Skills for the 21st Century

Cognitive and Literacy Skills for Success in a Fast-Paced Technological Age

Draft 21st Century Skills List

Below is a list we’ve collected of the ‘meta-skills’/cognitive skills Adults will need to Succeed in the 21st Century.  These were drafted by a small group of Tech folks at the Center for Literacy Studies and then added to/refined some at COABE 2010.  We plan to update this list based on blog discussions, research we find, and comments on this page.  please let us know what you think!

  • Reading – NOT on paper
    • Web pages/blogs/forums/text bits
    • Skimming/scanning (as it applies to webpage and small screen layouts)
    • Step by step directions (illustrated or not)
  • Following directions: auditory, video, written
  • Visual Literacy – see Visual Presentations
  • Evaluation skills
    • Determining bias/validity of data
    • Creating/establishing criteria suitable to task; revising criteria based on results
    • Comparing to criteria & testing/drawing conclusions
    • Relationship of numbers to ideas and conclusions
    • Estimating
  • Problem solving skills
    • Diagnose
      • Eliciting information from others
      • Determining likley causes from available data
    • Prioritization
    • Scientific method/experimentation
    • Finding information
  • Creativity
    • Innovation – think outside the box
    • The ability to make inferences
    • Abstract thinking
  • Collaboration skills (focus on NOT face to face – e-mail/blogs/social networking sites/twitter)
    • Communication skills (speak, listen, write)
    • Guide/teach others
    • Avoid/negotiate/resolve conflict
    • Metacognitive Knowledge of Others (ability to understand/determine how others think, learn, & communicate  best; others’ strengths and weaknesses, etc.) added 4-22-10
  • *Life-long learning skills
    • Flexibility to learn via different modes;
    • Metacognitive Self Knowledge (knowing your natural inclinations, talents & strengths, areas that need improvement, how you learn best, likes/dislikes, etc.) added 4-22-10
    • Take responsibility for learning; pro-active in learning
  • *Generalization; pattern recognition
    • ability to apply prior knowledge to new situations;
    • think logically – if this, then this (Sequential logic)
  • *Courage/gumption
    • No fear; open to new things; ability to wing it; able to cope with uncertainty;
    • have good/strong coping skills for stress
    • Adaptability

Purple were added at COABE – the most recent update. 

*We think teaching these skills is a real challenge and would welcome ideas!


9 Responses to “Draft 21st Century Skills List”

  1. Silvia Morgan said

    Self-knowledge should be one of the skills. The sub-categories could be:

    Identify natural inclinations
    Identify natural talents
    Identify strenghts
    Identify likes and dislikes
    Identify areas that need improvement

    I would move the sub-topic of “knowing how you learn best” to this category of self knowledge.

    • durencls said

      Ooo – I like this addition to the idea of “know yourself.” How can you be a good collborator/life-long learner/creative thinker if you don’t know yourself?

      Hmmm…’self-knowledge’, however, seems to me a thing/an end state. Thinking about it, what SKILL(s) does a person have (or develop) that lead to self-knowledge – particularly ongoing/regularly updated self knowledge? Introspection? The ability to reflect on practice? [This is a psych/philosophy thing I think…]

      • Silvia Morgan said

        Let me give you a practical example. I go to a meeting and I come up with an idea. Knowing that one of my strenghts is “ideation”, my contributions often help the team find solutions. However, somebody else may take my idea and run with it. Once they work on the idea and come up with a product, I review it and improve it using my other strenght “maximizer”. Knowing my strengths and those of others on our team helps us all do what we do best without feeling like we have to finish everything we start. It makes for highly successful projects. Hope this helped clarify.

      • durencls said

        OK, I went out and did some online research, and I think this is considered a subset of metacognition – one part being knowledge of how cognition works, and another being understanding of how *your own* cognition works. (a couple of citations below).

        Metacognitive knowledge involves knowledge about cognition in general, as well as awareness of and knowledge about one’s own cognition. ” Paul R. Pintrich, The role of metacognitive knowledge in learning, teaching, and assessing, Theory into Practice, Autumn, 2002;col1

        Metacognitive self-knowledge has been identified as a crucial component of effective learning. It entails students recognizing their learning strengths and weaknesses, styles and preferences, and motivational beliefs.”
        Kathryn Wiezbicki-Stevens (2009) Metacognition: developing self-knowledge through guided reflection (Dissertation abstract and page 2)

        So, hmm – we’ll revise what we have up there about metacognition. See what you think.

  2. Thanks for posting this list of the “new” basic skills. I am going to use this (with a link to your page, of course, and a few slight modifications) in a presentation I will be doing here in California at our state ESOL conference, CATESOL, ( about the role of technology in transitioning learners to work and to post-secondary education.

  3. P.S. Just tweeted your blog. 🙂

  4. Silvia Morgan said

    Hi Marian, I remember you from CALPRO.

    As a Novice to Tweeting myself, do you have a link to it so I can see what it looks like?

    Thank you.

  5. Rhona said

    Great to see this list. I am going to create a poster to put on my noticeboard for the students to see.

  6. […] 21st Century Skills List […]

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