Heart of the Kingdom
Teachers training must be revamped, upgraded, and incorporate the skills and knowledge students need to succeed in the knowledge economy of the 21st century
- Teachers’ content knowledge must be broadened and deepened in core subject matter. This includes the following disciplines. English, math, history, geography, science, the arts, world languages, and government and civics.
- Teachers must also be prepared to weave interdisciplinary themes and emerging content areas such as global awareness, health, economic, and environmental literacy.
- The 21st standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessments should highlight Learning and Innovation Skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving.
- The 21st standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessments should include ITC (Information, Technology, and Communication skills.
- The 21st standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessments should subsume Life and Career Skills such as flexibility, adaptability, initiative, self direction, social skills and leadership
- In addition, 21st century standards, assessments, curriculum, instruction, professional development, and learning environments must be aligned to produce a support system that produces 21st century outcomes for students.
21st Century Standards
These should focus on 21st century skills, content knowledge, and expertise. These benchmarks should be created to build understanding across and among academic subjects as well as the interdisciplinary themes. They should facilitate deep rather than shallow understanding.
They should require the students to use real world data, tools, and experts that they will encounter in college and on the job.
21st Century Curriculum and Instruction
- Teach 21st century skills discretely in the context of key subjects and themes.
- Apply skills across content areas.
- Utilize inquiry-and problem-based approaches to learning which invoke technologies and higher-order thinking skills.
- Provide collaborative activities where students practice time management, self-direction, leadership skills, conflict resolution, and consensus building in order to meet stated goals.
- Identify, obtain, and access community resources.
- Ensure that math students attend to accuracy, critique the reasoning of others, problem solve systematically, and clearly communicate their own thought processes.
21st Century Assessments
Today, on tests, there is too much emphasis on recalling discrete facts and not enough time and space devoted to problem solving and complex thinking.
Assessments must measure all five results that matter. These are: core subjects, 21st century content, learning and thinking skills, ITC Literacy and life skills.
Students should be allowed multiple measures of mastery such as tests, (formative, summative, and technology-enhanced exams coupled with quick, explanatory feedback), project-work, presentations, and portfolio artifacts.
- Tests are now not constructed to analyze 21st century skills, or gauge how well students apply what they know to new situations or how students might use technologies to problem solve or communicate ideas.
- Test should be designed so that Students are required to think critically, examine problems, gather information, and make informed decisions while using technology.
- Summative exams provide accountability as well as measuring how well the students achieved their learning goals.
- Good formative tests clearly define the learning goals of the instructional unit.
- As students become aware of what and how they are learning (learning targets up front, reflections afterwards) they become more motivated.
- Build assessments for learning as well as of learning.
- Assessments are instructional tools while learning is occurring, and are accountability tools to determine if the intended learning has occurred.
- Tests must be valid (assess the subject matter that was taught) and reliable (included essential subject matter so that students will perform equally well (or badly) on a battery of similar but not replicated tests)
- Formative tests allows teachers to adapt teaching strategies to better net students’ needs,
- Evaluations make students’ learning readily apparent.
- Use checklists and rubrics.
- Math diagnostic software shows proficiency weaknesses as well as the extent of background knowledge.
- Summative and formative iterations should be aimed at core subject matter, learning and thinking skills, ICT literacy and life skills.
- Implementation process for new assessments requires multiple cycles of creation, implementation and evaluation and improvement strategies.
- Guidelines for assessments need to be created by state.
- Assessments are evaluated in terms of their adherence to standards, usefulness in improving teaching and learning, and their effective use in the classrooms.
- Structured research, consultation with assessment experts, regular multi level multi disciplinary discussions among stakeholders must be inherent in the process.
- Assessment often drives what is taught.
- Assess students’ ability to navigate and critically evaluate data available through digital technology.
- Assess meta cognition or learning how to learn.
- Test do not measure how students use technology to solve problems
21st Century Professional Development
Lack of professional development is one of the reasons 21st century skills are underemphasized in today’s classrooms. Perhaps part of this problem is that teachers, policymakers, and local communities must unlearn the beliefs, values, assumptions, and cultures underlying school’s industrial era operating practices, such as forty-five minute periods, six hour school days, and 180 schooldays per year.
Pd is an ongoing process that encourages collaborative sharing of research-based best practices, highlights ways teachers can integrate skills tools and teaching strategies in the classroom to make learning relevant, personalized, and engaging. Teachers are encouraged to balance direct instruction with project work. Facilitators will illustrate how deeper understanding of subject matter can enhance problem solving, critical thinking, and other 21st century skills. Finally PD cultivates teachers’ ability to identify students’ particular learning styles and intelligences and supports the implementation of continuous evaluations (both formative and summative). Finally professional learners should determine how learning support emotional physical and social well-being of all students including the gifted, ELL’s, and special education students.
Studies indicate that teachers want to learn how to use technology and incorporate digital resources to more effectively differentiate lessons .These new practices include video- and podcasting. They also want to access electronic aides for grading and data collection purposes. Furthermore PD should focus on empowering people networks and creating mentoring, coaching, and team teaching modalities. Finally, PD program leaders should identify goals, track progress, communicate progress to stakeholders, and engage participants in improving success over time.
When planning to create teacher preparation programs 5 questions:
- What must students of the 21st century know?
- What are the essential characteristics of highly effective educators for the 21st century?
- What are the essential knowledge skills and values for professional educators
- What are the essential characteristics of programs to produce effective educators
- What are the elements of a curriculum to prepare teachers
21st Century Learning Environments
- Create learning practices, human support, and physical environments that support the teaching of 21st century skills and knowledge.
- Emphasize real world contexts and collaborative project work.
- Allow equitable access to quality learning tools technology and resources.
- Support group team and individual learning.
- Support expanded parental, community and international involvement in learning both in face – to-face and online modalities.
- Encourage partnerships between education, including universities, and businesses, and government.
Life skills must be incorporated into the pedagogy. These include leadership, ethics, accountability, adaptability, personal productivity, personal responsibility, people skills, self-direction, and social responsibility.
Learning and Innovation Skills
- Elaborate, refine, analyze, and evaluate their (students) own ideas in order to improve and maximize creative efforts.
- Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work.
- Be open to diverse perspectives
- Analyze and evaluate alternative points of view.
- View failure as an opportunity to learn
- Use models and simulations to explore complex systems.
- Identify trends and forecaste possibilities.
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Use inductive and deductive reasoning (as the case demands).
- Use “Systems Think” to analyze how parts of the whole interact to produce overall outcomes in complex systems.
- Analyze and evaluate evidence, arguments claims and beliefs.
- Analyze and evaluate alternative points of view.
- Synthesize and make connections between information and arguments.
- Interpret information and draw conclusions
- Reflect critically on the learning experience.
- Solve different types of unfamiliar problems in both conventional and innovative ways.
- Routinely ask significant questions.
- Students must build on a core base of knowledge when they think critically and problem solve.
Collaboration and Communication
- Articulate ideas effectively using oral written and nonverbal communications skills in a variety of forms and contexts.
- Listen effectively to decipher meaning
- Use communication for a range of purposes, i.e., to inform, persuade, instruct, or motivate.
- Utilize multiple media
- Manage time effectively
- Make compromises in group work.
- Use multilingual communication.
- Interact and cooperate with others.
- Work respectively with diverse teams.
- Be flexible and helpful
- Assume shared responsibility while attending to individual contributions.
- Know how to access and evaluate information
- Use information accurately and creatively
- Manage flow of information from a variety of sources
- Attend to ethical/ legal issues.
- Understand how, why, and for what purposes media messages are relayed
- Understand how media can influence beliefs and behaviors.
- Use media tools to create products.
- Understand multicultural environments for appropriate media expression.
ITC literacy is the ability to use technology to develop 21st century content knowledge and skills in the context of learning core subjects.
- Use technology to research, organize, evaluate and communicate information.
- Use tech tools to access, manage, integrate evaluate and create information.
Teacher Preparation Programs at Universities
For pre-service teachers
- Rigorous admissions criteria with benchmark assessments throughout the program.
- Strengthening of content knowledge.
- Special education courses.
- Extensive field experience in seven of eight semesters.
- Capstone portfolio requiring evidence of the candidates’ impact on student learning.
Attention College Deans!
To begin, identify leadership team and establish a consensus around a vision for transforming your program to meet the needs of 21st century teachers and learners.
- Then gather a robust group of stakeholders within and without to assist with implementation, feedback, and continuous improvement.
- Importantly, conduct needs and gap analysis around educator preparation and 21st century skills and knowledge.
- Provide faculty training and resource pilot initiatives and partnerships to develop and test 21st century instructional models among higher education institutions nationwide
- Create fast-track, yet high-quality, teacher preparation programs in close partnership with school districts to meet specific teacher shortages.
- Align 21st century standards, curriculum, instruction and assessments to students’ mastery of core knowledge and 4 c’s (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity (plus problem solving).
- Prepare teachers to differentiate their instruction to reach all children, especially those most at risk for school failure: children with disabilities, English language learners, and children from low-income homes
- Offer increased child and adolescent development knowledge to teacher preparation.
- Support increased connectivity between pre-service candidates and teacher experts worldwide.
- Promote and support research and evaluation of PD and 21st century education
Attention School Superintendents!
Create a system of hiring, recruiting, retaining and rewarding faculty who:
- Teach applied student mastery of 21st century skills as well as core subject matter.
- Leverage current technologies.
- Connect theories of teaching around 21st skills and knowledge.
- Provide inquiry-based experiences for learners.
- Display the ability to think critically, problem solve communicate and collaborate and use teaching strategies that will facilitate the development of such skills in the students.
- Stress big ideas of each lesson.
- Demonstrate the ability to read and interpret assessment data accurately.
- Balance tactical short-term goals with strategic long-term goals.
- Participate actively in learning communities
- Support coaching, mentoring, team teaching, and knowledge sharing.
- Understands and negotiates the relationship between content pedagogy and technology.
- Supports positive human relationships necessary for effective learning.
- Creates learning practices, human support, and physical environments that support teaching and learning for the 21st century.
- Assumes leadership roles where he/ she use interpersonal and problem-solving skills to guide and inspire others (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2010).
Finally, Shanghai has created an educational system that will dovetail with the exposition of 21st century teaching and learning. Their system starts with a well-developed vision and framework for educating 21st century teachers. aligned starting salaries to those of other college graduates of similar preparation and intellectual prowess (e.g. engineers); raised the bar of selectivity for applicants to its school of education; provided in-depth teacher education; established a set of career paths for teachers (through 100 hours oer year of professional development). These PD efforts will be subjected to measurement by serious, multifaceted evaluations. Finally, use a variety of bully pulpits to promote recognition of the value of teaching to the nation.
Using Singapore as a model we see that they have developed a system for growing the pipeline of school leaders through early identification, in-depth preparation and the nurturing of talent. This is a simple but powerful formula that the US should find ways to emulate.
In addition it might be beneficial to reflect on Shanghai’s approach to school turnaround: Shanghai's approach to turning around schools is based on pairing high-performing schools with low-performing ones and funding to the good school to help improve its pair. With this system, specific methods for improvement include: asking the principals of high-performing schools to also manage a low-performing school; creating clusters of high- and lower-performing schools where lead teachers participate in ‘teaching studios” across schools; and “empowered management” in which a high-performing school and a lower performing school sign a contract with the Shanghai Education Commission to raise the lower achieving school’s performance. If the data at the end of two years are positive, the contract can be extended another two years. So far Shanghai has turned around 60 schools with this approach. Could this turnaround model be adapted for the US context? Certainly, the logic of giving turnaround resources to school leaders who have proven track records makes a lot of sense.
- Vision and leadership: Both the Singapore and Shanghai systems have been driven by a long-term vision about the importance of human resources to their societies, and consistent movement over time towards clear and ever-higher educational goals. In these systems, the organizational culture promotes collective and individual responsibility, teamwork, transparency, and professionalism among teachers, principals and policymakers. There is a high degree of clarity and fidelity between policy, implementation and practice. The question is: how the U.S. can develop the consensus and capacity for sustaining a top-tier public education system in the context of multi-layered governance, rapid-fire elections, and fractured political debates? Can philanthropy play a role in shaping and sustaining the vision and momentum for reform through short-term political cycles?
- Close linkage between education and economic development: In Singapore in particular, the way in which education has been tied to economic progress and the creation of jobs has been very impressive. It has led to the development of very high-quality math and science education in their schools and technical education that is among the best in the world. The Institute for Technical Education (ITE) is an impressive example of transforming vocational and technical education to attract new industries and provide lower performing students with respect and marketable skills. Many ITE programs focus on training for service industries as well. Whereas in the U.S., the bottom 25% of students drop out of high school, in Singapore 90% of the bottom 25% graduate from ITE and have jobs. The U.S. needs to find ways to close the gap between the skills that employers need and the output of the education system and to re-imagine and reposition technical education for the new jobs of the 21st century.
- Alignment and capacity: In both of these systems, all the critical elements – curriculum, assessment, teacher training and school development – are aligned towards common goals. Both systems have strong central policy frameworks as well as mechanisms for encouraging local school innovation and building capacity at the school level. How can the U.S, with its much more decentralized system, develop this kind of capacity and coherence? How can it go from having not just some excellent schools but excellent systems of schools? The Common Core Standards are a starting point for greater alignment. Building the capacity of state education agencies to create coherence is also essential. How can the federal education role encourage alignment and coherence but also allow flexibility for continuous learning rather than mere adherence to the letter of the law?
- International benchmarking and continuous improvement: Singapore and Shanghai have learned a great deal about the best aspects of education from around the world (including the U.S.) and have used this process as part of the continuous improvement of their own education, sending not just policymakers but also principals and teachers to study international best practices. Most American educators, however, know little about the educational successes of other countries. In a globalized world, where the relevant standards are not those of the city or state next door but of the world’s highest performing countries, this needs to change. Some steps that have begun include the US Department of Education’s two International Summits on the Teaching Profession, the international delegations sponsored by the National Public Education Support Fund, and the Asia Society’s new Global Cities Education Network that will bring together Asian and North American cities around issues of equity and 21st century skills. Some recommendations for connecting educational benchmarking efforts directly to school reform in the U.S. include sending teams from states to high-performing systems, and providing PISA-like assessments for states, schools, districts and charter networks (National Public Education Support Fund, 2016).
National Public Education Support Fund. (2016). Singapore and shanghai. Retrieved from http://www.npesf.org/singapore-shanghai
P21 Partnership for 21st Century Learning. (n.d) Retrieved from