The debate between core knowledge and 21st century skills is an interesting one. The core knowledge website states that it “is not driven by ideology, but logically by science, history, and research,” (The Core Knowledge Foundation, 2010). This statement implies that there is little to no research to support other frameworks such as 21st century skills, but rather just ideologies/theories. This argument is one among many on their “our philosophy” section of the website that presents its simplistic, misleading views on education in a black-and-white manner.
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) website reveals an excellent overview of their comprehensive, differentiated framework for learning. The framework identifies several essential skills, including: core subjects, 21st century content, learning and thinking skills, ICT literacy, life skills, and 21st century assessments (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2011). The P21 framework encourages higher-order thinking skills, versus a “knowledge gap,” (The Core Knowledge Foundation, 2010). Rather than focusing on providing a greater breadth of knowledge, the P21 framework emphasizes inquiry-oriented learning, which involves students taking a more active role in their learning; this is supported by the “practice by doing” section of the learning pyramid, as shown below (Coffman, 2009; Educational Origami, 2012).
As Coffman (2009) states, “planning for inquiry projects goes beyond having students achieve content knowledge; planning should also engage students into practicing higher-order thinking skills, such as applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information in order to create a new understanding of knowledge.” Therefore, P21 skills goes above simply planning more comprehensive content knowledge curricula; it pushes for critical thinking skills that will transfer more easily into the student’s everyday life, as well as be maintained in their long-term memory.
My content area, English, has several important components that are relevant to the content knowledge/21st century skills debate. The most important component is reading comprehension. The Core Knowledge Foundation states that “narrowing the curriculum to make more time for reading strategy instruction is ultimately self-defeating,” (2010). The Foundation indicates that teaching reading strategies is a waste of time, and that the educational effect is only a temporary boost.
But how can reading strategies be temporarily effective when explicitly teaching these strategies can help struggling readers to realize where they might be struggling in the reading process? If you had unlimited amounts of time and resources, some students would still not understand the text because of the method by which they are reading (ex. not internally creating a picture of what they read, etc.). It is essential to explicitly teach these reading comprehension skills in order to further aid your students in being able to apply these skills to any subject, as every subject in school requires a student to possess adequate literacy skills.
Coffman, T. (2009). Engaging students through inquiry-oriented learning and technology. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Education.
Educational Origami (2012). 21st century pedagogy. Retrieved September 6, 2012 from: http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/21st+Century+Pedagogy
Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2011). P21 FAQ. Retrieved September 6, 2012 from: http://www.p21.org/overview/p21-faq
The Core Knowledge Foundation (2010). Our philosophy: Every child deserves equal access to common knowledge. Retrieved September 6, 2012 from: http://coreknowledge.org/