Posted on 02/12/2013 at 02:53 PM by Global Reach

Seven Survival Skills for Teens Today (Part 2)
“The Global Achievement Gap” by Tony Wagner

Wagner continues his explanation of the next survival skills for our students to be college and career ready by interviewing Jonathan King, an internationally renowned molecular biologist who teaches a range of biology courses to undergrad and grad students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  King’s children had attended the same highly regarded public school but from the time his first son went through the 4th grade and his second son went through the same grade and teacher, the shift of the focus of learning in the classroom had fundamentally shifted.  “I worry about the future of science in this country.  For kids to get passionate about science they have to get their hands dirty – literally.  They have to have labs where they study things in depth and learn to observe, instead of just memorizing facts from a textbook.  The kids who take my intro to lab courses today have gotten top scores on all the Advanced Placement science courses in their high schools, but they don’t know how to observe.  I ask the to describe what they see in the microscope, and they want to know what they should be looking for – what the right answer is.” (pg. 7)  The students need to be able to access and analyze information, know how to show the initiative and discover without the expectation that someone will be standing over them to tell them what it is they need to know and do.  Employees will need to be able to sift through an overwhelming amount of information in order to figure out what is important and what is not.  It is most important to teach students, as soon as they are able to think in abstract ways, to be curious about things, to find the answers through an inquiry process and to discover the answers they are looking for rather than being told by the teacher.  “It is not just the sheer quantity of information that represents such a challenge but also how rapidly and constantly the information is changing.” (pg. 37)  Freedman has identified this as a “hyper-connected” world.
   
As Wagner researched this, he became aware of what he call the “global achievement gap” which is “the gap between what our best public schools are teaching and testing versus what ALL students will need to succeed as learners, workers, and citizens in today’s global knowledge economy.” (pg.8) Additional skills that are critical and could really take a study all on their own are the following:
•    Agility and adaptability – to be able to think, be flexible, change and adapt in a work place where the functions of your job may change every 6 months.  Cisco, a leading networking company in the world, identifies their leaders by asking three questions: “(1) How do you deal with exogenous factors that are going to impact the way they think and lead (such as 9/11 and what’s going on in other parts of the globe)? (2) How do they handle internal disruption – innovation and change management? (3) How do they understand disruptions that are happening in our industry space or in adjacent spaces?” (pg. 31)  There is not one right answer and you must be brave enough to share your thoughts, ideas and creative solutions while being forward thinking and relevant.
•    Initiative and entrepreneurialism – individuals who have an achievement orientation, are self-starters, who will take the lead in providing a creative spark or have a willingness to take the risks others may not.  Those who can find a new way to do their work that is more beneficial, more affective and more cost-effective for the companies they work for.
•    Effective oral and written communication – always on the list.  These skills continue to be among the top skills employers struggle with finding in their employees.  Partnership for 21st Century Skills study reports 80.9% of employers find high school graduates, 46.4% of two-year college graduates, and 26.2% of four-year college graduates deficient in their communication skills.  Our students need to be able to communicate in a clear, concise and effective manner.  They need to be able to articulate what they know, what they think, why they think it and what difference it makes with focus, energy and passion.
•    Curiosity and imagination – creative problem solving, out-of-the-box thinking, designing new ways of doing business or offering services to your customer in a more personalized way to meet their needs.  This skill is about developing, in our students, a burning curiosity, a lively imagination and an engaging conversation about what the possibilities might be instead of what the right answer is.

What ways can we more effectively include these skills into our classrooms so students can demonstration mastery in ways that will set them apart for their global competitors?

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