Of all the things I speak about, the slide I use that lists 10 behaviors that I identify as “21st-century behaviors” is one of the most popular. I put this list together over the last many years from various sources. To be added to the list a behavior must be frequently mentioned in many sources. The 10 behaviors are:
- Technological Fluency: The ability to use technology as a tool. To be completely comfortable using various forms of technology and use it with the ease that we would use paper and pencil.
- Communication … Verbal proficiency: Of all the subjects we make students take, the one we make them take every year of their educational experience is English/Language arts. You would think with all that effort our students would be excellent communicators. Yet one of the most commonly heard concerns from the business community is the inability of our students to communicate either verbally, or in writing.
- Collaboration … Leadership/Coordination/ Teamwork/Interpersonal Skills/Relationships/horizontal collaboration: The ability to work with others in all of its forms is critical today. Most of our kids will function in work environment that requires them to be a team player.
- Solve Complex Problems: The world we live in and the problems that arise in that world are growing ever more complex. Often times requiring skills and knowledge from multiple disciplines, including use of technology. It is imperative that our graduates have the ability to work in this complex society and solve problems.
- Gumption … Self-Direction and Reflection Skills: Gumption is not a word that we hear often but it describes clearly what employers today expect. We sometimes hear stick-to-itiveness used as a synonym for gumption. The point is in the workplace today when confronted with difficulties individuals are expected to work through the issues, to be self-directed and to stick to a problem until it is solved.
- Creativity and Innovative: Creativity is more often thought about in the extracurriculars but that’s not necessarily the kind of creativeness I’m referring to. While art and music are excellent preparation for the real world, the creativity I’m talking about is the ability to think differently than others and to come up with solutions that not only work but are innovative.
- Analytical and Critical Thinking Skills: Related to gumption and complex problem solving, individual today are expected to analyze the situation and think about it critically and solving problems.
- Initiative, Work Ethic, Honesty, Integrity and Ambition: This collection of adjectives centers on the attributes that are desirable of all employees, and many times are referred to as character.
- Adaptable … Versatilist: In a rapidly changing society it is imperative that individuals are able to adapt to change and modifications in the workplace, practices, and even knowledge. Versatilist is a term that was coined by Thomas Friedman in The World Is Flat to describe those individuals who are versatile and adaptable.
- Inquisitiveness: Last but not least those individuals who are asking why and how, in other words always inquiring in order to improve their knowledge, or processes, or procedures.
In the lower right-hand corner of the slide that I use during presentations I place the following picture. And the question I ask is this, in the classroom pictured can these 10 critical behaviors be practiced on a regular basis? The typical answer, “no.”
For our schools to give students the opportunity to develop these behaviors it is essential that schools, especially high schools, engage in school improvement processes that involve learning by doing rather than memorization for standardized tests. Practicing these behaviors to make them habitual cannot be done sitting in a desk listening to a teacher in a traditional classroom.
Dan Pink would say that we need less algorithmic practice that we see in traditional classrooms, and more heuristic practice to prepare kids for the 21st century. Those heuristic behaviors, innovative and creative, can only be practiced in an environment that is more customized and individualized for each student. – Steve Wyckoff