By Talya Edlund, a third-grade teacher at Pond Cove Elementary School in Cape Elizabeth and the 2016 Maine Teacher of the Year.
I recently visited Texas Instruments in South Portland with a group of teachers. Our purpose was to gain an understanding of the skills employers seek when hiring today’s high school and college graduates. Touring the semiconductor plant, we learned that engineers work in teams to create improved templates for technology and to solve efficiency problems.
One of the head chemical engineers told our group that a stand-out on resumes is the amount of lab time an applicant has under her belt. She explained that lab time indicates an applicant has likely developed skills beyond those that are measured by papers or exams. In short, they are looking for applicants with 21st-century skills.
This type of learning is a framework for teaching that is often referred to as the four C’s: critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. Using these skills can connect curriculum to experience, as well as encourage students to take greater ownership of their learning.
There is an increasing body of evidence in educational research showing that students who develop 21st-century skills are better able to apply content learning to real-life situations. Ultimately, this leads to deeper engagement and understanding of taught material. Moreover, practicing 21st-century skills helps build the resilience, accountability and ingenuity that will carry today’s students into careers of the future.