Posted on 01/16/2013 at 11:05 AM by Global Reach
Seven Survival Skills for Teens Today (Part 1)
“The Global Achievement Gap” by Tony Wagner
If you have even picked up Tony Wagner’s “The Global Achievement Gap” and flipped over to the back cover, you will see the seven survival skills for teens today listed under the heading: “a bold new plan to teach and test the competencies that matter most for the twenty-first century.” And, even though the copyright on the book is 2008, many of us in education are continuing to struggle with both teaching and assessing these skills, as relevant as they are to having college and career ready graduates.
When you ask a group of teachers, “do you teach critical thinking and problem-solving” almost all will say they do. The real indicator for the fidelity of the instruction is tied to the assessment of those skills. Most of the time, there will be very little, if any, performance-based assessment of these skills within the context of their classroom. When Wagner asked Clay Parker, the president of the Chemical Management Division of BOC Edwards – a company that, among other things, makes the machines and supplies the chemicals for the manufacture of micro-electronics devices, including silicon semiconductors and flat-panel displays- what the first thing was that he looked for in a new employee, he said, “First and foremost, I look for someone who asks good questions. Our business is changing, and so the skills our engineers need change rapidly, as well. We can teach them the technical stuff. But for employees to solve problems or to learn new things, they heave to know what questions to ask. And we can’t teach them how to ask good questions – how to think. The ability to ask the right questions is the single most important skill.” (pg. 2) He then went on to explain the importance of his employees being able to be engaged in good discussion, have an intelligent exchange of ideals and be able to think through the issues.
Wagner describes the next skill set as collaboration across networks and leading by influence. In most educational settings, we use the term “teamwork”, however this term does not entail the extent and depth of Wagner’s skill set in this area. Parker explained to Wagner that all of their work was done in teams. His employees “have to know how to work well with others. But you also have to know how to engage the customer – to find out what his needs are. If you can’t engage others, the you won’t learn what you need to know.” (pg. 2) In most organizations, the way work is done is lots of networks of cross-functional teams that work together on specific projects. The solution is not prescribed and the expectation is that the front-line team will have the critical thinking skills and the ability to work together to solve whatever challenge they are presented.
In what specific ways can you address these two critical skill sets in your classroom? Be specific, intentional and have a performance-based assessment that demonstrates mastery.