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Exploring the Intersection of Science Education and 21st Century Skills: A Workshop Summary
Preliminary Definitions of 21st Century Skills
Adaptability: The ability and willingness to cope with uncertain, new, and rapidly changing conditions on the job, including responding effectively to emergencies or crisis situations and learning new tasks, technologies, and procedures. Adaptability also includes handling work stress; adapting to different personalities, communication styles, and cultures; and physical adaptability to various indoor or outdoor work environments (Houston, 2007; Pulakos et al., 2000).
Complex communication/social skills: Skills in processing and interpreting both verbal and nonverbal information from others in order to respond appropriately. A skilled communicator is able to select key pieces of a complex idea to express in words, sounds, and images, in order to build shared understanding (Levy and Murnane, 2004). Skilled communicators negotiate positive outcomes with customers, subordinates, and superiors through social perceptiveness, persuasion, negotiation, instructing, and service orientation (Peterson et al., 1999).
Nonroutine problem solving: A skilled problem solver uses expert thinking to examine a broad span of information, recognize patterns, and narrow the information to reach a diagnosis of the problem. Moving beyond diagnosis to a solution requires knowledge of how the information is linked conceptually and involves metacognition—the ability to reflect on whether a problem-solving strategy is working and to switch to another strategy if it is not working (Levy and Murnane, 2004). It includes creativity to generate new and innovative solutions, integrating seemingly unrelated information, and entertaining possibilities that others may miss (Houston, 2007).
Self-management/self-development: The ability to work remotely, in virtual teams; to work autonomously; and to be self-motivating and self-monitoring. One aspect of self-management is the willingness and ability to acquire new information and skills related to work (Houston, 2007).
Systems thinking: The ability to understand how an entire system works; how an action, change, or malfunction in one part of the system affects the rest of the system; adopting a “big picture” perspective on work (Houston, 2007). It includes judgment and decision making, systems analysis, and systems evaluation as well as abstract reasoning about how the different elements of a work process interact (Peterson et al., 1999).
provided evidence that these two skills and adaptability, self-management/self-development, and systems thinking are important in the rapidly growing sector of “knowledge work.” For example, electrical engineers in sales often work at client sites, where they must adapt to a new work culture and apply systems thinking and complex communication skills to gain understanding of client needs and identify systems solutions tailored to meet them (Darr, 2007).