What Should We Be Teaching Kids for the 21st Century?

 

By Carol Fertig

Dr. Judy Willis is an authority on brain research. She has a unique background, having been both a neurologist and a classroom teacher. She has written several books and writes a blog for Psychology Today. One of her recent blog entries is Whose Children Will Get the Best Jobs in the 21st Century?, which offers an interesting perspective on what we should be doing to prepare students for today’s world.
 
According to Willis, the best jobs in the future will go to applicants who have the
  • skillsets to analyze information as it becomes available,
  • flexibility to adapt when what were believed to be facts are revised,
  • ability to collaborate with others, and
  • ability to articulate one’s ideas.
Rather than just learn a lot of facts, students need opportunities to discover the connections between isolated facts, build networks of concepts, and apply what they learn in new contexts. Critical analysis, judgment, creative problem solving, and the ability to evaluate and apply data to new situations are all vital.
Parents can prepare students by
  • helping children develop personal responsibility;
  • explicitly teaching how to focus attention, study, organize, prioritize, plan, and set goals;
  • teaching how to make the switch from memorization to mental manipulation by comparing and contrasting concepts and applying big ideas to solve new types of problems;
  • teaching how to evaluate sources of accurate information and then to use critical analysis to assess the veracity/bias and current/potential uses of new information; and
  • finding out the topics children will study in the coming school months and then promoting interest by introducing things that relate to the topic, providing background knowledge and interest.
Willis provides many concrete ideas for parents to teach these skills at home. I strongly urge you to read the article. The ideas provided would make a great beginning for a discussion in a parent support group. 

This blog post initially appeared on the Gifted Child Info Blog on May 6, 2011.