Roadmap for 21st Century Learning

Roadmap for 21st Century Learning ( by P21, Cables Impact Foundation and STEDA

Becoming a 21st Century School

We live in a fast-moving world driven by knowledge, innovation and creativity. Our nation’s schools are adapting to these changes—but much remains to be done. We need a cultural change in education to transform the way we teach, lead and learn.   Becoming a 21st century school involves a multi-faceted transformation of objectives and practices.  It is a process that takes time to realign pedagogy to modern curricular objectives, while building professional capacity throughout the school community.

Shifts in attitudes and objectives are occurring to support college and career readiness, while practices and approaches are still lagging behind.  There has been significant success in articulating the knowledge and skills that students need, but very few have developed or identified curricula, pedagogical practices, assessments, facilities, and enabling technologies that foster authentic 21st Century Learning.  

Going beyond 21st Century Skills

P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning

Creating and implementing support systems are the next steps towards becoming 21st Century schools.  To truly inculcate 21st century skills requires a collective effort from the entire school community.  All aspects of the school community need to be evaluated and revised to incorporate the ethos of being a 21st century school.  Schools must align critical elements such as:

  • Supportive Professional Development
  • Creating Learning Environments
  • Designing Curriculum and Reorienting Pedagogy
  • Developing Assessments and Standards

In order to create a pathway towards improvement, educators need to reflect on their current practices.

Below are a few guiding questions for educators to begin with.

  1. How is our assessment system robustly providing the feedback for making evidence based choices of 21st century curricular objectives?
  2. Do my teachers have the professional ability to pre-assess, monitor, and record the development of 21st century skills of their students?
  3. Are our school’s curricular objectives and pedagogical approaches aligned and promote the development of 21st century skills?
  4. How are we communicating to our learners and their parents about the importance and development of their 21st century skills?
  5. How are my teachers advocating the importance of learning 21st century skills with students?  Or are they only focused on content knowledge of their subjects?
  6. What are the pedagogical leaders of the school doing to create a learning community amongst the teaching faculty?
  7. What learning opportunities and direct instruction is provided to students specifically for 21st century skills?
  8. Is the school’s technological infrastructure integrated with its pedagogy?
  9. Is the technology being used enhancing the process of learning and providing feedback for learning?

Direct Instruction / New Approaches

There is a real need to provide efficient direct instruction of 21st century skills.  Students need guidance and capable facilitators to fuel their learning journey.  Often we see educators just stating the 21st century skills demonstrated by a student on a particular assignment.  It is rare to find educators creating deliberate opportunities for students to specifically learn 21st century skills.    Educators have to adapt direct instruction models to propel the awareness, transfer and application of skills.  We are creating partnerships and research projects specifically targeting direct instruction opportunities for learning 21st century skills powered by technology. 

New approaches to teaching and learning are being used but often in a superficial manner. Whether you are doing, STEM, STEAM, PBL, Inquiry, Flipped Classroom, Blended Learning, etc., the intentions are the same.  Educators decide on the implementation of such new approaches ultimately to make learning:

  • Interdisciplinary
  • Student-driven
  • Rigorous
  • Authentic
  • Relevant

Regardless of the approach, the key is to ensure that learning has the above characteristics.  By using one of the new trendy approaches, simply by name, does not ensure 21st century learning.  Educators are urged to reflect on their process and be utterly clear of their objectives and not get caught up in the nomenclature.    

Framework for Assessments

Interdisciplinary approaches to learning don’t work unless learners get prompt feedback.  Current assessments don’t do the job.  Government mandated testing and accountability is aimed at schools, not individual student learning.  A student can’t get better or become the manager of his/her own learning without constant, real-time assessment and feedback.  This is called assessment for learning, as opposed to assessment of  learning at the end of an academic period.

Assessment for learning starts with desired outcomes, proceeds with projects, products and performances that map to the outcomes, and completes the loop with assessment and feedback to students. 

It is critical that educators assess what they value!  We have developed a framework of assessing 21st century skills into specific sub-skills and a progression of their acquisition.  Every educator needs to articulate with the utmost clarity the skills and competencies that they want their students to possess and demonstrate.  There are several widely known organizations that have defined 21st century skills, but it doesn’t stop there.  Teachers and school leaders must create and use a detailed continuum of core competencies to monitor student achievement in terms of 21st century skills.  

Ready to become a 21st Century School?

Whether you have already started to transform your school or would like to get started, we can help.  We have experts on our team that can help you with every aspect of the roadmap to becoming a 21st Century School.  Our team can help you cut through the noise and create an efficient pathway for your school improvement objectives.  Let's get started!