The Road to 21st Century Skills

By Fargo Public Schools Instructional Resources Director Jodell Teiken

Portrait of Jodell TeikenWhat knowledge and skills do students need to help them succeed in school and in life? Of course content knowledge is important; however, in a world where information expands exponentially, most people agree that 21st Century Skills provide the foundation to pursue future education and successful careers. So what does it take to ensure students have these skills? Fargo teachers and administrators are attempting to answer this question as part of the Glass Paper Project.

Communication, Critical and Creative Thinking, Problem Solving, Collaboration, and Citizenship are loosely identified skills in missions and visions, but in order to move from “it would be nice” to a clearly articulated plan, the first step was to clearly articulate learning goals. Curriculum writing teams used the Common Core standards to identify 21st Century Skills and develop rubrics to help teachers consistently teach and assess these skills.  Posters are displayed in hallways and classrooms so educators, students, and parents can begin to use common language when referencing these skills.

row of students using tablet computersSimilar to reading and writing, teaching 21st Century Skills is everyone’s responsibility; therefore, our next step is to identify specific skills that will be taught and assessed in each grade level/course. This work began last year as part of the Glass Paper Project implementation when English 2, Biology, and Western Civilizations teachers met to identify the 21st Century Skills for these specific courses. This year, we will do this work with junior/senior courses, and the sophomore courses will experiment with using the rubrics to collect and report student progress of the 21st Century Skills.

girl using tablet computerPracticing 21st Century Skills requires students to use higher level thinking skills and create products. The tablets issued to high school students and being piloted in the middle schools are a means to this end, but we have additional hard (but fun) work ahead as we examine our curriculum to create project-based experiences.  The Glass Paper Project professional development allows time for teachers to share and explore project ideas.  Additionally, some middle and high school teachers attended a 3 day project-based learning (PBL) training where they learned about designing, assessing, and managing projects using this model. Project-based lesson design bundles content standards and 21st Century Skills together in a way that engages students in authentic learning experiences. Teachers will have additional PBL training opportunities again this summer.

So what’s next? Our five year goal is that all grades and all K through 12 courses will have identified a specific subset of the 21st Century Skills to teach and assess. Teachers may voluntarily use the21st Century Skills posters to help students begin to recognize these skills in their classes now, as the District moves systematically through all curriculum to ensure 21st Century Skills are being mastered at all levels. Librarians are our resident experts when it comes to the 21st Century Skills; they will work with our teachers as they seek resources and plan lessons to embed these skills into classroom lessons and activities.

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