Posted on 09/01/2016 at 08:30 AM by Liz Determan

While we work diligently in education to graduate students who are career and college ready, the majority of our focus is on the academic achievement of our students with little, if any, attention being given to the attainment of the soft skills students will need to be successful in the workplace.  Kate Davidson, in a Wall Street Journal article (August 30, 2016) reported that 2.3 million LinkedIn profiles were analyzed to determine what were the significant factors impacting the employment of individuals who had changed jobs in the past year and found those who promoted their ability to communicate well, work effectively as a team member, was punctual and a critical thinker/problem-solver were more likely to be hired by their next employer than those who did not share those qualities or characteristics in their resume. 

Iowa got it right with the Universal Constructs that were released with the Iowa Core.  When identifying the top soft skills listed among employers, Iowa chose the term “universal constructs” instead of 21st Century Skills because that terminology was already in the Iowa Core documents.  Iowa identified Universal Constructs following an analysis of the competencies and habits of mind needed for future successes in careers, college and citizenry. A team of educators and business representatives conducted a literature review of multiple sources that included the P21’s “Framework for 21st Century Learning,” the “Definition and Selection of Key Competencies” by NCREL/Metiri Group, the cross disciplinary proficiencies in the “American Diploma Project” by Achieve, “The Global Achievement Gap” by Tony Wagner, “Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives” by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, and Describing the Habits of Mind by Arthur Costa (NOTE: Should this be “Discovering and Exploring Habits of Mind” by Arthur Costa). The universal constructs apply to all aspects of an individual's life across all curricular areas and describe those skills that fall outside the academic area of education but are equally important for our students’ success past high school.  The hope was to encourage all teachers in the PK-12th grade educational system to integrate and assess our students’ ability and competence in the universal constructs; areas such as complex communication, creativity, adaptability and flexibility, as well as critical thinking, collaboration, productivity and accountability.  These are critical skills needed by our graduates if they are to be career and college ready.

Please see the attached document to find more detail about the Universal Constructs.

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