3 Lessons from Jennifer Tan at 21CLHK: When 21st-Century Skills Become Visible

This is post by Ritchie Wong a final year education student in Hong Kong about his experience at 21CLHK.

One big question educators always ask about the ever-growing role of 21st-century skills: How can I identify, develop and assess vague soft skills like creativity, and collaboration?’ Thanks to Ms. Tan, at least, we have one clue make these skills visible, and evidence-based. She illustrated how this can work in K12 education, by sharing her on-going experiments to develop students in Singapore with creativeness and collaborative-ness through dialogic evidence.  Below are the three lessons learnt.

1. To Change Education Is To Change the Rubrics

Clearly inspired by the idea of backward design, the 21st-century-skill framework proposed by Dr. Tan starts commenced with explicitly defining indicators of success in creativity, and collaboration—in her case, the exemplar dialogues generated by students. She added: not only should positive indicators be listed out in the rubrics, but also the negative ones—though things get more subjective here. When every stakeholder shares the understanding of what and how the learning of these skills can and should be demonstrated, this synchronised transparency can lead to a higher likeliness of the development of these skills.

2. Don’t Over-Script the Learning Experience for Students

While a carefully designed learning experience seems to be well-intended, its hidden protectiveness though unwanted by any educators might be silently destroying opportunities for students to better demonstrate their uninterrupted creativity. Of course, we need a plan: learning objectives, rubrics or learning experiences. But, in this era of self-paced education, controlling the time spent, the space used or steps adopted is what Dr. Tan described as over-scripted learning experience’. Something, we might consider avoiding when designing the next unit of learning in our classrooms.

But…Who Should Define Creativity?
It’s always good if every teacher has the shared rubrics to guide through students in our carefully designed problem-based tasks. Step by step, then a solved problem, as well as competency is attained. Everything sounds so perfect that I almost forget to ask…’but who says this is creativity? Who says this is the best procedure to solve the problem? Do the real-world experts do things a bit differently?’ Eric Ries might think Lean Startup is the best model, while David Kelley might argue that Design Thinking is better. This likely development of endless debate on reaching a consent for the definitions of such vague terms has led me to think about one possible solution in the future: if leaders in every industry, from NASA to IDEO, can collectively generate an experientially approved rubric for all the success skills, it would be wonderful.
Photo Credit: @cecilwmack