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P21 on Collaboration, Common Core and 21st Century Learning

Submitted by Sam at SMART on January 15, 2013 – 8:00 amOne Comment

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) was founded in 2002 as a coalition bringing together the business community, education leaders, and policymakers to position 21st century readiness at the center of U.S. K-12 education.

We recently spoke with Frank Gallagher (chair), Helen Soulé (interim executive director) and Tatyana Warrick (communications manager) in their Washington, D.C. office to hear their thoughts on collaboration, Common Core State Standards and what makes an ideal 21st century learning environment.

What process led you to focus on the 4Cs for your framework, including collaboration? 

P21′s framework for 21st century learning
Helen: Several years ago, we looked at the framework that includes 17 skills and realized that some people became overwhelmed. So we reached out to our constituents, members, non-members and political policymakers and formed focus groups so we could determine what are the most important skills. Over and over again, these four skills came up as essential: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. It was actually a collaborative process to determine the 4Cs, along with an analytical and critical thinking exercise!


Frank: I would add that P21 has been “walking the walk” and “talking the talk” since the very beginning around collaboration. We have a strong collaboration between private industry, government, the nonprofit sectors as well as education groups – all working together. We also have a strong collaboration between P21 and the various partner states that are implementing the framework. The process of becoming a partner state involves state-level collaboration between business groups, policy makers and the education community as well as parents.

How do you feel the 4Cs are translating into the adoption of Common Core State Standards?

Helen: We think that the 4Cs are absolutely present in the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. Although not quite as intentionally present, we also see them in Mathematics standards and we are starting to see them in the new Science standards. We developed the P21 Common Core Toolkit that we make available for free on our website to clearly outline where those 4C skills can be found in the Common Core and provide some examples for how you can implement them in the classroom.

Frank: We see the 4Cs as implied in a lot of the thinking behind Common Core as a way to “get there” – that you can’t get to the standards without the 4Cs.

What is P21’s vision of a 21st century learning environment?

Frank: Our vision is flexible. One of our big projects this year is going out to exemplar schools and documenting the choices they made in setting up their systems, learning environments, schedules and professional development. Educators interested in adopting the P21 Skills framework need models. They need to see different ways of approaching the framework so they can pick the one that best fits their own situation.

Helen: It also involves providing a safe environment in which teachers are supported and learning — in a way — right along with their students. The kind of cultural environment you create is most important because any other perceived constraints about physical learning spaces and adopting new skills melt away when a supportive culture is present.

Tatyana: One thing that we really love to see is that there is a vision embedded throughout the school, including ways for teachers to collaborate and connect across content areas, connecting students to learning opportunities outside the classroom doors, working with community businesses and providing internships to enhance hands-on learning opportunities.

What technology tools do you think help facilitate instructional practices involving 21st century skills?

Helen: I spent over 20 years working with technology tools and instructional practices. What I find we are not consistently very good at (yet) is utilizing the appropriate technology tool for the appropriate pedagogy or lesson.  Technology tools are powerful when used in the right ways but they can also be misused. Interactive displays work great for collaboration activities, while personal devices are better for individual use.  One product does not fit all learning practices and we need to put that more complex point on how we use technology in schools.

Frank: You can implement 21st century learning with very rudimentary technology if you have to, but the variety of devices and software available today are great for enabling and making teaching practices more effective (when used correctly).

Many classrooms use shared interactive displays along with personal devices to optimize student collaboration— does P21 have recommendations for best practices around that learning model?

Helen: We have just begun our exemplar school project and we have seen some rooms with SMART Boards and personal devices used together but we still need to develop our case studies and models, so we’ll get back to you on that. I thought the Fogarty study you referred us to was very interesting because it gave an interesting look at a really different pedagogical approach to how something can be taught, which is very instructive to people.

Follow @P21CentSkills on Twitter and visit their blog to learn more about the framework and how to get involved in their projects.

About P21

Frank Gallagher is currently serving as the chair of Partnership for 21st Century Skills and is the executive director of Cable in the Classroom (CIC).  Mr. Gallagher has served on the board of directors of National PTA and is currently on the Interim Board of the National Forum on Information Literacy. In addition, he is on the Communications Commission of California PTA, the national advisory board for the Internet Keep Safe Coalition and on the Washington, DC, advisory board of Common Sense Media.

Dr. Helen Soulé is the director of State Partnerships at Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), and currently serving as the organization’s interim executive director.  She leads the state recruitment and support for P21, working with P21′s current 18 state partners, and directing outreach to connect with new partner states. Soulé’s education experience spans from teacher to district administrator, U.S. Department of Education, and former Executive Director of Cable in the Classroom.  She is a catalyst for change in education policy and helping others apply policy to pedagogy.

Tatyana Warrick joined P21 as communications and media coordinator in 2011. She maintains the public outreach front as P21′s Communications Manager. Prior to P21, Tatyana served a strategic and organizational role with Center for Inspired Teaching, a DC-based education nonprofit fostering children’s innate desire to learn by supporting teachers with professional development and new teacher certification.


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One comment on “P21 on Collaboration, Common Core and 21st Century Learning

  1. Stacey Platt on said:

    Interesting. Schools would benefit by being up on the latest technologies and by being able to use and implement them efficiently .

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