What Really Helps Students Succeed?

A recent Gallup study found that students who acquired 21st century skills during their final year of school were more likely to report higher work quality later in life. High work quality was measured through individual self-reported success compared to average Americans of their age and at their current job, as well as their role in their workplace decision making process and the value that they contribute to their team.

Gallup defined the development of 21st century skills to include teaching that addresses seven specific areas:

  • collaboration
  • knowledge construction
  • skilled communication
  • global awareness
  • self-regulation
  • real-world problem solving, and
  • technology used in learning.

So what do we need to do to teach our students the 21st century skills that they need to succeed?

Teach them to solve real world problems

We want to prepare our students to solve real-world problems, not to be really good at taking multiple choice tests or solve isolated mathematical equations. We want our students to be able to apply what they’re learning in the classroom in real-life contexts. So, what are we trying to teach them, if not these important 21st century skills and how to apply them?

We need to focus on creating projects that teach students the skills that they will need to face the challenges that the rising generation will inherit and assessments that evaluate their ability to apply these skills in realistic, authentic ways.

Gallup’s study found that the younger respondents aged 18 to 22 were more likely to report applying skills learned in school to solve real-world problems than older respondents. The researchers at Gallup believe that this shift reflects recent efforts to incorporate real-world, project-based learning into our schools and suggests that US education is moving in the right direction.

Help them learn to utilize collaborative technology effectively

Working in today’s world increasingly requires a firm understanding of and comfort with collaborative technology. Our students will soon work on teams and projects with people from all over the world so we need to teach them how to use technology both individually and in collaboration with their peers.

Nevertheless, just 14% of students say that they regularly used video conferencing or online collaboration tools to work with others and 39% say that they never used online collaboration tools in their last year of school.

Our students are going to be connecting and competing with their peers from around the world. We need to give them the technological literacy that they need to engage in such virtual collaboration.

What now?

As Gallup Education’s Brandon Busteed writes in his blog “The best type of curriculum for preparing students for the workforce is one that focuses on real-world problem-solving. It sounds simple, but for the first time, we have clearly established a link between students learning 21st century skills and future work success.”

We’ve got the vision of where to go. Now we just need to (collaboratively) work to find a way there.

To hear more from Brandon,– join us at the Partnership for Global Learning Conference In New York City June 28-29, 2013.

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