New Insights

In an article entitled “Learning 21st Century skills requires 21st-century teaching,” Anna Rosefsky Saavedra and V. Darleen Opfer outline nine lessons relative to the teaching of 21st century skills. These include: “make it relevant, teach through the disciplines, develop thinking skills, encourage learning transfer, teach students how to learn, address misunderstandings directly, treat teamwork like an outcome, exploit technology to support learning, and foster creativity” (2012).

What the authors call “making it relevant” is particularly important for adult educators. As expressed by Sharan B. Merriam and Laura L. Bierema, adult learners draw from a rich resource of experience (2014). It is therefore up to us to ensure that “subject matter is brought into the situation, is put to work, when needed” (Lindeman, 1926/1961, 8). This has inspired me to reconsider how I can make topics relevant, or put them to work to foster the development of 21st century competencies within the humanities. Equally important in the humanities, and my field in particular, is the ability to teach through the discipline. Not only do I want students to understand the content but also the historiography, or as Saavendra and Opfer note, “the production of knowledge within the discipline” (10).

At a time when very few of my students become “art historians,” it becomes increasingly important to teach the metacognitive skills associated with 21st century ways of thinking, such as critical thinking skills, flexibility of learning transfer, and the ability to learn independently. I am inspired by the fact that visual literacy appears on the many of the lists outlining competencies becoming more in demand. So to is creative thinking. In considering the role of educators in the development of skills like critical and creative thinking, Saavendra and Opfer emphasize the importance of teaching these processes. They are not innate characteristics – they can be developed when taught in a structured and intentional way (Robinson, 2001). With a great deal of self-reflexivity, and intention, I think adult educators have the opportunity to foster 21st century skills.

For some of the reading that has provided insight into the trend of 21st Century Skills.

Lindeman, E.C. (1926/1961). The Meaning of adult education in the United States. New York: Harvest House.

Merriam, S.B., & Bierema, L.L. (2014). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Robinson, K. (2001). Mind the gap: The creative conundrum. Critical Quarterly, 43 (1).

Rosefsky Saavedra, A., & Opfer, V. (2012). Learning 21st-century skills requires 21st-century teaching. Phi Delta Kappan, 94(2), 8-13.

Voogt, J., & Roblin, N. P. (2010). 21st century skills. Discussienota. Enschede: Universiteit Twente iov Kennisnet.

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