Stakeholder buy-in is critical when it comes to achieving desired student outcomes and policy changes.

Administrators and educators know they must integrate higher-order thinking skills into teaching and learning if today’s students are to compete on a global scale. But school leaders sometimes struggle with exactly how to weave such skills into the curriculum.

Now, steps for successful integration of four key skills are outlined in a new book by Ken Kay and Valerie Greenhill, both of EdLeader21, a professional learning community for 21st-century educators.

Dubbed the “4Cs,” the four skills—critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity—are skills that will help every student prepare for and succeed in “the citizenship and economic challenges of the 21st century,” Kay and Greenhill say.

In their book, “The Leader’s Guide to 21st Century Education: 7 Steps for Schools and Districts,” Kay and Greenhill say that such change is only possible if districts change their policies and practices.

“When I walk into a true 21st-century classroom, school, or district, there’s a spirit of collaboration and continuous improvement that didn’t really exist in 20th-century schools,” Kay said during a recent Alliance for Excellent Education webinar. “Twenty-first century schools have two attitudes: ‘We can’t do it alone’ … and ‘We’re going to have a commitment to continuous improvement.’”

Kay said some school leaders hear about new policies or ideas and say, “We already do that,” while school leaders who are ready to move forward ask, “How do we do it better?”—a distinguishing factor between an everyday school and a school that is ready to embrace 21st-century change, he noted.

The book is intended to help school leaders understand that “it isn’t just about pledging loyalty to the 4Cs, it’s about some very deep steps,” Kay said.

The seven steps identified in the book are:

  1. Adopt your vision:  Use the 4Cs and more.
  2. Create a community consensus around the 4Cs.
  3. Align your system with the 4Cs.