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Growing Tomorrow's Citizens in Today's Classrooms

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Rapid innovation is transforming the way people think, work, and connect. For students to succeed today, they must acquire the knowledge and 21st century skills required for college and career readiness. Practical and research-based, this resource will help you design meaningful, relevant skill assessment and instruction that promotes student mastery of critical competencies, including collaboration, problem-solving and critical thinking skills, creative thinking skills, communication skills, digital citizenship, self-regulation, and more.

Use the most effective practices for teaching soft skills to increase college and career readiness:

  • Explore the seven critical competencies necessary for success in the 21st century.
  • Become familiar with good habits of mind, and pass those habits on to students to support their soft skill development.
  • Learn how to teach critical thinking and other 21st century skills by facilitating learning that will develop the critical competencies in students.
  • Develop powerful and effective soft skill assessment methods, such as student self-assessments, that will test student levels of competency in the seven critical areas.
  • Access free reproducibles to supplement your understanding of the text and facilitate the book's content in the classroom.

About the Authors
Chapter 1: Cultivating Habits of the Mind
Chapter 2: Self-Regulation
Chapter 3: Critical Thinking
Chapter 4: Collaboration
Chapter 5: Creative Thinking
Chapter 6: Communication
Chapter 7: Digital Citizenship
Chapter 8: Social Competence
References and Resources

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8 Chapters

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Chapter 1




Those who can synthesize well for themselves will rise to the top of the pack; those whose syntheses make sense to others will become invaluable teachers, communicators, and leaders.

—Howard Gardner

Each of the seven critical competencies outlined in the introduction—self-regulation, critical thinking, collaboration, creative thinking, communication, digital citizenship, and social competence—provides learners with the skills and adaptability required to live and work successfully in a constantly changing world. Underpinning each of the critical competencies are certain subject-neutral habits and skills. That is, each critical competency is universally applicable across all subject areas; in fact, for this reason some refer to the competencies as cross-curricular. Of course, there are differences in how learners apply the habits and skills underlying each competency within a specific discipline, but at their core, they are discrete skills learners can utilize in almost any context.


Chapter 2




The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

—Alvin Toffler

It’s been argued in the court of public opinion that the one true lifelong skill is the skill of self-regulation, or learning to learn. The argument is logical: as the future changes rapidly and drastically, both employers and employees will forever be tasked with reinventing themselves and their organizations or their working conditions and technical tools. Learning will be necessary to survive across time and space for people of all ages and organizations in all industries. In other words, the skill of self-regulation is imperative for the success and well-being of everyone and every thriving entity.

The need for addressing a perceived gap in teaching self-regulation is recognized globally. Researchers Ruth Deakin Crick, Kai Ren, and Cristina Stringher (2014) note, “Internationally, learning to learn is emerging as a focus for school improvement and as a foundation for lifelong and lifewide learning” (p. 1). In 2006, the


Chapter 3




The basic idea undergirding the study of critical thinking is simple—to determine strengths and weaknesses in one’s thinking in order to maintain the strengths and make improvements by targeting the weaknesses.

—Linda M. Murawski

While critical thinking has long been a valued outcome of education, newly emerging state, provincial, and national standards put a premium on this invaluable competency. Critical thinking is now the focus of learning, and content is used in the service of teaching learners to think. The list of critical-thinking skills is endless; whether learners are analyzing, hypothesizing, comparing, evaluating, synthesizing, defending, inferring, or predicting, they’re thinking critically. The real advantage for teachers and learners alike is that each of those skills is subject-neutral, making them universally applicable across almost every subject area.

The good news is that teachers are not starting from scratch when it comes to assessing critical thinking; most thinking activities teachers currently use are still applicable. The fundamental shift is not in redefining what the skill or disposition is; rather, it is about engaging learners in creating new knowledge through skills rather than using the skills to manipulate a body of given information. By and large, teachers can hit the ground running as they shift the emphasis of instructional outcomes.



Chapter 4




Collaboration gives the freedom to come out from the narrow scopes of life to the field of endless possibilities.

—Amit Ray

Collaboration is a critical competency essential to thriving in an interconnected and interdependent global context. Facebook inspired Salesforce to create the Chatterbox app as a way for its employees, colleagues, and customers to track progress, share ideas, and collaborate (Ibarra & Hansen, 2013). Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff watched with interest and excitement as he realized this forum provides invaluable insight and knowledge about the company that was not often accessible because not all employees were involved in larger company decisions. Shortly after this observation, Salesforce management was planning an off-site retreat. Benioff suggested his team invite everyone to virtually participate using Chatterbox. The retreat started off as it had in the past—with two hundred managers in the room—but this time there was a virtual audience of over five thousand. After a slow start in the online dialogue,


Chapter 5




The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind—creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people

. . . will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.

—Daniel Pink

Few topics in assessment and instruction have generated more enthusiasm yet simultaneous concern than creative thinking. What is it? Who determines it? Can one measure it? Should one measure it? While the world outside school walls values and craves creativity, educators rarely teach it as a critical competency. The challenges behind teaching and assessing creativity are not exclusive to educators. According to creativity expert and Morgan Distinguished Professor in educational innovations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill R. Keith Sawyer (2006):

Psychologists began to study creativity in the 1950s, and right away, they had trouble defining it. In the 1950s and 1960s, psychologists searched for paper and pencil tests that could measure a person’s creative potential. With a good test, they could simply have defined creativity as a high score on the test. However, this search was in vain. . . . In spite of several


Chapter 6




Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.

—Jim Rohn

Communication has always been, and will most likely always remain, a critical competency, no matter the era, region, or quantity and quality of supportive technology.

Communication involves sending and receiving messages. Though it sounds simple enough, what is said, how it is said, and how it is received will always pose challenges because people can quickly muddy messages through contexts beyond the communicator’s control. The message communicator cannot always understand and, therefore, control the recipients’ past experiences, state of mind, or ultimate interpretation of the message. Likewise, unforeseen or unknown contexts can also challenge the communicator—like the politics behind a relatively simple message at a given moment in time.


Chapter 7




In a world where students can instantly digitally interact with others across the globe, it is imperative that they understand what it means to be a good citizen with that global community.

—J. Michael Blocher

Before the phrase google it became part of our workflow, how did people find answers to their pressing questions? Using libraries, encyclopedias, and phone calls was more common, and it took a bit more time to research, review, and discover. Today, when people—especially learners who have not lived in a world without the internet at their fingertips—don’t know how to do something, they frequently turn to YouTube or other online resources to instantly figure it out. Schools are increasingly embracing the changing world and incorporating digital technology use in their classroom assessments. For example, an English department in the Midwest relentlessly pursues engaging ideas, thinking carefully about their learners’ interests and the rapidly changing society. This team grappled with ways to make the traditional informational speech—typically a two-week grueling exercise requiring all learners to give and listen to each other give an eight-minute lecture—more relevant to learners. Their answer was to ask learners to develop a how-to video—similar to what learners frequently consume on YouTube—on a topic of their choice. Learners then watched two or



Chapter 8




There is growing evidence from international longitudinal studies that clearly suggests noncognitive factors play a critical role in one’s success as a citizen.

—Yong Zhao

While there is no dispute that academic achievement still matters, the focus on noncognitive skills is gaining importance. According to renowned educator and speaker Yong Zhao (2016), “Noncognitive factors such as personality traits, motivation, interpersonal skills, and intrapersonal skills have been found to correlate significantly with educational attainment, workplace productivity, and life earnings”

(p. 4). Social competence—noncognitive skills that include what some refer to as soft skills, social and emotional learning, or global literacy to name a few—now occupies a parallel space in terms of what important outcomes learners are supposed to achieve.

The intent is to create parallel goals of excellence between cognitive skills and social and emotional well-being to help learners in all aspects of their future, not just those related to academics.



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