The ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) has long been a tremendous source for the professional development of administrators and teachers. In Teaching 21st Century Skills: An ASCD Action Tool, author Sue Z. Beers delivers a well-written and concise explanation of a workable framework of twenty-first-century skills, as well as delightfully easy ways to implement tools for advancing those skills in the classroom. The framework and the tools together knock down many of the barriers teachers, administrators, and boards face as they seek to build schools that are both transformative and relevant.
Models of twenty-first-century school skills have been floating around for at least the last decade. Sue Beers happens to use one of the most commonly applied frameworks from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (http://www.p21.org/overview), which emphasizes the mastery of core subjects at higher levels of understanding, learning skills and metacognition, the use of technology as tools, real-world application, and the mastery of diverse sets of literacies. At its core, the framework is a road map for good teaching. Lessons are artfully designed learning experiences that engage and motivate students to be intentional about their learning and monitor that learning carefully. Technology is embedded into the experiences, and students use devices where it is appropriate, but more important are the employability and life skills that are cultivated. Teachers build opportunities for students to collaborate, take responsibility for their work and outcomes, and reflect on how they have used these skills to complete the learning task. In its three small introductory chapters, this action tool explains precisely what twenty-first-century skills are, what they look like, and how they are allied with current best practices.
The true beauty of this resource, however, lies in the last two sections.