21st Century Skills


FreeDigitalTools4Teachers. (2015).  Teaching 21st century skills.  Image retrieved from http://freedigitaltools4teachers.com/teaching-21st-century-skills/


As referred to in Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice, Dumont and Istance (2010) speculate that “21st century competencies include deep understanding, flexibility and the capacity to make creative connections and a range of so-called ‘soft skills’ including good team-working.” (Merriam, S., Bierema, L., 2014, p.4). If an individual googled ‘21st century skills’ they would get approximately 78 million results.  While opinions differ greatly between theorists, teachers, politicians and individuals on the actual skill set which defines 21st century skills, there is a common consensus that

students who will come of age in the 21st century, need to be taught different skills than those learned by students in the 20th century, and that the skills they learn should reflect the specific demands that will placed upon them in a complex, competitive, knowledge-based, information-age, technology-driven economy and society. (Glossary of Education Reform, 2014).

With the rate at which society continues to grow and change and the speed at which information is able to be shared, I am in agreement that it is no longer enough for an individual to possess a broad base of knowledge to be successful in society today. Not only must one seek knowledge in an ever changing world, one must acquire a multitude of other skills such as, creativity, artistry, curiosity, imagination, innovation, perseverance, self-direction, planning, adaptability, initiative, oral and written communication, listening, leadership, teamwork and collaboration to name a few of the other ‘soft’ or ‘21st century skills’ identified by the Glossary of Education Reform (2014).


The majority of skills that may be labelled ‘21st century skills’ are not new skills.  These skills have been used and taught throughout history yet were never labelled as quantifiable skills that needed recognition.  As postulated by the Glossary of Education Reform (2014), “public schools and teachers have always taught, and will continue to teach, cross-disciplinary skills.”

As an adult educator in the 21st century, I now have a much more challenging task than educators of the past.  The skills needed to be taught in adult education today must be student-centered, as opposed to the teacher-centered approach of education in the past.  It is now vital to the success of my student for me to teach, encourage and facilitate the use of these so called ‘soft skills’ inside and outside the classroom.

The push to prioritize 21st century skills is typically motivated by the belief that all students should be equipped with the knowledge, skills, work habits, and character traits they will need to pursue continued education and challenging careers after graduation, and that a failure to adequately prepare students effectively denies them opportunities, with potentially significant consequences for our economy, democracy, and society. (Glossary of Education Reform, 2014).


As an adult educator in the 21st century, I feel that it is necessary for me to have a balance in my classroom between that of knowledge sharing and one of skill building.  It is also necessary to recognize that the activities involved in knowledge sharing and skill building often do not occur separate from one another.  One method that I use to be able to marry these activities in my classroom, is that of project based learning.

Project-based learning refers to any programmatic or instructional approach that utilizes multifaceted projects as a central organizing strategy for educating students. When engaged in project-based learning, students will typically be assigned a project or series of projects that require them to use diverse skills—such as researching, writing, interviewing, collaborating, or public speaking—to produce various work products, such as research papers, scientific studies, public-policy proposals, multimedia presentations, video documentaries, art installations, or musical and theatrical performances, for example. (Glossary of Education Reform, 2013).


It is not possible, in today’s knowledge society, to teach an individual all that they may need to know in order to become productive members of society throughout their lives.  Adult educators of today have a challenging task of preparing students to become lifelong learners. Chief Knowledge Officer, Teach For America, Steven Farr stated in 2010 that classroom leaders of today must challenge our students by “setting an ambitious vision, rallying others to work hard to achieve it, planning and executing to ensure student learning, and defining the very notion of teaching as changing the life paths of students.”



Farr, S. (2010). How do you define 21st-century learning?  Education Week Teacher PD             Sourcebook, volume 04 (issue 01).  Retrieved from             http://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2010/10/12/01panel.h04.html

Glossary of Education Reform. (2013). Project-based learning. Retrieved from            http://edglossary.org/project-based-learning/

Glossary of Education Reform. (2014). 21st century skills. Retrieved from            http://edglossary.org/21st-century-skills/

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2014). Adult learning: Linking theory and practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.