Future Ready Survival Skills

AUTHOR: Leslie Barrett, Education Specialist: Instructional Technology & Library Media Services

Are we meeting the mark when it comes to preparing students for success in their post-graduate lives?

Tony Wagner, Expert In Residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, wondered the same thing. He conducted interviews with leaders in major global businesses, non-profits, and government institutions and discovered that students regularly fall short in seven specific skill areas that are essential for success in today’s innovation-centric economy. As you read through Wagner’s seven “survival” skills below, consider what practices you can implement or enhance in your classroom, campus, or district to help your students become future ready.

Critical Thinking & Problem Solving

According to Wagner’s definition, critical thinking is the ability to ask the right questions. Are we asking questions that require little more mental consideration than a Google search on a student’s smart phone? The use of Document Based Questions (DBQs ) in social studies and the Claim Evidence Reasoning (CER) framework in science are two ways to help students develop critical thinking skills in the context of content area instruction. When too many of our questions result in one right answer out of a possible 4 multiple choice options, we are missing opportunities to engage students in rich conversations in which they explain their thinking and justify their reasoning.

Collaboration & Leadership

In seeking solutions to problems, employees in the workforce will rarely work in isolation. They will be expected to collaborate with peers within organizational teams and access the input of a network of professional experts from across the globe. In contrast, the measure of success in our classrooms is based on the performance of the individual working alone. While we can’t always change our testing and grading structure, we can create opportunities for students to work in collaborative groups that are structured so that each member of the group is held accountable for his/her contribution. In addition, we can teach students how to safely access the input of experts using digital connections like social media and virtual conferencing.

Agility & Adaptability

We are living in a fast-paced and quickly changing time. Information, technology, and the problems organizations are working to solve are constantly changing. Employees need to be able to change alongside the demands of the job and adapt easily to new and evolving circumstances. Are we providing flexible learning environments that encourage students to identify and adapt elements that contribute to their maximum productivity? Are we creating opportunities for students to iterate; to observe and improve their own output? How often do we say to students, “Oh, that didn’t work. What other ideas do you have?”

Initiative & Entrepreneurism

An entrepreneurial spirit means harnessing opportunities and capitalizing on strengths to create products and services to fill needs. How often do we give students the freedom to think outside the box and provide innovative and creative ways to demonstrate their understanding of academic concepts? How often do we let them offer solutions to problems that may be occurring in the classroom, the school, the world? If we are always telling them what to do, how will they develop initiative and the ability to meet needs on their own?

Effective Oral & Written Communication

Through his research, Wagner discovered that students entering the workforce are severely deficient in their ability to speak and/or write. The problem is less about grammar and mechanics and more about students being unable to articulate their thinking in a logical manner with a compelling voice and persuasive argumentation. Reliance on the formulaic writing strategies traditionally used in classrooms restricts the critical thinking component that is necessary for effective communication. Do we let students write about topics they are passionate about? Are we giving them opportunities to write frequently in all subject areas? How often do we ask students deep questions and then give them sufficient “wait time” to develop and/or revise their oral responses? How often do we ask them to articulate the thinking behind their answers?

Accessing & Analyzing Information

Wagner says we have moved from a “knowledge economy” to an “innovation era”. When information is readily available 24 hours a day, the knowledge you possess is less valuable than what you are able to do with that knowledge. The true skill is being able to quickly access information and effectively analyze it for accuracy and relevance to the task. How often are we incorporating web-based texts in our instruction? Are we teaching students how to determine the reliability of the information they encounter online? Is research still only something we do during library time, or is it a part of regular instruction in all content areas?

Curiosity & Imagination

Innovation comes from curiosity and imagination. People who can ask the right questions and locate or iterate the answers to their questions are the people who are able to come up with unique products and services for a fast-paced world. How often do we encourage and allow students time to follow their curiosity and employ their imagination? Do we make time for Genius Hour during the school day? Have you thought about creating a Makerspace on campus for students?

By approaching our instructional practices with an awareness of these future ready survival skills we can look for opportunities to complement our traditional activities with new ideas for a new time.

Source

Wagner, T. (2008). Rigor redefined. Educational Leadership, 66 (2). Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct08/vol66/num02/Rigor-Redefined.aspx


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