I recently ran across this article where the researchers performed a synthesis and analysis of 15 frameworks for 21st century education: What Knowledge is of Most Worth: Teacher Knowledge for 21st Century Learning. As a result of their work, they developed a three-spoked framework to represent three categories – to know, to act, to value.
Two key contributions emerged from this review. We argue that our analysis indicates a somewhat paradoxical state of affairs when we think about 21st century knowledge. First, we argue that our synthesis of these different frameworks suggests that nothing has changed, that this tripartite division between what we know, how we act on that knowledge, and what we value has always been important. That said, though these foundational ideas have always been key to learning, in some vital ways (particularly given advances in technology and globalization), everything has changed. Taking each of these positions in turn, we explain them more comprehensively below.
Nothing has changed. It is clear that not all of the knowledge and skills present in 21st century frameworks are unique and novel to this century. This idea is not unique to our analysis; Diane Ravitch seems to share this sentiment: “There is nothing new in the proposals of the 21st century skills movement. The same ideas were iterated and reiterated by pedagogues across the twentieth century” (2009). The world of the future will continue to depend on specialized knowledge (or domain knowledge) and high-level cognitive skills (such as creativity and critical thinking). These skills, rather than being novel to the 21st century, are required for successful learning and achievement in any time, including but not limited to the 21st century. Additionally, interpersonal skills (such as life skills, leadership, and cultural competence) have also been important in the past and will continue to be in the future.
Everything has changed. For a variety of reasons, though core ideas and goals of education have not changed, the specifics of how each of these is instantiated have changed (Jerald, 2009; Keengwe, Onchwari, & Wachira, 2008; Metiri Group, 2003). Although this may seem contradictory to the previous statement that nothing has changed, it remains true and highlights the complex and even sometimes ambiguous impact of technology and globalization on teaching and learning. (p. 131)
What strikes me about the framework is how it relates to the current manner in which we assess students (for accountability purposes) – standardized tests. The focus is definitely on the “to know.” If the skills of “to do” and “to value” are still, well, of value, then how long before our assessments catch up? How are we measuring these areas locally?
From a leadership perspective, how does our leadership demonstrate we value all three — “to know,” “to act,” and “to value”? We do have the power to change things locally and this new framework can be helpful to promote inquiry.