What Schools Can Do Today to Support the Skills of Tomorrow
As reported by The World Economic Forum, 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025 as the adoption of technology increases. McKinsey reports that this change is coming more quickly due to Covid, which pushed companies to scale remote work and accelerate automation. “Companies, educators, and policymakers are all going to have to work together to help people identify these career pathways and then create programs, resources, and reskilling opportunities necessary to make them possible.” Companies have already begun making changes to the training and development opportunities for their employees, but is education evolving as quickly?
In the fall of 2020, The World Economic Forum published a report citing the top 10 job skills of tomorrow-and how long it takes to learn them.
The top 10 skills of 2025 they published were:
Analytical thinking and innovation
Active learning & learning strategies
Complex problem solving
Critical thinking and analysis
Creativity, originality and initiative
Leadership & social influence
Technology use, monitoring & control
Technology design & programming
Resilience, stress tolerance & flexibility
Reasoning, problem solving & ideation
As business predicts these trends and shifts in
job skills, it’s important that school systems
adequately prepare students. But what do
these skills entail and how can educators
incorporate them into their teaching?
Analytical Thinking & Innovation
Analytical thinking is the ability to tackle complicated problems by evaluating information. Analytical thinkers know how to take a large task or project and break it down into manageable steps.
In the classroom: Incorporating analytical thinking strategies in the classroom encourages students to have a growth mindset. Teachers can support students in becoming innovative, analytical thinkers by infusing real-world contexts into their teachings. Pages of problems or exercises without context does not promote the conversation and discussion needed to encourage student development of conceptual understanding. Teachers can support analytic thinking and innovation from shifting their focus from the giver of knowledge to the facilitator for learning. Allow students time to collaborate and authentically try to solve problems in your classroom.
Active Learning & Learning Strategies
Active learning is an approach to instruction that engages students through experiential learning. Research indicates that hands-on activities result in better attention and retention. Students benefit from having a repertoire of learning strategies to apply to other areas of learning.
In the classroom: Instead of delivering a lecture or having students copy notes, think of ways to engage students by having them DO something. Project based learning is a great way to have students experience meaningful learning.
Complex Problem Solving
Complex problems are those that include the ability to approach them from multiple perspectives with the possibility of multiple solutions.
In the classroom: In the real world it’s rare that there is one right answer and one way to get there. Get students used to this in the classroom by providing opportunities to engage in dialogue and debate, design their own experiments or research topics of their choice. Offer learning opportunities that don’t result in a single correct answer or follow a formulaic procedure.
Critical Thinking & Analysis:
Critical thinking and analysis is when we make connections between ideas and concepts, and apply new knowledge to current situations and understandings. It has less to do with remembering, and more to do with solving.
In the classroom: It’s not enough to tell students to think critically, they need to be taught. Model making connections, taking risks and being persistence during difficult challenges. Push students to ask questions beyond those that are answered with a Google search.
Creativity, Originality & Initiative:
Many learning experiences lead to a common outcome. However, when experiences involve different avenues, learners can end up with variability in outcomes base on creative endeavors and specific initiatives.
In the classroom: Teachers can spark student creativity by designing learning experiences with a variety of loose parts that lend themselves to student choice and conversations. Because fear can often stifle creativity, it’s important that teachers provide low-stakes feedback so that students understand that mistakes are part of learning.
Leadership & Social Influence:
Leadership as a skills involves the facilitation of others, and bringing influence into a group to work together through a learning experience.
In the classroom: In a traditional classroom teachers are the authority. To encourage leadership skills in students and authentic student talk, this hierarchy needs to be broken so that students aren’t regurgitating ideas they perceive to be correct. Changing the flow of discussion, allowing for wait time, and prompts can support student driven conversations. In the work force we don’t all get assigned a role within a group, nor do we all contribute the same. Instead, we perform specific tasks related to our expertise and perceived strengths. Allow students to do the same in the classroom.
Technology Design & Programming:
Changes in technology have updated the workforce and education settings exponentially over the last decade, and it doesn’t appear this will be slowing. Technology design–such as developing media and design projects to applying learning will become a skill important to all areas of work and life.
In the classroom: Over 80 years ago, John Dewey said, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” This rings true with the increasing scope of technology in the classroom. Teachers need to begin considering the technology used in the workforce–such as 3D printing, augmented reality, instructional design and bring these learnings into the classroom. Additionally the growing number of coding programs available in K-12 education can engage students to use computer science across core content and increase computational thinking.
Resilience, Stress Tolerance & Flexibility:
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from challenges. This could be obstacles in one’s personal life, to managing stressful workloads or frustrating colleagues.
In the classroom: Resilient learners have a growth mindset in respect to learning. They believe that their talents and abilities can be developed through hard work and good strategies. They are less likely than their peers with a fixed mindset to believe that their talents are innate and they are either simply “good” or “bad” at a task. In the classroom it’s important that educators support a student’s growth mindset to increase not only their resilience but also their stress tolerance and flexibility. One way teachers can do this is by offering the students the chance to redo assignments and assessments. By allowing retakes, teachers show students that they haven’t met a learning standard yet, but still have the opportunity to meet expectations. Even something as simple as having a student use a pen, or different colored font on a digital document, can be a visual reminder to students of their growth and movement towards mastery. It’s important for students to internalize the belief that they can be successful.