Lifelong Learning- 21st Century Skills

‘A 2010 IBM survey of global business leaders confirms this: The number one quality business leaders look for in employees is creativity. They also look for learning ability, problem solving skills, collaboration, communication, resourcefulness, and resilience, often called “grit.” ‘ Accountability Is More than a Test Score,Turnipseed, Stephan; Darling-Hammond, Linda, Education Policy Analysis Archives, v23 n11 Feb 2015

In this article, the author confirms the confusion between the skills that have been identified as those leading to success for employees in today’s competitive world and the focus of US schools on standardized test scores as a means of success.  It is this narrow focus on pre-determined answers for multiple choice closed questions that sabotages creativity. Innovation is the product of creativity. How does this play out for our students in the workforce? Product creation accelerates manufacturing and delivery, and ignites job creation which supports a healthy economy. It the responsibility of our educational system to ensure all students the skills for success in today’s world- most of all creativity, because businesses are seeking a creative workforce and innovative leaders in order to support their business’ success in today’s marketplace.

So, what are US educators and school districts doing to support these very essential skills of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication, when our policy makers are still focused on standardized tests? We recognize that a narrow focus on a year-end test undermines 21st Century Skills. Educators are working to transform the system to one that develops students’ talents through rich curriculum, requires high standards for all learners, and assessment in a balanced system. Educators are tirelessly working to change the policy into a policy that reflects today’s research. Educators are learning how to implement project-based learning into their classrooms and how to utilize a balanced assessment program. Students are developing electronic portfolios and completing performance assessments. Educators are learning the power of targeted feedback for students in order to improve their ‘work’ and refine their skills. New opportunities exist for students in innovative settings different from traditional school buildings.

All of this requires educators to be life-long learners constantly improving the way they do things to support students in developing their talents leading them to success in today’s society. My lens encompasses various views of educator, administrator, and parent of high school graduate. My son read the article and my post, and explained his view of all the standardized tests and his experiences in school, “it is like a cashier being trained to push the right button, or being given a script to recite to customers…you don’t have to think about how to solve anything, there is one right button and only one way to greet customers. I was never very good at those test.”

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3 responses to “Lifelong Learning- 21st Century Skills

  1. I am curious about the lifelong learning that is “Desired” vs. “Expected” vs. “Demanded” — This conundrum continues to permeate the educational climate, leaving many U.S. educators struggling to find the balance between the three. It appears when balance is not found, paralysis occurs within educational environments and rather than improve, the opposite occurs. Educators retreat to basic survival principles, leaving behind formal education about pedagogy, and revert to teaching the way ‘they’ learned.

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  2. I also want to know how different is our approach in schools today in the US as opposed to schools in other parts of the world. Are we encouraging lifelong learning, or scaring students into wanting to run from learning altogether? When educators are in survival mode, I agree, students become disenfranchised with the system and carry that with them into future learning experiences. A new system of education that fosters and facilitates student engagement and inquiry is the name of the game. I think Project Based Learning (PBL) is a step in the right direction. If learning isn’t fun, engaging, and rewarding, it’s hard to develop the love for learning and motivation necessary to be life-long learners.

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  3. I think many European countries are facing the same kind of problems, when it comes to the standardized test scores. I remember that I myself always had trouble with having to limit myself to think about the answer that I thought the key would expect, rather than allowing myself to be creative and write down an answer that I really thought was ”mine”, because it may have been to different from the standardized and therefore considered as far-fetched by the examiner.
    In my opinion it is very limitative and simplistic to expect so many young and different people, coming from totally different backgrounds to answer an open question in one way only. Moreover, the pressure to get everyone into thinking in the same way in order to always answer the tests was really ridiculous. I remember that a teacher of mine gave us an advice in class and told us to think about what we thought the most conformist and neutral answer to the question was before was actually answered.
    I also agree that PBL is a wonderful way to develop the 21st century skills.

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