Plan and conduct a public workshop to explore the intersection of science education and 21st century skills. This activity will build upon the work of a previous workshop held in May of 2007, which focused on the identification of 21st century workforce skills and the available evidence in support of that identification process.


Among the questions to guide the steering committee in their planning process are the following:

  1. How much overlap is there between the 21st century skills that evidence suggests may be critical for future workforce needs and the knowledge and abilities that are the focus of current efforts to reform science education, particularly those reforms based on developmental psychology and cognitive science?

  2. What are the unique domain-specific aspects of science, as well as the conventions and practices of science itself, that appear to hold promise for developing potential 21st century workforce abilities?

  3. What are the promising models or approaches for teaching these abilities in science education settings? What, if any, evidence is available about the effectiveness of those models?

  4. What is known about transferability of these abilities to real workplace applications? What might have to change in terms of learning experiences to achieve a reasonable level of skill transfer?

The Board on Science Education convened an expert planning committee, chaired by Arthur Eisenkraft (University of Massachusetts, Boston), to design and conduct the workshop. As a first step to meet its charge to build on the May 2007 workshop, the planning committee and staff developed preliminary definitions of five 21st century skills that emerged as important at the earlier workshop (see Box 1-1):

  1. adaptability,

  2. complex communication/social skills,

  3. nonroutine problem-solving skills,

  4. self-management/self-development, and

  5. systems thinking.

Research suggests that these five skills are increasingly valuable in the workplace. Autor, Levy, and Murnane (2003), economists who studied changes over time in job tasks throughout the national economy, found that computers were eliminating tasks that involve solving routine problems or communicating straightforward information. Based on this analysis, Levy and Murnane (2004) conclude that nonroutine problem-solving skills and complex communication and social skills are increasingly valuable in the labor market. Papers prepared for the May 2007 workshop



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