Teachers for change {sarah and Israa}

21st Century Skills

What are the 21st century skills? 

The 21st century skills are a set of abilities that students need to develop in order to succeed in the information age. The 4Cs skills are representative of the 21st century skills.

  • Creativity
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  • Creativity is widely acknowledged to be a key 21st century skill and included in many countries’ desired college & career ready outcomes for students. Humanity has been fascinated by the creative process for millennia. But what do we know about creativity?
    • Creativity has been well defined
    • Numerous models have been developed to help enhance creativity
    • Neurological workings of creativity are widely understood
    • All students have creative potential
    • Creative competence can be developed and supported by thoughtful interventions
    • Methods of assessing creativity are well defined
    • Instructional models to enhance creativity exist but are not widely used in schools

    Each brief includes three perspectives from experts in the field sharing additional examples and ideas for embedding research-backed practices:

  • Critical Thinking
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  • How do we think? What processes do we use to solve problems? Can these processes be learned?Although many aspects of human cognition are still a mystery, psychologists have begun to flesh out critical thinking, or the strategies we use to think in organized ways to analyze and solve problems. Here is what we know about critical thinking:
    • Teaching and modeling critical thinking skills is a necessary job for educators
    • Mixed method interventions as well as explicit critical thinking instruction have been found to be effective
    • Performance based assessment is more valid measure for critical thinking
    • Critical thinking is often best assessed within real world scenario context
    • Although used as proxies for critical thinking, intelligence tests do not address decision making and reasoning, vital aspects of critical thinking
    • Low performing students benefit from metacognitive strategies
  • Collaboration


  •  Collaboration is increasingly mentioned as an important educational outcome and most models of 21st century education include collaboration as a key skill. The value of collaboration has been assumed for many years, and over the past two decades we have seen leading businesses and organizations move to facilitate team building and team-based work. The ability to work effectively with others has become a critically important skill for career and life success. Here is what we know about collaboration and collaborative learning:
    • Emphasis on collaboration remains traditional, reflecting older models of interaction
    • Use of technology does not always boost collaborative learning or improved digital literacy
    • Students learn best from a mix of individual and group-based learning experiences
    • Collaboration can enhance the development of critical thinking skills
    • Four categories of assessment exist for evaluating collaboration as a process and outcome for both groups and individuals
    • Collaborative problem solving is an area to watch with new assessments
  • Communication


  • Communication is one of the key components of 21st century learning, yet it has not attracted the same level of research or attention as creativity, collaboration, or critical thinking. Communication competence involves mediated and digital communication, interpersonal, written and oral communication. As our society evolves, we cannot assume that our students will gain communication competence on their own. If educators are expected to teach students how to communicate effectively, researchers need to focus on building a stronger, more empirically grounded framework for teaching these vital skills. What do we know about communication?Practical communication skills are needed for all students
    • Speech language development is a key aspect of preschool and early learning
    • Social and emotional learning studies address positive classroom communication interventions
    • Business-related communication assessments (like the elevator pitch assessment) are also applicable to education contexts
    • Digital and media literacy provide unique approaches to analyzing communication skills
    • Additional research and interventions are needed to support 21st century communication skills

The 4Cs skills in Summary


21st century skills handout

21 guide

21st century skills for teachers and students

21 for teachers and students

for teachers and learners

21st century skills for parents

21 for parents

21st century skills

21 learning

The teacher of 21st century

the teacher of 21

being a teacher of 21st century


teaching in 21st century skills

learning in 21st century

new trends in learning English in the 21st century

Recommended Books about Learning and Teaching 21st Century Skills

21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn By John Barell, Linda Darling-Hammond, Chris Dede, Rebecca DuFour, Richard DuFour, Douglas Fisher, Robin Fogarty, Nancy Frey, Howard Gardner, Andy Hargreaves, David W. Johnson, Roger T. Johnson, Cheryl Lemke, Jay McTighe, Alan November, Bob Pearlman, Brian M. Pete, Douglas Reeves, Will Richardson, Elliott Seif

Go to New Learning Environments to download Chapter 6: Designing New Learning Environments to Support 21st Century Skills by Bob Pearlman.

Elliot Washor and Charles Mojokowski, Leaving to Learn: How Out-of-School Learning Increases Student Engagement and Reduces Dropout Rates, Heiniman, 2013.

A website with significant 21st Century learning resources accompanies the book at http://www.leavingtolearn.org/.

The book can be purchased here.

Bob Lenz, Justin Wells, and Sally Kingston, Transforming Schools Using Project-Based Learning, Performance Assessment, and Common Core Standards, Jossey-Bass, January 2015.

In this book, the authors from Envison Learning explain how project-based learning can blend with Common Core-aligned performance assessment for deeper learning. You’ll discover how many schools have successfully made the transition from traditional, teacher-centered learning to project-based, deeper learning and find many practical ideas for implementation. The Companion DVD and website include videos showing how to implement deeper learning strategies in the classroom

The book can be purchased at Amazon.

Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel , 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in our Times, Wiley, 2009.

A website with significant 21st Century learning resources accompanies the book.

The book can be purchased at Amazon .

Edited by James A. Bellanca, Deeper Learning: Beyond 21st Century Skills, Solution Tree, 2014. Chapters by: Suzie Boss, Stacey Caillier, Barbara Chow, David T. Conley, Arthur L. Costa, Ben Daley, Linda Darling-Hammond, Rebecca DuFour, Richard DuFour, Deborah Rosalia Esparza, Charles Fadel, Michael Fullan, Valerie Greenhill, Bena Kallick, Ken Kay, Steven Paine, James W. Pellegrino, Rob Riordan, Helen A. Soulé, Bernie Trilling, Tony Wagner, Yong Zhao, Steven Zipkes.

Education authorities from around the globe explore deeper learning, a process that promotes higher-order thinking, reasoning, and problem solving to better educate students and prepare them for college and careers. Relying on research as well as their own experience, the authors show how to use intensive curriculum, instruction, assessment, and leadership practices to meet the needs of 21st century learners

Printed Reproducibles & Resources

The book can be purchased at Amazon.

Milton Chen, Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools, George Lucas Educational Foundation, Jossey-Bass, 2012

As a result of constant innovation, learning is no longer limited by traditional confines and we’re moving beyond students tied to their chairs, desks, and textbooks-and teachers locked away in classrooms. In Education Nation author Milton Chen draws from extensive experience in media-from his work on Sesame Street in its nascent years to his role as executive director of the George Lucas Educational Foundation-to support a vision for a new world of learning.

Order at Amazon.

Suzie Boss, Bringing Innovation to School: Empowering Students to Thrive in a Changing World, Solution Tree, 2012.

Are you preparing a new generation of innovators? Activate your students’ creativity and problem-solving potential with breakthrough learning projects. Across all grades and content areas, student-driven, collaborative projects will teach students how to generate innovative ideas and then put them into action. You’ll take learning to new heights and help students master core content.

Order at Solution Tree and Amazon.

Ken Kay and Valerie Greenhill, The Leader’s Guide to 21st Century Education: 7 Steps for Schools and Districts, Pearson, 2012.

The book can be purchased at Amazon .

Tony Wagner, The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need–and What We Can Do About It, Basic Books, 2008.

See Tony’s School Change Consulting website.

Order at Amazon.

Tony Wagner, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World, Scribner, 2012.

Order at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

David Thornburg, From the Campfire to the Holodeck: Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments, Jossey-Bass, October 2013Order at Amazon or Wiley.

The Atlantic interviews David Thornburg on his new book on 21C Learning Environments (November 2013).

James Bellanca, Enriched Learning Projects: A Practical Pathway to 21st Century Skills, Solution Tree Press, 2010.

See Bob Pearlman’s foreword to Enriched Learning Projects. Order the book here.

Solution tree has also provided a superb reproducible resources page.

Lydotta M. Taylor and Jill M. Fratto, Transforming Learning through 21st Century Skills: The Who Took My Chalk? Model for Engaging You and Your Students, Pearson, 2012.

See Foreword by Bob Pearlman: Letter to a 21st Century Teacher.

Order at Amazon.

The Language of School Design: Design Patterns for 21st Century Schools, by Prakash Nair, Randall Fielding and Dr. Jeffery Lackney
Prakash Nair, Blueprint for Tomorrow: Redesigning Schools for Student-Centered Learning, Harvard Education Press, 2014
In Blueprint for Tomorrow, Prakash Nair—one of the world’s leading school designers—explores the hidden messages that our school facilities and classrooms convey and advocates for the “alignment” of the design of places in which we teach and learn with twenty-first-century learning goals. Blueprint for Tomorrow provides simple, affordable, and versatile ideas for adapting or redesigning school spaces to support student-centered learning.Order at Harvard Education Press or on Amazon.
Tom Vander Ark with Mary Ryerse, Smart Cities That Work for Everyone: 7 Keys to Education & Employment, 2014.

Every person, organization and region needs to get smart—to skill up, learn more and build new capacities faster and cheaper than ever. In the long run, education is the economic development agenda. Innovative new tools and schools are making it possible for individuals, organizations, and cities to boost learning outcomes. Most learning innovations occur in ecosystems—and these unique environments begin with leadership and an innovation.

Order at Amazon.

Allan Collins and Richard Halverson, Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling, Teachers College Press, 2009.

Order at Amazon or Teachers College Press.

Yong Zhao, Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization, ASCD, 2009.

See Yong Zhao’s Blog.

Order at ASCD or Amazon.

The Third Teacher: 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching & Learning by OWP/P Cannon Design (Author), VS Furniture (Author), Bruce Mau Design (Author)
Linda Darling-Hammond, The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future, Teachers College Press, January, 2010

See Books by Linda Darling-Hammond.

Order at Teachers College Press or Amazon.

Grant Lichtman, #EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, Jossey-Bass, September 2014

Over the course of a 3-month solo road trip across the United States, author Grant Lichtman discovered that there is much to be positive about in today’s K-12 schools. Lichtman, one of the country’s leading experts in educational innovation, interviewed over 600 teachers, administrators, students, parents, and trustees to find out what kind of innovations they’re doing right—and how others can leverage their successes.

Also see: The Learning Pond Blog; Website: The Furute of K-12 Education; Twitter: @GrantLichtman; and TEDxDenverTeachers, March 2013: What 60 Schools Can Tell Us About Teaching 21st Century Skills