Friday, January 9, 2009

21st Century Skills: Are Educators and Executives Aligned on the Creative Readiness of the U.S. Workforce?

I just saw a very interesting report called Ready to Innovate which was sponsored by the Conference Board. The report asks the question, Are Educators and Executives Aligned on the Creative Readiness of the U.S. Workforce? The report surveyed both educators and business leaders about what are important 21st Century skills pertaining to "creativity." What is interesting is that in many skill areas educators and the business leaders were in total disagreement. I put each category in a different color so you could see how they were ranked by the two different groups in the study.

School Superintendents are emphasizing
  1. Problem Solving
  2. Integration of Knowledge Across Different Disciplines
  3. Ability to Identify New Patterns of Behavior of New Combination of Actions
  4. Originality and Inventiveness in Work
  5. Ability to Communicate New Ideas to Others
  6. The Ability to Originate New Ideas
  7. Tolerance of Ambiguity
  8. Ability to Take Risks
  9. Problem Identification or Articulation
  10. Fundamental Curiosity
  11. Comfort with the Notion of No-Right Answer
While Business Leaders are looking for
  1. Problem Identification or Articulation
  2. Ability to Identify New Patterns of Behavior of New Combination of Actions
  3. Integration of Knowledge Across Different Disciplines
  4. The Ability to Originate New Ideas
  5. Comfort with the Notion of No-Right Answer
  6. Fundamental Curiosity
  7. Originality and Inventiveness in Work
  8. Problem Solving
  9. Ability to Take Risks
  10. Tolerance of Ambiguity
  11. Ability to Communicate New Ideas to Others
I am often fascinated at how much educators ignore their student's future opportunities in the workforce when selecting tools, lesson ideas, and assessments. I am guilty of this myself! I cannot tell you how many ridiculous tests, quizzes, and busy work assignments I gave my students, such as "read the chapter and answer the questions at the end!". I often did this because I was an exhausted teacher who worked very hard, and at times didn't have the energy to align standards to real-world work skills and expectations. The more I have learned about 21st Century Skills, the less I focused on traditional methods of assessment and the more I focused on the skills that my students (or in my case now, my preservice students) will need in the future. Therefore instead of tests, quizzes, and lots of long research papers (although there is a need for all forms of assessment, I am not saying we should not use these, I just found alternatives that work better for my own students) I found alternative options that get them ready for teaching in the 21st Century world. Here are a few examples of assignments that I have my education technology preservice students do...

1) Create and conduct their own webinars and virtual courses, so they know how to teach in a virtual school (more and more of these are popping up in every state and they need good teachers).
2) Write an article for a professional education publication, and submit it for publishing.
3) Learn what tools are important in their students lives and in the future of society. Develop and teach lessons that integrate these tools.
4) Become part of the professional education community through edublogging, online lists and publication, and twitter.

What do you think? Do you think we should expect educators to align teaching with future workforce skill and knowledge expectations? And what about the issue of standardize testing? How could that play a role?

I definitely have more questions than answers...


Branzburg said...

I think this illustrates (once more) a fundamental disconnect between the business world and the education world. It also helps explain why so many companies need to maintain their own training and orientation programs for new employees to ensure the new hire understands and behaves in a manner consistent with the corporate philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Isn't our goal, as teachers, to prepare our students for productive and successful participation in our society?

If we are not giving them the skills needed to reach that goal, what exactly are we doing?

An example of what I mean: If I am trying to prepare a student to live in France, why would I focus my preparation on Spanish? To successfully navigate his way around France, I should focus on French, right?

Well, if today's job market requires certain skills sets, why would we NOT alight our instruction/standards with those skills and knowledge expectations?

I guess the trick is "teaching the standards" in new and different ways. Give the kids the best of both worlds... prepare them for the "oh-so-important test" and the real world (which has absolutely NOTHING to do with the tests they have taken!) at the same time.

Geez... why hasn't anyone thought of this before?! :)

Charlie Roy said...

I like this topic I really do but sometimes I think we miss the boat all together. Do companies really care? What is our goal? I doubt when Ford looks at where to put the next factory they really care what the local public school system is like? Is that why we send job over seas? Is the Chinese public education system that much better?

We need to decide what the purpose of school is. Do we exist to churn out workers? citizens of a global world? or young men and women who can think critically, live humanely, and lead effectively? I'm not sure our role is to play the corporate trainer.

Charlie Roy said...

It often seems that the soft skills can be the most important to any employer and I'm all in favor of developing those. I just get a little worried about the intentions of business when they mingle with schools. The results are not often that great. I thin they could be.....

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