Monday, January 23, 2012

21st Century Skills

I spent quite a bit of time this evening exploring the website belonging to the organization The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. I was reminded of my district's Student Profile, which describes many of these same skills.

I also made connections to the Benchmarks for Science Literacy produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), although their work focuses on specific sequenced learning goals rather than overarching skills. 

Overall I found the website interesting and was able to answer many of my own questions using the resources available. I do not disagree with the ideas presented, rather I found myself wanting to focus on how to better implement the teaching of these skills into my classroom. I would like to highlight a few of the resources I found particularly interesting:

  • Framework for 21st Century Learning --"When a school or district builds on this foundation, combining the entire Framework with the necessary support systems—standards, assessments, curriculum and instruction, professional development and learning environments—students are more engaged in the learning process and graduate better prepared to thrive in today’s global economy." 
    • This document provides a succinct overview of the goals and mission of this movement. I particularly liked the explanation quoted here because it describes the way these skills are meant to be used in combination with support systems already in place. 
  • Assessment of 21st Century Skills --"Most K-12 assessments in widespread use today—whether they be of 21st century skills and content or of traditional core subject areas—measure a student’s knowledge of discrete facts, not a student’s ability to apply knowledge in complex situations. High stakes assessments alone do not generate evidence of the skill sets that the business and education communities believe will ensure success in the 21st century." 
    • Whenever I plan lessons, I use the method outlined in Understanding by Designwhich requires beginning with the end in mind. Therefore after reading more about the skills themselves I wanted to find out what the skills would look like and how we could assess them. One particular example that I feel I could implement in my own classroom without help from outside resources is the example from Coventry high school in Rhode Island, where students post online portfolios "demonstrating not only their mastery of a content area, but how they mastered it". I love this idea! Has anyone seen or tried something like this before? 
  • 21st Century Skills Science Map -- "This document is neither a set of standards nor a comprehensive sequence of activities, but rather a starting point for ideas and discussions that begin with current practice and look forward." 
    • There are maps for many curricular areas, but I chose to focus on science since that is what I love and teach. I was pleased to see that this was designed in cooperation with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). This document provides a description of each skill along with outcomes and examples for various grade levels. This reminded me again of the Benchmarks I mentioned earlier. This is something that would be helpful to keep with my planning materials as an easy reference. I highly recommend checking out the map for your content area! 

Overall I feel excited about what I have gathered and learned from this website. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these and other resources you discover while exploring. 


  1. I love the idea of an online portfolio. I had to do this during my undergraduate and I see it becoming more and more common. I think it is a great way to combine the content with 21st century skills. I'm eager to hear of how you all use these in the high school setting..does anyone? I know in college, we had to purchase a program (eportfolio, I think, but I can't remember). Are there any free programs online that our students could use to create online portfolios? Has anyone had success with this?

  2. livetext was the name of the software we used for eportfolios! But it was costly.