What Are 21st-Century Skills and Why Are They Important?

Conducting academic research and writing articles or papers is another way for educators to have quality professional development and close their own learning gaps. Our research focuses on CLIL, Theme-Based Instruction and 21st century skills.

My colleague Nevena Marković and I conducted our first big research at the beginning of 2019. We presented our research at the Faculty of Education in Jagodina, Serbia, at an international conference that discussed teacher competencies in the 21st century. This was our first major conference! We realized that educators develop best by networking and using Connections-based Learning.

Published in УЗДАНИЦА; 2019, XVI/2; стр. 235–251, December 2019
Developing 21st Century Skills Through Theme-Based Instruction and by Applying Multiple Intelligence Theory

Starting from now, I will publish parts of the research on my website, in the form of small academic posts.

THE 21ST CENTURY LEARNING FRAMEWORK

New Vision of Education (2015) has developed a framework for 21st-century learning, which describes the foundational literacies, competencies and character qualities that learners need to thrive in today’s global economy. The paper deals with learning gaps in 21st-century education and suggests ways to narrow the learning gaps by using technology.

This framework is adapted to fit the 21st-century learning in Serbia, and the presented core values are the necessary areas of improvement in theory and practice in Serbia (Picture 1).

THE 21ST CENTURY LEARNERS

When it comes to the 21st-century skills in learners, there have been two initiatives that indicate that the concerns for developing global skills began in the 20th century. The initiatives were created by UNESCO and PISA. These ini­tiatives represented the pillars for the development of the 21st-century skills and competencies, while also identifying the skills which would help every child to live fully in modern society.

Collaboration

Collaboration represents one of “the four C’s” of the 21st-century skills. This skill implies working with others (not just with learners, but also with teach­ers, experts, parents, etc.), and sharing responsibility in the process. During the collaborative activities, learners are assigned different roles within a group, and they are monitored while they are immersed in mutual learning.

Moreover, learn­ers are free to approach the given topic from different angles, while also develop­ing their communicational and critical thinking skills. Griffin and Care (2014) define collaboration and problem solving as a joint activity where two or more people work together to contribute knowledge, skills, materials, and procedures and move through a series of cognitive states that involve collection and analysis of information and the formulation of hypotheses that they jointly set out to test.

Critical thinking

According to Bloom’s taxonomy, critical thinking is a crucial skill for a young learner to acquire. By thinking critically, the learner will analyze and in­terpret information, evaluate ideas, make decisions, and solve problems creatively. The final stage of development of critical thinking skills is a critical reflection, where the learner is asked to reflect upon a piece of information, analyze it, and support a particular standpoint. Critical thinking skills are not newly invented ability, but, according to 21st Century Skills for Learners and Teachers (2010), what gives these, perhaps traditional, critical thinking skills a twist in the 21st century is the availability of advanced technologies for accessing, manipulating, creating, analyzing, managing, storing and communicating information.

Creativity

When it comes to creativity in thinking and learning, the learners need to learn how to brainstorm ideas, think “outside the box”, look at an issue from different perspectives and eventually, to learn how to solve a problem with a sus­tainable and a creative solution. To think creatively, the learners need to have a certain amount of knowledge, experience, and proper tools given by their teacher.

Innovative thinking is an excellent asset in the 21st century, and it is deeply corre­lated with other 21st century skills. Lack of development of creativity in learners is often caused by teacher’s misconception that creativity is an innate quality and not something that can be learned. Creativity can, as Triling and Fadel (2009) argue, be nurtured by teachers in a learning environment that encourages ques­tioning, openness to new ideas, and learning from past mistakes.

Learner autonomy

Last, but not least, self‑regulation or learner autonomy is a crucial com­petence which sets the foundation for later development of leadership and en­trepreneurship skills. These skills have become highly valued in today’s society, specifically leadership, and their development should start in the early stages of education. Learner autonomy is developed through the post method pedago­gy, which presents a new view of the relationship between theory and practice.

Kumaravadivelu (2006) discussed the development of language teaching meth­ods throughout the centuries, stating that the methods developed from the lan­guage-centered methods to learner-centered methods, and finally to learning-cen­tered methods that are characterized by a lot of learner initiative. Post method learners are learning to learn by using different learning strategies. They develop their strategies through communication, research, collaboration, and through in­corporating learning strategies from more successful learners. These strategies lead the learners to achieve their learner autonomy.

Kumaravadivelu (2006) states that there are two kinds of learner autonomy – the academic and the liberatory autonomy and argues that “If academic autonomy enables learners to be effective learners, liberatory autonomy empowers them to be critical thinkers”.Post method teacher possesses the ability not only to teach but to act au­tonomously within the academic restrictions posed by the curriculum and the teaching institution. The post method teachers can break from such constraints and develop their own eclectic methods. Teacher’s methods evolve through con­tinued development and self-reflection.

Developing 21st Century Skills through Theme-Based Instruction and by Applying Multiple Intelligence Theory: Teacher Competencies. [accessed Aug 02, 2020]

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Vukadin D. M., Marković S. N., Developing…; УЗДАНИЦА; 2019, XVI/2; стр. 235–251238ers are free to approach the given topic from different angles, while also develop­ing their communicational and critical thinking skills. Griffin and Care (2014) define collaboration and problem solving as a joint activity where two or more people work together to contribute knowledge, skills, materials, and procedures and move through a series of cognitive states that involve collection and analysis of information and the formulation of hypotheses that they jointly set out to test.According to Bloom’s taxonomy, critical thinking is a crucial skill for a young learner to acquire. By thinking critically, the learner will analyze and in­terpret information, evaluate ideas, make decisions and solve problems creatively. The final stage of development of the critical thinking skills is a critical reflection, where the learner is asked to reflect upon a piece of information, analyze it and support a particular standpoint. Critical thinking skills are not newly invented ability, but, according to 21st Century Skills for Learners and Teachers (2010), what gives these, perhaps traditional, critical thinking skills a twist in the 21st century is the availability of advanced technologies for accessing, manipulating, creating, analyzing, managing, storing and communicating information.When it comes to creativity in thinking and learning, the learners need to learn how to brainstorm ideas, think “outside the box”, look at an issue from different perspectives and eventually, to learn how to solve a problem with a sus­tainable and a creative solution. To think creatively, the learners need to have a certain amount of knowledge, experience and proper tools given by their teacher. Innovative thinking is an excellent asset in the 21st century, and it is deeply corre­lated with other 21st century skills. Lack of development of creativity in learners is often caused by teacher’s misconception that creativity is an innate quality and not something that can be learned. Creativity can, as Triling and Fadel (2009) argue, be nurtured by teachers in a learning environment that encourages ques­tioning, openness to new ideas, and learning from past mistakes.Last, but not least, self‑regulation or learner autonomy is a crucial com­petence which sets the foundation for later development of leadership and en­trepreneurship skills. These skills have become highly valued in today’s society, specifically leadership, and their development should start in the early stages of education. Learner autonomy is developed through the postmethod pedago­gy, which presents a new view of the relationship between theory and practice. Kumaravadivelu (2006) discussed the development of language teaching meth­ods throughout the centuries, stating that the methods developed from the lan­guage-centered methods to learner-centered methods, and finally to learning-cen­tered methods that are characterised by a lot of learner initiative. Postmethod learners are learning to learn by using different learning strategies. They develop their strategies through communication, research, collaboration and through in­corporating learning strategies from more successful learners. These strategies lead the learners to achieving their learner autonomy. Kumaravadivelu (2006: Page 5Vukadin D. М., Marković S. N., Developing…; УЗДАНИЦА; 2019, XVI/2; стр. 235–251239177) states that there are two kinds of learner autonomy – the academic and the liberatory autonomy and argues that “If academic autonomy enables learners to be effective learners, liberatory autonomy empowers them to be critical thinkers”.Postmethod teacher possesses the ability not only to teach, but to act au­tonomously within the academic restrictions posed by the curriculum and the teaching institution. The postmethod teachers can break from such constraints and develop their own eclectic methods. Teacher’s methods evolve through con­tinued development and self-reflection
(PDF) Developing 21st Century Skills through Theme-Based Instruction and by Applying Multiple Intelligence Theory: Teacher Competencies. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342398042_Developing_21st_Century_Skills_through_Theme-Based_Instruction_and_by_Applying_Multiple_Intelligence_Theory_Teacher_Competencies [accessed Aug 02 2020].

About Alice Glass

Alice is a 27 years old preschool teacher (Pre-K) with a B.Ed. She is currently enrolled in her Master studies, with a double major, one of them being English teaching methodology. She is also an online ESL teacher and blog writer for British Council. Last but not least, she is a mother of a very energetic toddler.

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