21st century learning skills

As parents, we are warned by educators and workforce experts alike that our children need improved 21st century skills. Without these skills, they will not be able to successfully participate in the global economy. They won’t be adequately prepared for college and work.

But what, exactly, are 21st century skills? Are we just talking about computer and technology skills? And who decides which skills make the list?

It depends on who you ask. But a recent Hanover Research report, A Crosswalk of 21st Century Skills, sheds some light on the subject.

More than Computers & Technology

Hanover Research recently analyzed six major educational frameworks designed to improve the development of 21st century skills. This included frameworks and critical skills listed by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Tony Wagner’s Seven Survival Skills, the Metiri Group’s enGauge framework, the Iowa Core 21st Century Skills, developed by the Iowa Department of Education, the Connecticut State Department of Education and the Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S).

While each framework has slightly different list of critical 21st century skills, all agree on four critical areas for development:

  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Creativity and imagination
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving

“It is easy to see how these skills could be valuable to a new high school graduate and to employers, as well as how these skills can easily interact with one another,” according to the Hanover Research report. Others, such as the research division of the Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii, draw similar conclusions from the various frameworks on 21st century skills.

“More than technological expertise, 21st century skills refer to content knowledge, literacies and proficiencies that prepare individuals to meet the challenges and opportunities of today’s world,” stated the Kamehameha Schools report, An Overview of 21st Century Skills.

Other Critical Skills for Success

The Hanover Research analysis also identifies a second tier of important 21st century skills, present in five of the six major frameworks:

  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Global and cultural awareness
  • Information literacy
  • Leadership

The following skills were present in four of the six frameworks:

  • Civic literacy and citizenship
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Social responsibility and ethics
  • Technology literacy
  • Initiative

“The driving force for the 21st century is the intellectual capital of citizens,” said the Metiri Group in its white paper, Twenty-First Century Skills. “Political, social and economic advances in the United States during this millennium will be possible only if the intellectual potential of America youth is developed now.”