In an article with the DesMoines Register, author Tony Wagner says, “Mastering more content doesn’t equate to more competency.”
Tony Wagner is co-director of the Change in Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His new book, which I haven’t read yet, is titled, “The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach The New Survival Skills Our Children Need – And What We Can Do About It.”
This quote I chose to lead with is very straightforward, yet it opens up a complex range of conversations. How do we test for competency? Content is easy to test – isn’t that why we teach it?
Maybe many of our schools and educators are focused on getting through the content. Covering more content in a class, however, doesn’t mean the students will be more competent when they get into the world on their own, as Wagner states.
Wagner goes on to say in the question-answer article, “Once we understand there is a core set of competencies – such as the ability to comprehend complex material, write well, the ability to ask questions – then you have to design tests to measure those competencies.”
I believe most educators are becoming aware of the core 21st Century skills that students need to enter the workforce or secondary education, but the problem lies in how to test those skills. My question is, could we ever really know if they have mastered them by a test? He suggests two tests that measure these skills. See the article for more on that.
Besides the testing question, about how we assess the mastery of these skills, my question to you is: do you foster the development of 21st Century skills in your classroom? In more specific terms, is your room or course structured in a way that students leave prepared to collaborate across networks, critically analyze and locate information, be flexible and adaptable, take the reins and start something new, communicate effectively (both written and oral), and most importantly: use their imagination and curiosity?
I hope that when my students leave my room, they have more marketable skills than regurgitating content, or in the case of the cartoon above, acting like a log.