Tuesday, January 28, 2014

21st Century Skills, Continued

 In my last blog, I introduced the topic of 21st Century Skills as one of great relevance for education at Gaston Day. What are the skills that a well prepared student needs to be successful today? This piece continues that subject, focusing on the Learning and Innovation Skills as a subset of the broader array of 21st Century Skills. Learning and Innovation is further divided into three different groups of skills. These are Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Creativity and Innovation, and Communication and Collaboration. I know all these categories can quickly start to become a hodgepodge of concepts and words that may appear to lack coherence. But I am convinced the subject of 21st Century Skills really is important and germane to the best contemporary education. Further, I think these are things we care about and intentionally cultivate at Gaston Day. So I share them with you in the hope that it will stimulate and strengthen a shared framework for discussing and considering our children's education here.
Critical Thinking involves the ability to reason inductively and deductively, to understand the ways that constituent parts of systems (whether abstract or material) are related, and to form judgments and make decisions. Problem solving is a practical application of critical thinking. Students apply what they learn to overcome real life obstacles and challenges.

Creativity and Innovation are attitudes that Independent Schools do a particularly good job encouraging and cultivating. We applaud students who think outside the box and challenge assumptions. We reinforce and congratulate creativity, not only in the fine arts, but in all disciplines. Two of our core Community Values at Gaston Day are "Curiosity and Creativity." Beginning in Pre-School we strive to nurture a spirit of innovation and creative expression in our students. We put their art of the walls and publish their writings. We enter them into contests--National Scholastic Writing and Art, Science Fairs, iGems--that challenge them to be creative and innovative at the highest level.
Communication and Collaboration start with basic skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking and incorporate the use of visual symbols, power-point and other multi-media presentations. They also must extend beyond the language arts to math and science. Well educated Gaston Day students must understand the scientific method and basic and more advance mathematical concepts. Students must develop the ability to think across and between disciplines because so much of life happens in totality, not in discrete disciplines. Finally, students must work learn to work with others and communicate for a range of purposes: to inform, to instruct, to motivate, and/or persuade.
The philosophy of 21st Century Skills informs pedagogy at Gaston Day. So do other educational theories. Our desire is to give our students the best possible education within the limits of our mission.
My next blog will conclude my introduction of 21st Century Skills. Thanks for your interest.