."  
This is very important and gives me hope that we can mesh 21st century skills and standardization together.  Let's use the knowledge needed to reach high proficiency levels and incorporate these skills into what is being learned.

Sir Ken Robinson,
"We do not grow into creativity, we grow out of it - or rather, we are educated out of it." 
I sat and watched my two children play at a children's museum recently and I was amazed at their curiosity.  I sat and wondered what if school was like this?  Both are preschool aged, and my hope is that they never lose their curiosity for learning.   Students need to be able to innovate and be creative now and in the future.  Focusing mainly on facts, memorization and basic skills is not enough.

What is your school doing to prevent educating the creativity out of students?


  1. I'm an RtI Coach & this year, the school day was made 45 minutes longer for all elem. students. One of my schools created a program called "Connect 21" which allows students to transition throughout the school to attend extra art or music classes, sports & dance, technology, horticulture.... teachers are responsible for the flexible instruction. The kids love it & they get to collaborate across grades.

  2. Sounds like a neat idea. Trilling and Fadel reference adaptability and flexibility as a 21st century skill. Ideas like these should be the direction we should head.