Monthly Archives: October 2014

Learning Gold

Core competencies, 21st Century skills, transdisciplinary skills, approaches to learning, interdisciplinary skills, fluencies…though called different things in different academic circles, competencies are at the fore-front of many educational conversations relating to teaching and learning. A Google search of the term “core competencies” yields 4,150,000 possibilities. Words like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, leadership, responsibility, accountability, productivity, metagcognition, creativity, innovation, information literacy, digital literacy, problem solving, interpersonal skills, self-management, time management…appear repeatedly in these search results. The subtleties of terminology are not what is most important; what is important is that these competencies/skills/fluencies/approaches transcend subject disciplines and have the power to transform teaching and learning.
When I was growing up, achieving independent work habits was the gold standard that defined how successful a student was. Could I start a task and then work on my own, without incident or interaction, to finish it? This was highly valued in the classroom setting, and if you could sit on your own, pencil to page, you might receive a comment like, “Tanya works quietly and independently on tasks. Tanya is a delight to have in class.” If you couldn’t, well then maybe the comment would look like this, “Tanya has difficulty working independently. She is encouraged to spend less time socializing and more time completing tasks independently.” Independence and compliance spelled success in school. If you could follow the rules, sit still, not talk unless asked, repeat facts and print neatly you were a “golden” student. The mantle of leadership was bestowed on those who followed the rules the best, and the polarity of good and bad defined how we were assessed.
Enter core competencies, 21st century skills, or whatever you like to call them. The very nature of these skills turns the old definition of “delightful” or “model” student on its head and defines a new “gold standard” in learning. Even the word student is finding it’s way out of our vernacular. Yesteryear’s student who couldn’t sit still and needed to use his/her hands is today’s learner who is a thinker who learns by doing. Yesteryear’s student who was “chatty” or “social” is today’s learner who is a communicator who collaborates and shares ideas and thinking. Yesteryear’s student who was “slow and quiet” is today’s learner who is purposeful and reflective. Yesteryear’s student who “marched to the beat of their own drum” is today’s learner who is a creative problem solver. When we look at learners through the lens of how instead of what, the old gold standard quickly loses its sheen. A new definition of learning is emerging…and it’s truly gold.