I first heard about 21st Century Skills in 2004 when I was studying for my MET from UBC. The movement seemed very focused on K-12 and primarily American and I was immersed in college and higher level education, so I never dug into it very deeply.
But with the continuous cries about the crisis in education and all the different proposed solutions, I thought I should try to understand 21st Century Learning a little better. I remembered that, before they were unfunded, the Canadian Council on Learning had done some work in this area and I wondered whether anyone besides K-12 had gotten aboard the bandwagon.
I wondered what this movement (initiative?) had ever accomplished. It had seemed to me that they were “pie-in-the-sky” dreamers who were asking the impossible in a time of declining abilities in math and science across the school systems in North America. Where did it come from originally? Was it based on any sound research or just the beliefs of a group or individual?
What I’ve found from my cursory web research is that Canadian and American institutions who support or promote or pursue 21st Century Learning objectives, refer back to the British-based 21st Century Learning Initiative, formed by a group of English and American business people and organizations who wanted “to make sense of research on learning and learning processes that were fragmented in many different disciplines…” In turn, these members were basing their organization (initiative?) on work that derived from the Education 2000 trust established in the UK in 1983 (Note: so far I haven’t been able to find anything about the Trust on the web – I’ll try journals next).
Apparently, the Initiative also relies on the outcome conferences held at “…Wingspread in Wisconsin which involved some 60 researchers, policy makers, and practitioners from 14 countries.” (Jun.11, 2012 – http://www.21learn.org/site/archive/about-the-initiative/) The Initiative is run by John Abbott who was also the Director of the Education Trust. His 2010 book, “Overschooled But Undereducated” is often cited as a source for 21st Century Learning.
A major driver of 21st Century Learning is the Partnership for 21st Century Skills – an American site that contains the group’s Framework for 21st Century Learning. The Framework is even more comprehensive than I had originally thought (I had heard of the skills/competencies, not the additional pieces of the framework. )
Essentially, the Framework recognizes that successful students will not only have mastery of the 3Rs (and core subject areas) but they will be able to handle an additional 4Cs (Critical thinking and problem solving, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and innovation) as well as to competently utilize information, media and technology.
Wow, talk about shooting for the stars!!