Should there be a more explicit connection between understanding of the nature of science and development of 21st century skills?
How will adolescents’ use of technology to access and share information affect their view of intellectual property?
Brian Jones (JBS International) said participants in his group were surprised to learn about the report indicating that employers view science knowledge as less valuable than 21st century skills (Casner-Lotto and Barrington, 2006). The group also learned that these skills may be difficult to assess. Finally, participants learned about the importance of self-development and systems thinking. Jones reported that the group would like to know about equity issues that should be addressed in the teaching of 21st century skills. Participants noted the focus on adolescents’ unique capabilities and constraints in learning and asked what other groups—defined by gender, age, race, language skills, and/or socioeconomic status—might have special capabilities and constraints that should be considered when teaching 21st century skills.
Reflecting on the group reports, Sandoval observed that many of the groups discussed the importance of systems thinking, based on their view of education as a complex system that is difficult to understand. He described the groups’ calls to identify key stakeholders or leverage points, in order to drive change, as very important, asking which facets or components of the education system are most amenable to change. Surveying the room, Sandoval noted that, although representatives of many components of the education system were present, there were still “some real gaps in who is here and who is not here.” He observed that the attendees did not reflect the diversity of the United States, leading him to pose questions about who “owns” 21st century skills and whose purposes the skills might serve, if they were widely acquired.
A second theme Sandoval observed frequently in the reports was uncertainty about how to operationally define the five skills, so that they can be easily recognized and so that student learning of the skills can be measured by appropriate assessments. Arguing that it is very important to determine how to assess these skills, he posed the rhetorical questions, “How do we do that? What’s a smart way of doing that?”
A final common theme in the reports, Sandoval said, was that, although the workshop focused on science education, this is not the only school subject in which these skills can be learned and practiced.