Developing 21st Century Skills for Students

Developing 21st century skills for students is necessary for all types of fields, be it STEM or the arts and social sciences. These skills help students develop an understanding of the world around them and teach them to look at certain aspects of life and its challenges with a more critical, yet empathetic, lens. This article discusses 21st century skills in education by explaining what they are and how they can be taught to students in schools and at home. 

What 21st Century Skills for Students Are

‘21st century skills for students’ is a term used to signify a set of skills that are especially important for young leaders to have in this day and age. These skills can help them learn how to navigate the challenges of life and come out successful for themselves and the societies they live in. 

The National Education Association (NEA) has categorized 21st century skills for students and teachers into three broad divisions. These three categories include subsets of skills that are integral in creating these categories. 

  1. Literacy skills 
  2. Learning skills
  3. Life skills

Some essential 21st century skills for students under these categories include the following,

Literacy Skills 

Here’s a quick overview of literacy skills. 

  • Information literacy: The ability to comprehend information and determine which is a legitimate and illegitimate source
  • Civic literacy: Understanding community
  • Media literacy: Differentiating between reliable and unreliable sources of media
  • Technology literacy: Knowing how to use technology in effective and productive ways

Learning Skills

Learning skills are listed below.

  • Critical thinking: Analyzing facts to determine a reasonable conclusion
  • Communication: The ability to talk to various types of people effectively  
  • Collaboration: Understanding the importance of respecting everyone’s input
  • Creativity: Thinking of new and innovative ways to tackle challenges

Life skills

21st century skills for students include the following life skills. 

  • Flexibility or adaptability: Being able to adapt to new situations to keep staying productive
  • Determination and initiative: The will to work hard and focus on achieving a specific goal
  • Leadership: Being ready to listen to others and guiding them with full responsibility 
  • Social skills: The ability to interact with others effectively to be an active member of the community
  • Efficiency/productivity: Making sure to look for the best ways to get a job done

How Teachers Can Help Students Develop 21st Century Skills

Of course, developing a set of skills will first require having a staff that understands the nuances of 21st century skills for students. Therefore, if you’re an educator or have a team of educators, it’s in your best interest to learn more about these skills in depth and how you can teach them to young minds. In addition to that, it’s also critical that you and your team of educators exercise those same skills within your institution so that every staff member knows the importance of these skills and learns how they apply to real-world situations. As a result, you and your team can more effectively communicate these virtues and the challenges that they may present.

Teachers can begin to teach students these important skills in a number of ways. Here’s a rundown of some options.

Have Formal Dedicated 21st Century Skills Courses

The first is to have a dedicated 21st century skills course during a student’s formative educational years, i.e., K-12. Thus a dedicated course or series of courses can help explain what these skills are and why they are important in a transparent way. This way, students can become aware of this every time they approach their educational material. 

Incorporate These Skills into Existing Curricula

Preparing students for 21st century skills also involves incorporating certain skills mentioned above within existing curricula. Therefore, teachers can design certain class activities in which students have to collaborate with each other, work on their leadership skills during certain projects, learn to adapt to new challenges, use legitimate sources to provide evidence to their research, critically think about an occurring phenomenon, and much more. 

Assess Students’ Progress in Learning and Implementing These Skills

As an educator, you must make it common practice to assess 21st century learners’ progress in learning and implementing these skills. Measuring their progress can help motivate them to work on these skills more willfully and it can help determine which areas need more improvement. Try not to make it too serious, and always give your students room to grow. 

Last Few Words

If you want to learn more about the skills required for 21st century students, you can check out what Level Up Village has to offer. This learning platform will help you develop these important skills in your students and introduce them to new ideas and perspectives.