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Two Paths to 21st Century Learning
New Brief Examines Debate over the Focus of Schooling
William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, email@example.comURL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/ctzew3j
BOULDER, CO (May 14, 2013) –The eighth in a series of short briefs summarizing current relevant findings in education policy research explores the idea of “21st Century skills.” The brief explains the sometimes-conflicting values and proposals for making schools relevant to meeting the needs of the 21st Century.
The paper is written by Dr. William Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.
Mathis points out that, depending upon who is speaking, the question of what 21st Century skills can or should entail fall into two very different categories. One perspective points to the increasing importance of so-called soft skills of teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication skills and diversity awareness – a focus that typically emphasizes constructivist learning. The other perspective focuses on cognitive skills in science, technology, math, and reading. It can be traced back at least as far as the Nation at Risk report 30 years ago and also encompasses No Child Left Behind as well as most policies arising out of the Obama administration.
In truth, both types of skills are almost universally embraced as important, and there are ongoing efforts to advance both perspectives together. Mathis writes about approaches that combine “the three R’s” with “the four C’s (Critical thinking and problem solving, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and innovation).” But he cautions that, “given our history of testing as well as current obstacles, it seems likely that the four C’s will end up being treated merely as weak add-ons to the three R’s.”
Mathis points in particular notable example of a fused effort in the work of Marisa Saunders, who describes a “multiple pathways” or “linked learning” approach that combines academic and technical learning. Linked learning is designed to make school relevant, collaborative, and creative, keeping a variety of options open to all students. “As contrasted with tracking, all students in a Linked-Learning school are provided with a high-quality education that maintains both college and workforce options,” Mathis writes. Additionally, a broad variety of methods are used to assess student achievement rather than simply relying on traditional standardized tests.
Mathis concludes with a series of recommendations that focus on broadening accountability measures to ensure against the narrowing of curriculum and to promote the expansion of authentic learning opportunities. The recommendations also explain the importance of investing time, energy, and resources needed to expand the skills of teachers who would be teaching in a linked-learning setting.
“Twenty-first Century Skills and Implications for Education” is part of Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking, a multipart brief that takes up a number of important policy issues and identifies policies supported by research. Each section focuses on a different issue, and its recommendations to policymakers are based on the latest scholarship.
The brief is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
Find William Mathis’s brief on the NEPC website at:
The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence. For more information on the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.
This brief is also found on the GLC website athttp://www.greatlakescenter.org/.
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