steps toward clarifying the meaning of the term “deeper learning” and its relationship to competency clusters that capture various terms associated with the overarching label 21st century skills. In contrast to a view of 21st century skills as general skills that can be applied to a range of different tasks in various academic, civic, workplace, or family contexts, the committee views 21st century skills as dimensions of expertise that are specific to—and intertwined with—knowledge within a particular domain of content and performance. To reflect our view that skills and knowledge are intertwined, we use the term “competencies” rather than “skills.”


The committee views the various sets of terms associated with the 21st century skills label as reflecting important dimensions of human competence that have been valuable for many centuries, rather than skills that are suddenly new, unique, and valuable today. The important difference across time may lie in society’s desire that all students attain levels of mastery—across multiple areas of skill and knowledge—that were previously unnecessary for individual success in education and the workplace. At the same time, the pervasive spread of digital technologies has increased the pace at which individuals communicate and exchange information, requiring competence in processing multiple forms of information to accomplish tasks that may be distributed across contexts that include home, school, the workplace, and social networks.

As a way to organize the various terms for 21st century skills and provide a starting point for further research as to their meaning and value, the committee identified three broad domains of competence—cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal. The cognitive domain involves reasoning and memory; the intrapersonal domain involves the capacity to manage one’s behavior and emotions to achieve one’s goals (including learning goals); and the interpersonal domain involves expressing ideas, and interpreting and responding to messages from others. We then conducted a content analysis, aligning several lists of 21st century skills proposed by various groups and individuals with the skills included in existing research-based taxonomies of cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal skills and abilities.1 Through this process, we assigned the various 21st century skills to clusters of competencies within each domain. Recognizing that there are areas of overlap between and among the individual 21st century skills


1The committee views the abilities included in these taxonomies as malleable dimensions of human behavior that can change in response to educational interventions and life experiences, in contrast to the common view of them as fixed traits.

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