The Four C's of 21st Century EducationThe Del Paso Manor strategic plan states:
- We will establish and fully implement a balanced curriculum aligned to Common Core State Standards that will actively engage students with instructional strategies that integrate technology, the arts and additional enrichment opportunities in a unified, collaborate 21st century learning community.
- Staff will assist students in developing decision making and problem solving skills
DPM has been working to put 21st century skills into its curriculum for the past three years. As schools across the country attempted to integrate 21st century skills, it became apparent that the sheer volume of them made it difficult to successfully weave into programs. Thus, the focus of the 21st century skills has come down to four key components: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.
While the staff at Del Paso Manor Elementary worked on putting the cohorts for the 2014-2015 school year in place, we focused on how we would address the Four C’s and give them an emphasis in our program. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will be implemented in California this school year, and it is clear that the 4 C’s will be an integral part of education. Much of the CCSS has students working with the skills that encompass the 4 C’s.
Following is a breakdown of what the 4 C’s are and what to look for in your child’s education this year. The philosophy behind the 4 C’s makes all students better thinkers and managers of information. They are not additional items to learn; they should be integrated throughout the instructional school day. By integrating the skills, the students will be given learning experiences that reflect real life. In real life, we don’t sit down and learn skills in isolation; we learn them by doing them.
Critical ThinkingThe goal of critical thinking is to create the ability to look beyond the surface of information or situations. It’s a way to evaluate information and put it with one’s own thoughts in a disciplined way. Students can refine their own thought processes allowing them to think and assess information more comprehensively and identify and reject false ideas and ideologies. Critical thinking allows learners to be better thinkers by seeking out knowledge and evidence that fits with reality and may challenge the ideas that they already have. That may create a change of position on a topic. All claims must be justified and provable in critical thinking. The ability to think critically relies on tolerating ambiguity so as to not create conclusions which have no merit. Critical thinking gives students intellectual independence where they can solve their own problems. Being able to solve problems is an investment in society’s collective future.
All students need to think critically. Thinking critically will give students the skills they will need to solve the problems that they will face as adults. The ability to critically think contributes to success in higher education and in one’s career. Critical thinking leads to stronger levels of concentration, deeper analytical abilities and improved processing of information. Thinking critically is needed to compare evidence, evaluate competing claims and come to sensible decisions. Skills involved in critical thinking include:
- asking questions
Critical thinking truly is embedded within DPM’s strategic plan and will be evident within our classrooms.
Communication means to articulate thoughts and ideas effectively through oral, written and nonverbal means. Students will need to listen critically to decipher meaning from verbal communication. As students enter higher education and the work force, they will be required to use communication for a range of purposes including but not limited to informing, instructing, motivating, and persuading. With technology such a huge part of daily life, students will need to use multiple media and differing technologies in order to effectively communicate. They will also need to know how to assess the impact of those technologies which leads to the need for effective communication in diverse environments.
Part of communication involves the processing of incoming information. Students need to be able to analyze the volume of communicated thoughts that constantly stream to them. Information bombards people today, and without a way to process all of it and ascertain what is important and what is not, students can easily become overwhelmed. Being proficient with technology is important as students will need to filter through all the information they receive in order to create communicative pieces that will be presented to wide ranging audiences. The purposes of each audience will be different so knowing how to communicate with varying objectives is vital. Selecting and using the proper tool to communicate thoughts is an important skill that will need to be learned.
Employers seek workers who have strong oral and written communication skills. It is estimated that 81% of today’s jobs are in the service economy where listening with empathy is an important aspect of communication skills. It is easy to practice communication in the classroom as it is woven within the other 4 C’s: to be a good collaborator, one needs good communication skills. To share critical thoughts and creative ideas effectively, communication is a central skill people will need to have.
A half-century ago, much of the work that was done was accomplished by people who worked alone. By contrast, much of today’s significant work is accomplished by teams, and often, they are global teams connected through technology. Due to the interconnectedness of the world, collaboration has become an increasingly important skill for people to have. To collaborate, people have to:
- work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams
- show flexibility and a willingness to be helpful
- compromise in order to accomplish a common goal
- share responsibility and value the contributions made by each member of the team
Collaboration has changed over time as today’s high-speed communications allow virtual teams to work together around the globe. Thus, when our students enter the job market, they will need to know how to work well with others, not just with people from their own peer groups, but with people from other cultures as well. Therefore, knowing something about many different cultures needs to be part of the skill set for a 21st century worker. Collaborating with people from different cultures brings much more knowledge to a group as each individual carries along with him or her unique perspectives from their own culture. When that is shared, a better product is generated.
Thinking and working together significantly multiplies the potential of idea generation. Production output also increases as more people work together. Groups of people are seen, under the proper conditions, to be remarkably intelligent and smarter than the smartest people within the group (Surowiecki, 2005). Large groups which have varying backgrounds and perspectives will create more intelligent decisions than even the most skilled decision maker of the group.
Within our school, children who collaborate effectively will be able to create work products that are more creative and insightful than if they had worked alone. The key is learning how to collaborate. By working with partners and in small groups on meaningful tasks with great frequency, the teachers of Del Paso Manor will be able to teach the students how to collaborate. By changing the partners and groups often, the students will be allowed to practice the art of collaboration in diverse teams. While collaborating, the skills of critical thinking and communication will be also be sharpened. Thus, a 21st century learner is being crafted!
Creativity leads to innovation. Together, creativity and innovation are the attributes that will ensure economic fortune at a societal level. Solving the problems of tomorrow will require new approaches as those problems don’t even yet exist. Future revenue will need to come from sources that do not yet exist. It is through creativity and innovation that those sources will be developed. Creativity allows leaders to stay ahead of the rapid changes in the technological world. Let’s face it, society relies upon technology, so many of the solutions that will solve tomorrow’s problems will have a strong foundation in creative, innovative technology skills.
Thinking creatively means to:
- have a wide range of creation techniques (Click here for a resource on idea creation.)
- create new and worthwhile ideas
- elaborate, refine, analyze, and evaluate original ideas to improve and maximize creative efforts, basically use an old idea and give is a new twist
Collaborating may be part of the creative process. In order to create collaboratively, students will need to have adaptability, leadership, the ability to connect with others and be able to communicate. Students will need to have strong communication strategies to convey their newly developed thoughts in order to successfully implement those ideas. Students will need to be open and responsive to new and different perspectives which will allow new ideas to spring forth. Being inventive and original are strong attributes of a creative thinker and a willingness to share those ideas is necessary. Lastly, it is important for students to understand that creativity and innovation are part of a long term process where small successes and frequent errors are part of the cycle. Failure needs to be seen as an opportunity to learn, and in correcting the failure, new ideas and innovations can be created.
Authorities on 21st century education view the importance of creativity and innovation equal to literacy and feel it should be given the same status. As the world changes, creative innovators are becoming highly desired in the work force. According to Howard Gardner, to develop creativity, we need to allow students the time to explore, to be engaged with challenging problems and tolerate productive mistakes. Those types of learning experiences can be assembled in the classroom, but those attributes can also be refined at home with real world experiences. Give your children a problem that occurs around your home to think about, and accept all the ideas that s/he generates in solving that problem. Talk through the options and together decide on one that can be utilized. It is often the idea that seems the most “out there” that is the best one. Sometimes, implementing that idea will bring its own creative challenges!
Click here for a great article of what you can do to help develop a creative thinker in your home.
The skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity are very much interconnected. It is difficult to work with one of those skills without simultaneously working within another of the skills. For students to be successful 21st century adults and workers, the 4 C’s need to be developed. Del Paso Manor Elementary School will do its best to see that its students have a strong foundation in the 4 C’s so that they can then be refined and further developed as the students continue on to higher education. That refinement and development are what will lead to success as an adult.Del Paso Manor Mustang
Last Modified on August 1, 2014