The world is changing rapidly, so much that high-ranking jobs that existed decades ago are gradually disappearing, creating the need to adopt 21st Century skills in our approach to life. This means that educators are responsible for equipping students with the skills they need to thrive in the emerging employment market.
These 21st Century skills have provided a different teaching and learning approach for the global education community. To participate in an increasingly complex society like ours, students need to think critically, communicate effectively, collaborate with diverse peers, solve complex problems, and engage with information and communication technologies.
What are 21st Century skills?
In a nutshell, 21st Century skills are tools that can be universally applied to enhance ways of thinking, learning, working, and living in an ever-changing world. The skills include critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, communication, and collaboration. Making students competent in these skills will increase their confidence, chances of being productive, and desire to learn.
With that being our goal, let us look at each of these skills and how teachers can incorporate them into their lessons.
Communication refers to a student’s ability to receive and deliver messages. This involves speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. It is easy to take this area for granted because it is a common practice for students.
But strong communication skills are becoming necessary for day-to-day activities; hence, it is important to push them to develop these skills. You can do so by talking less and offering students the opportunity to speak—both with you and among themselves— throughout your lessons. You can also ask questions and give them short discussion-based tasks in-between lessons.
Teaching your students the importance of listening to each other is one of the best ways to build strong communication skills. Get them to see the value in listening. You can also use tech materials such as podcasts to initiate an open social interaction between students—they listen and discuss afterward.
Providing articles on different topics for students to read aloud improves their reading and comprehension abilities as they learn how to identify words, punctuations, and literary expressions.
Critical thinking as one of the 21st Century skills may sound a little complex; it refers to the process of students applying what they learn in class, meaningfully and creatively. It also means the ability to assemble your knowledge to form reasoned opinions and make noteworthy judgments.
If you work with younger children, you can give them a list of animals and ask them to categorize them by size, scariness, or personal appeal. For example, there is no doubt that an elephant is bigger than a cat. However, the case of which animal is scarier is subjective and up for debate.
Organize debates and interactive sessions that allow students to think, ask questions, and make rational conclusions. Another way to incorporate this skill into your lessons is to get students to know the “why” of things rather than just the “what.” Although this method increases their curiosity, you have to provide answers to their questions or engage them to provide answers themselves. You can also propel and teach them to use their imaginations, which can produce intriguing ideas. Problem-solving skills are developed through critical thinking.
Collaboration is all about teamwork: developing a student’s ability to work with others irrespective of age, religion, race, and ethnicity. The most common but effective way to do this is by organizing group activities. However, you should note that students can get bored while working with the same people continuously, so endeavor to mix these activities. You could identify students that live in the same neighborhood and assign them a group take-home task, or allow them to choose their partners for classroom activities.
Collaboration is one of the highly sought-after 21st Century skills, not just for the employment market alone but for day-to-day activities. Remember that students will not always get along due to the apparent differences. But regular collaboration will help them improve their conflict resolution skills — as they are bound to quarrel— and help them learn to tolerate individual differences while pursuing a common goal.
While collaboration has numerous benefits, it is your duty as an educator to observe your students during group activities. This is to ensure that no one endangers the other because of disagreements. You can also teach them the importance of teamwork by using collaborative tools and ensure they practice as often as possible.
Creativity has some connections with critical thinking because it involves putting the brain and mind to work. Allow students to use their imaginations to express themselves and create new things. Asides from getting them to draw, paint or decorate, let them use technology— a smartphone, PC, or tablet— to project their imaginations.
Creativity is limitless; you can get your students to create content, including podcasts, infographics, panel shows, etc. Moreover, people like to refer to computer skills as the fifth “C” in the 21st Century skills. So, utilizing technology in the classroom is an added advantage.
In all, creativity gives students the chance to be themselves. And if they can comfortably do that in the classroom, it will boost their confidence and give them a better shot at creativity in the future.
Finding ways to incorporate 21st Century skills in your classroom is essential for empowering students and providing them with the skillsets they need to thrive in a fast-paced world like ours. Do not downplay the importance of these skills if you are interested in seeing your students succeed in life.