Learning Practices That Best Support Development of 21st Century Skills
November 2011 • Sue Jackson

As part of our continuing series dealing with 21st century teaching and learning, this month's tip asks: What learning practices best support the development of 21st century skills?

Integrating 21st century skills into daily classroom life takes careful consideration of teaching and learning methods. In their book, 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, Twilling and Fadel outline several learning practices evident in today's classrooms. The pairings of teaching and learning methods in the chart below represent both ends of the spectrum. In order to find the right balance for each learner, teachers must blend both. For example, a combination of approaches from modelling, shared practice, and guided practice are essential when students are learning to apply comprehension strategies independently.

Chart: 21st Century Learning Balance
Teacher-directed Learner-directed
Direct Instruction Interactive exchange
Knowledge Skills
Content Process
Basic skills Applied Skills
Facts and principles Questions and problems
Theory Practice
Curriculum-based Project-based
Time-slotted On-demand
One-size-fits-all Personalized
Competitive Collaborative
Classroom Global community
Text-based Web-based
Summative tests Formative assessments
Learning for school Learning for life
from Trilling, Bernie and Fadel, Charles, 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009.

Classrooms where teachers are shifting their practices to meet the needs of 21st century learners have some of these in common: