The four skills or 4Cs are:
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving – the ability to make decisions, solve problems and take action as appropriate.
Effective Communication – the ability to synthesize and transmit ideas in both written and oral formats.
Collaboration – the ability to work effectively with others, including those from diverse groups and with opposing points of view.
Creativity and Innovation – the ability to see what’s not there and make something happen.
Professional Development (PD) is something which is viewed pretty dimly and its true significance is unrealized by most of the educators around the world. In broad aspect, it is actually something which challenges you to think critically and communicate effectively, involves true collaboration with colleagues and encourages you to be creative and innovative. I’m pretty sure that most have you have never viewed the concept of PD from this point of view, right? I encourage that you now do. The ability to successfully train professionals in how to teach and assess the 4C’s will probably be the single key success factor for 21st century initiative. For teachers, the ‘C’ that should be really emphasized is Collaboration. Professional learning communities should be formed, which are effective at breaking the isolation of the individual teacher and help institute a collaborative community of practice. Teachers should focus on students outcomes involving the 4Cs, for which they require training, so that the development is not restricted to be just content-related but it should be integrated with all of the 21stcentury outcomes.
Let’s now focus on the importance of 4Cs for students. If elements of 4Cs are incorporated into student learning, then we can help foster in them a greater sense of community for ‘Collaboration’, encourage them to work together and experience success together to embark upon ‘Critical Thinking’ and indulge in Problem Solving, education is transformed with increased participation of the students, which amounts to a lot of ‘Creativity and Innovation’. They can discuss a topic with one another and put in their insights about it. It teaches them how to effectively ‘Communicate’ and collaborate with fellow students and teachers. It is a general point of view of teachers that, there is always at least one of the Cs in which their students can excel.
Let’s now move on to 4Cs for educators. Our focus on 21st century learning skills has helped all of the educators to pause and reflect about what we really do with the valuable time we have with young people. Teachers should be made to be involved with other teachers and mentors to learn about better teaching. In order for students to be successful and be able to demonstrate and apply these skills, teachers as adults in the learning system have to be ongoing adult learners and model the same skills in the work that they do professionally and in the classroom with the students. Teaching staff should be provided with opportunities to come together, take a professional development and collaborate, analyze the Common Core Standards, break them down and discuss across grade levels elementary, middle and high school as to how their Common Core works and how it breaks down to deeper learning.
With the focus on 21st century skills there should be professional development that should be secured towards systemic thinking, critical and creative thinking and conversations with colleagues should be targeted towards those outcomes so that the work teachers do with their students improves when they’re able to get better professional development and collaboration on those topics with their colleagues. They should bring up topics they want to discuss which leads to the bringing up of critical and creative thinking so that they can get ideas for strategies from each other. They can also analyze outcomes of what their students are doing either content-wise or may be a skill related to 21st century skills and it gives them a chance to try things out in a collaborative setting before they work on them with their own students.
Now, we come on to how the assessment of these particular skills in students should be done by schools and other educational organizations. Schools do a great job in capturing academic proficiency but not such a great job in assessing these important skills that students need to succeed in the 21st century for college work and citizenship. For this, strategic plans in schools should be developed such that the students are encouraged to become critical and creative thinkers, problem solvers and so that they collaborate and communicate effectively. Here, the challenge becomes how to assess these things and there’s a need to have assessments that capture those skills in students. In order to accomplish the development and progress of such skills in students you need to have concrete things that you’re using, like the development of a rubric to assess whether students are a novice or expert at communication and collaboration. There’s a need to create an assessment worth teaching, so that teachers can really buy into this assessment and the changing classroom instruction in order to ensure students are well prepared for not only the present but for the challenges they’ll have in the future.
The impact of the 4Cs in learning is such that the skills like critical thinking and collaboration really help students to not only get to college but also in being successful there and continuing to be so post college as well. Consistent and consolidated focus on these 21st century skills transforms students from being disempowered in their education and not understanding its purpose or relevance by being asked to do things with their knowledge and care about it and to use it purposefully. I feel that, today, we’re well down the road to preparing our students for a future that they become capable leaders for tomorrow.
Watch these great videos and understand the core skills required to improve education.
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