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21st Century Skills

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Science Education in Theory and Practice

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“21st Century Skills” have become part of the lexicon in education. In 1997, the National Academy of Sciences in the United States released the report, Preparing for the 21st Century: The Education Imperative. The papers contained within the report examined challenges in education for the upcoming century. As we entered the 21st century, several new reports emerged over the next two decades that set out to define the 21st century skills needed to prepare students for success in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Although the 21st century skills listed in these reports varied, there were a number of overlapping skills deemed essential. At the center of all the recommendations was a solid education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In addition to a strong STEM education, 21st century skills also include several soft skills and dispositions including cross-cultural skills, collaboration skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving. A central theme in the literature is the need for creativity and innovation, and one of the major recommendations truly unique to the 21st century is the need to prepare students for the digital age. Although there is general agreement that 21st century skills are essential for all students, there is much debate surrounding the role of K-12 education on how to help students learn these skills. This chapter highlights 21st century skills as presented in various international policy documents. The focus to date has been on the identification of 21st century skills. It may be time to move past identifying skills by refocusing research and policy efforts on better aligning standardized assessments to include 21st century skills, evaluating the level of implementation of 21st century skills in the classroom, and building expertise in the pedagogies that support their inclusion.

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Correspondence to Teresa J. Kennedy .

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Further Reading on Model 21CS STEM Schools

Further Reading on Model 21CS STEM Schools

Denver School for Science and Technology, Colorado:

High Tech High Charter School, San Diego, California:

Manor New Technology High School, Texas:

University of Texas at Tyler University Academy:

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Kennedy, T.J., Sundberg, C.W. (2020). 21st Century Skills. In: Akpan, B., Kennedy, T.J. (eds) Science Education in Theory and Practice. Springer Texts in Education. Springer, Cham.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-43619-3

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