Week 2 Reflection Blog Post – 21st Century Skills vs Core Knowledge


What to learn: ‘core knowledge’ or ’21st-century skills’?

The article does a nice job of introducing the position of the two sides when it comes to what should be taught and how it should be taught.  While P21 is a progressive move it does have some critics.  Most notable, according to Toppo (2009), E. D. Hirsch Jr., who believes P21 is an  ineffective use of school time and adversely affects disadvantaged students.  It could be Mr. Hirsch is viewing this as a one or the other scenario but it appears that core knowledge could and should be retained as a critical component of P21.  From my review of P21 it provides tools and processes to influence technology to expand core knowledge learning by instilling critical thinking & problem solving, collaboration, communication, creativity and innovation. Reading this article before researching core knowledge and 21st century skills left me thinking we had to make a choice to support one or the other.  In reality it appears the two camps could benefit by using a critical collaboration skill.

Core Knowledge Foundation

The foundation motto of educational excellence and equality for all children is based on program developed using scientific logic, history, and research combined with the belief that knowledge builds on knowledge.  The balance between depth and breadth of knowledge are critical components of core knowledge.  Core knowledge attempts to define and outline precise content for every child, step-by-step and year-by-year.   According to Core Knowledge (2013), specific to reading, Mr. Hirsch believes students need to gain broad general knowledge so they are able to gain broad general proficiency in reading.  Trying to understand how effective this approach has been I reviewed the website “how do we know this works” page.  The published statistics were favorable as suspected.  Overall, I believe there is merit in this approach but I don’t think we can  ignore the need to provide our students with the required technology skill required in the 21st century.

How will Core Knowledge affect my teaching?

After reading this article, I take from this the concept of broad general knowledge enabling general proficiency in reading.  I have witnessed the influence of broad knowlege in my class,  but it was not something I was specifically paying attention to relative to improving reading skills.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills

Global competition and the decline of America’s academic rankings could be a motivating factor to implement Partnership for 21st Century strategies.  I agree it is critical to ensure students acquire cognitive and social skills in order to keep up with the rapidly changing world.  As outlined in P21 Common (2011), critical thinking & problem solving, collaboration, communication, and creativity & innovation are the 4 Cs that are needed to enhance the long standing 3 Rs.  The paradigm shift appears to be based on the rapid development of technology and how it has affected or changed what is required to be successful in college, life, and career in the 21st century (p. 4).  The old saying, the more things change the more they stay the same is appropriate to our assessment of educational strategies.  The course content remains somewhat unchanged but how the information is transferred and at what level the information is to be processed is changing.  Technology will continue to rapidly expand and therefore must be incorporated into our educational system at a very early age.

How will P21 affect my teaching?

To the extent possible I have been incorporating technology into my 3rd grade class.  P21 will prompt me to focus on the 4 Cs while implementing additional technologies.

21st Century Pedagogy

As I studied the website and the key features of 21st century pedagogy, I found it to be complex yet well structured.  Fluencies in technology, information, media, and even language is described as unconscious processing which indicates higher order thinking skills (HOTS) not consistently found in our current educational system today.  Having said that, as a third grade teacher I would need to modify the key features to an appropriate level and define expectations for the given age group.  The basic concept of knowledge acquisition, knowledge deepening, and knowledge creation is driven by the key features of the 21st century pedagogy features.   Implementing the 21st century pedagogy would require substantial changes to the current teaching methodologies and curriculum.  From a personal perspective I find this paradigm shift extremely exciting and look forward to the change.  According to Coffman (2013), the paradigm shift is one from solely directed instruction pedagogy to a thinking pedagogy.  The 21st century thinking pedagogy does not have one right answer but can be messy, just like real life (p. 39).

How will 21st Century Pedagogy affect my teaching?

The information provided by the 21st Century Pedagogy will allow me to focus on clearly establishing my higher order thinking skills (HOTS) across the subjects I teach.

Subject area important aspect.

I was very impressed with the WebQuest activity that accesses the internet as a primary resource as provided by Coffman (2013).  Chapter 1 of Using Inquiry in the Classroom explains how to apply WebQuests in a lesson on Explorers (p. 8).  I teach European Explorers in 3rd grade and would like to integrate something new and innovative for my students that involve the usage of critical  thinking skills.  The lesson incorporates various strategies that promote differentiation, collaborative learning, and problem solving. This lesson would allow for the students to explore so many concepts using a new and innovative learning style. In the past I have taught the lesson using multiple resources such as: websites, smart board, and CD’s to engage and motivate my students in identifying the European Explorers, but feel the lesson provided in the reading allows the students to develop a deeper understanding by gaining experience and developing expertise by sharing the knowledge they have discovered with their classmates.

Below is a link to one of our 3rd grade efforts on the useage of descriptive language.




21st Century Pedagogy.  Retrieved from http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/21st+Century+Pedagogy

Coffman, T., (2013).  Using inquiry in the classroom.  Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield Education

Core Knowledge. (2013)  Retrieved from http://coreknowledge.org/

How Do We Know This Works?  (2004).  Retrieved from  http://www.coreknowledge.org/mimik/mimik_uploads/documents/106/How%20Do%20We%20Know%20This%20Works.pdf

P21 Common Core Toolkkit, (2011).  Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/P21CommonCoreToolkit.pdf

Partnership for 21st Century Skills.  Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/

Toppo, G. (2009, March 5). What to learn:’core knowledge’ or ‘21st-centry skills’? Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-03-04-core-knowledge_N.htm

Wolfolk, A.(2007). Educational Psychology. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Tag: EDCI 501


  • […] Week 3 Reflection Blog Post – Copyright […]

  • Holy moly, this is a very thorough and well-researched blog post! Well done. I particularly enjoyed and agreed with what you had to say about how these two worlds can collide– “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” 21st century education does not mean we need to abandon classic literature or anything of the like. It does mean, however, that we have access to technologies that can transform education as we know it.

    And, as far as I can see it, technology in the classrooms is unavoidable and here to stay. No use in fighting it.

  • I was thinking about the quote from Hirsch at the beginning of your post here, and it really frustrates me. I can’t stand when people say that using technology in the classroom will have an adverse affect on disadvantaged students. I understand that many of my students will not have computer access at home. But I wonder then, where will they gain access to learning about using these tools if not in the classroom? Children from low income families will be competing in the same global market as every other student. They should be taught to interact with and use technology to give them the same opportunities as their classmates. Great post though; I just got hung up on that thought! ~Barbara