Many educators agree that teaching 21st-century skills is critical for students’ success in today’s global, information-based economy, but not every educator knows how to integrate these skills successfully into the curriculum. Online tools and frameworks might help, but what’s really needed to make this change is hands-on training and professional development.
Now, a new network of professional development experts aims to help fill this need.
Six years in the making, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ (P21’s) Professional Development Affiliate Program is training associated organizations how to integrate its Framework for 21st Century Learning into their professional development activities. These affiliate groups, in turn, will work with schools and districts to show educators how to incorporate 21st-century skills into the curriculum.
"We knew that a small [organization] like P21 couldn’t handle this type of deep infiltration just through our own web site and resources," said Ken Kay, P21 president, "but we could be the catalyst to jumpstart this program. Through this program, whole communities can be served."
Nearly 30 people from 11 organizations were the inaugural participants in the program and now have the resources they need to align their professional development activities with P21’s Framework.
These inaugural organizations are the Arizona K-12 Center, Atomic Learning, Center for Education Innovation and Regional Economic Development, Edvantia, EdVenture Group, Learning Point Associates, Metiri Group, National Education Association, Pearson Education, Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, and Virtual High School.
"We wanted diverse companies and organizations, so we asked for participants from the private and public sectors, for-profit and nonprofit, global and regional, and state and local [organizations]," said Kay. "Keep in mind, though, that this is just a pilot project, and the network is not done yet."
Upon completing the affiliate training program, participants become part of a national community that will strive to infuse 21st-century skills into K-12 instructional practices and share their work with colleagues.
"Arizona faces a pressing need for establishing higher standards in K-12 student performance. This means a close examination of teaching practices, curricula, and overall school operations. Using the 21st Century Skills Framework, we can ensure that student learning and teaching practices are aligned with the ever-changing needs of our society and economy. The Professional Development Affiliate Program gives us the opportunity to offer our expertise in this area to a broad constituency of educators," said Penny Kotterman, associate director of new programs and policy for the Arizona K-12 Center.
P21 says the training program for inaugural participants included workshops, seminars, guides, practice scenarios, and diverse lesson plans that focus on different aspects of P21’s Framework. These different methods of incorporating 21st-century skills into the K-12 curriculum will be included in the organizations’ own professional development programs.
"The P21 affiliates seminar was one of the best seminars I’ve attended in a long time," said Jacki Kientzle, product manager for Atomic Learning. "The breakout sessions were relevant and well-organized."
There will be two more sessions this year to help organizations implement P21’s Framework, and Kay says the goal is to have 100 key practitioners involved in the affiliate program over the next year.
Educators who are interested in having affiliates work with their own schools and districts to implement the training can find more information about these inaugural organizations at P21’s web site.
"This affiliate program is our first foray into widespread 21st-century skill implementation," said Kay. "We plan on offering seven to eight new programs in the near future."