Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rigor Redefined

The October issue of Educational Leadership includes an article by Tony Wagner entitled "Rigor Redefined." As a result of his extensive research, Wagner outlines seven survival skills that today's students will need to be successful in the "new world of work." He then visited several top U. S. school systems to see whether these skills are being taught and tested.

Wagner identifies the following seven survival skills:
1. Critical thinking and problem solving
Over and over, executives told me that the heart of critical thinking and problem solving is the ability to ask the right questions.

2. Collaboration and leadership
Technology has allowed for virtual teams. We have teams working on major infrastructure projects that are all over the U.S. On other projects, you're working with people all around the world on solving a software problem.

3. Agility and adaptability
I can guarantee the job I hire someone to do will change or may not exist in the future, so this is why adaptability and learning skills are more important than technical skills.

4. Initiative and entrepreneurialism
You'll never be blamed for failing to reach a stretch goal, but you will be blamed for not trying. One of the problems of a large company is risk aversion.

5. Effective oral and written communication
Although writing and speaking correctly are obviously important, the complaints I heard most frequently were about fuzzy thinking and young people not knowing how to write with a real voice.

6. Accessing and analyzing information.
There is so much information available that it is almost too much, and if people aren't prepared to process the information effectively it almost freezes them in their steps.

7. Curiosity and imagination
People who've learned to ask great questions and have learned to be inquisitive are the ones who move the fastest in our environment because they solve the biggest problems in ways that have the most impact on innovation.

Wagner gives classroom examples from three honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes from "top" school systems with excellent test scores. You might be surprised at what he observed! He also writes about a "rare class" (Algebra II) where students are actually learning several of the survival skills.

This article is a must read!

Flickr photo: Effects by Dumpr.

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