Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the Pearson Foundation, the Raikes Foundation, the Susan Crown Enchange Fund, and the Stupski Foundation charged the National Research Council (NRC) as follows:

An ad hoc committee will review and synthesize current research on the nature of deeper learning and 21st century skills and will address the following:

  • Define the set of key skills that are referenced by the labels “deeper learning,” “21st century skills,” “college and career readiness,” “student centered learning,” “next generation learning,” “new basic skills,” and “higher order thinking.” These labels are typically used to include both cognitive and noncognitive skills—such as critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, effective communication, motivation, persistence, and learning to learn that can be demonstrated within core academic content areas and that are important to success in education, work, and other areas of adult responsibility. The labels are also sometimes used to include other important capacities—such as creativity, innovation, and ethics—that are important to later success and may also be developed in formal or informal learning environments.
  • Describe how these skills relate to each other and to more traditional academic skills and content in the key disciplines of reading, mathematics, and science. In particular, consider these skills in the context of the work of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers in specifying Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics, and the work of the NRC in specifying a A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (hereafter referred to as the NRC science framework).
  • Summarize the findings of the research that investigates the importance of such skills to success in education, work, and other areas of adult responsibility and that demonstrates the importance of developing these skills in K-16 education.
  • Summarize what is known—and what research is needed—about how these skills can be learned, taught, and assessed. This summary should include both the cognitive foundations of these skills in learning theory and research about effective approaches to teaching and learning these skills, including approaches using digital media.
  • Identify features of educational interventions that research suggests could be used as indicators that an intervention is likely to develop the key skills in a substantial and meaningful way. In particular, for learning in formal school-based environments, identify features related to learning these skills in educational interventions in (a) teacher professional development, (b) curriculum, and (c) assessment. For learning in informal environments, identify features related to learning these skills in educational interventions in (d) after-school and out-of-school


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