ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Making Learning Relevant for the Whole Child

Tim Magner

Post submitted by Tim Magner, executive director of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), the leading national organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student. Magner has had an extensive career in education, serving most recently as the vice president of Keystone for KC Distance Learning as well as the director of the Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of Education. Follow P21 on Twitter @P21CentSkills.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) has spent nearly 10 years bringing together leading education, business, and nonprofit organizations to provide a unified framework defining what students need to know and be able to do, not just to succeed but to lead in the 21st century. By defining success holistically as the fusion of both knowledge and skills, P21's Framework for 21st Century Learning is focused on preparing students for college, career, and citizenship. The Framework includes the 4Cs of creativity and innovation, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking and problem solving, together with life and career skills and a mastery of technology, media, and information.

We believe that the P21 Framework is embedded within ASCD's Whole Child Initiative embodying engaged and relevant learning; a personalized educational experience; and readiness for college, career, and citizenship. We believe instruction that fuses mastery of core content and fluency in 21st century skills and the 4Cs offer educators, students, and parents an entrée into a new way of thinking about teaching, learning, and the role of school.

21st century skills development can offer new platforms for students to explore through project-based learning, to integrate the use of real world information, and apply newly acquired knowledge and skills to address the most pressing problems of our time; the very challenges our young people are already engaged in and will need to solve for us and for future generations. In this way, skills development offers exciting ways for students to make relevant connections to schools and surrounding communities. By linking communities back to schools and embedding schools in their communities to take advantage of cross-sector partnerships and parent support, we open up a new dialogue about the role and purpose of school in supporting the development and experiences that truly speak to the needs of the whole child.

We have seen the power of these types of initiatives at the K–12 level with schools like the National Academy Foundation's school-career academies and the New Tech Network of schools all over the country. Each of these examples highlights the value of giving every child the opportunity to be successful and the autonomy for students to take ownership and responsibility for their own learning.

What matters most is that we have a common end-point in mind so that as we talk about the whole child and 21st century skills, we work together to develop collaborative partnerships between schools and communities to create the kinds of learning ecosystems that respond to the individual needs of every student.

It is time for us as adults to bring together in-school, after-school, and those community organizations beyond school to work towards the same goal. Each sector has a role to play and P21 is recognizing this need by working with our partners to make this a reality. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that our students graduate ready for the demands of a technology-infused global workforce and well prepared for global and digital citizenship. Our entire economy, our democracy, and our future depend on it.

Comments (1)


March 25, 2012

I am a highly creative, motivated effective executive with extensive problem solving experience looking for organizational opportunities to apply my dynamic communication skills that will extend my innovative track record.

Problem Solving

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