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21st Century Skills and Akron's new middle school

By John Published: March 19, 2010

Fascinating story in the spring issue of American Educator (American Federation of Teachers)  by Andrew J. Rotherham and Daniel T. Willingham about the co-called 21st Century Skills movement. I interviewed Willingham, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia during my research last year on Akron's new National Inventors Hall of Fame middle school. See series here:

They rightly argue that critical thinking skills are worthless without relevant content to think about. They also warn that methods such as project-based or problem-centered learning, which are the basis for instruction at the National Inventors Hall of Fame School, require significant training and support for teachers.

They conclude:

If we ignore these challenges, the 21st century skills movement risks becoming another fad that ultimately changes little -- or even worse, sets back the cause of creating dramatically more powerful schools for U.S. students, especially those who are underserved today.

The educators who planned Akron's middle school were well aware of the challenges facing the teachers and the failures of past student-centered efforts. This sidebar in the STEM series outlines some of that debate.



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