Sunday, September 27, 2009

9 Common Principles for 21st Century Schools

I've been reading and talking about "21st Century Schools" lately and just remembered this post I wrote on a wiki a while ago. It is based on Ted Sizer's Common Principles for the Coalition of Essential Schools. I thought it was worth reviving here.

What do you think? Do you agree with these? Am I missing something? Are these really "21st century" principles or principles for/from all time?

9 Common Principles for
21st Century Schools

1. Build
Community - The school should bring all learners together into a supportive community that nurtures both the individual and the group. The community should permeate all possible spaces, in the classroom, in the home and Online.

2. Encourage Critical Thinking - The school should actively encourage learners to think critically, continually asking the question, "Why do we teach what we teach?"

3. Reward Risk Taking - The school should actively encourage learners to risk failure in the pursuit of understanding.

4. Focus on all Learners - The school should surround the learner with ideas and information, encouraging the learner to pursue a wide variety of paths to knowledge, and supporting the personal growth for all who inhabit the community.

5. Value Diversity - The school should actively encourage and value the input of those both inside and outside the community with a diversity of opinions and experiences. The school should consistently check that it is inclusive and supportive of learners from diverse backgrounds.

6. Nurture all learners - The school should provide opportunities and encouragement for all members of the community including teachers, students and parents to learn and grow.

7. Pursue Innovation - The school should actively explore, pursue and assess new ideas and technologies, while always keeping the learner at the heart of the pursuit.

8. Teach Empathy - The school should actively and explicitly teach learners to think beyond themselves, encouraging students to value kindness and generosity.

9. Break down the walls - The school should provide access and opportunities for learners to reach outside the walls of the school to the neighboring, national and global community.


Paul Bogush said...

Ick to #9. You can't teach empathy. You can have a staff that models empathy. You can share your empathetic thoughts. When you have to make your staff "teach" empathic thoughts it is because they are pathetic and you really don't have a good chance of it happening ;)

Don said...

Good thoughts and I agree on all. Empathy is great! I'm not sure how you teach it, but you can model it which is a form of teaching. Thanks for writing this.

Paul Bogush said...

I should just add that I really don't think they are pathetic--just having fun with the similar sounding words.

Deanna Stall said...

Liz this is great! I think these are all important factors. It amazes me that schools want to implement new 21st century practices but forget to build the community! Community is crucial! I think by building a community, you start to care about all the members and you can easily model empathy for all involved. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Thanks Liz. Just forwarded to our staff. I agree with Don on empathy. Perhaps we should strive to model empathy.

Piers said...

I agree with these, but am not sure they're 21st C specific. I had a very non-21st C education and it covered all of these.

I also think that the tricky bit is moving from the "what"'s you mention to lists to the "how".

Any chance of a list of how 21st C tools can help these 21st C (and all time) skills?

Asher Bey said...

I have no quibble with these principles themselves, but with how they apply to more systemic environment in which they must take root. I have seen teachers encourage risk taking with one breath and belittle with the next. It does not take a clever student to hear the negative tone in "that's an interesting idea - anyone else?" and resolve not to take that risk again.

In short, while these principles are fine, they do not go deep enough. We must understand and address the limitations of classrooms, of teachers, of school politics. Until we change the way teachers are rewarded and compensated, we can hardly ask them to model risk-taking behavior, and until we can change the way schools are funded, we will have a hard time compensating teachers in ways that reward risk. Implementing these principles in isolation of a supportive community takes an exceptional teacher and requires uphill work.

Donald Clark said...

As Don noted, "modeling" is a form of "teaching" as it is designed to present complex bodies of information or ideas in a relative easy to understand way. Of course like any form of teaching it is not 100% effective.

Michael Simkins said...

Good ideas! I'm reading Howard Gardner's 5 Minds for the Future right now and this seems to me like a great example of his second mind, the "synthesizing mind." Gardner also includes the "respectful mind" and the "ethical mind"—both of which are umbrellas for some of these principles. Gardner believes these things can, in fact, be taught and offers some suggestions for each.

Terry said...

Remembering Ted Sizer:

Jasmin Harding said...

While some of these factors are applicable to other periods of time, there are undoubtredly some that distinctly apply to the needs of our students in the 21st century. Now more than ever, the principle of building a community is a much needed component, especially in inner city schools. As the saying goes,"it takes a village to raise a child". In stuggling areas, the school can serve as a hub for providing services that address the needs of children in every aspect. Additionally, schools that focus on forming parterships within their communities contribute to rebuilding and strengthening those communities. Students who come from solid and strong communities will undoubtedly be more successful than those who do not. Hence, this is a very important principle of 21st century schools.

I also believe that the principle of pursuing innovation is essential for schools in the 21st century. With technology changing the way we learn, think, work, etc., we must equip students withb essential skills. Technology already impacts our life greatly, this will only become more and more prevalent in the years to come. Breaking down the walls will happen through the useof technology as students have access to millions via the world wide web.

The traditional classroom 20 and 30 years ago did not address the unique learning styles of all students. In 21st century schools differentiation is essential. By nurturing all learners, students will experience success and gain confidence.

Beth Firme said...

I agree with all of these. I think I wouold include or change the empathy one to teach compassion. It is one thing to empahthiz, quite another to have compassion. You can have compassion for someone without being completely empathetic. The two are not mutually exclusive, but neither are they mutually inclusive. In order to be empathetic, it helps to have compassion, but is not necessary. You can have compassion without empathy.

Craig Dellemann said...

The 9 Common Principles are very good thoughts. I think schools need to get away from what Gardner labeled mathematical and linguistical learning styles and through the use of technology, focus more on other learning styles. This would force schools to enter and apply skills that would benefit students of the 21st Century.

Jasmin Harding said...

Your post is very thought provoking. I find it interesting that you think that 21st Century schools should move away from lingustic and mathematical learning styles. I view those intelligences as foundational. I do not think that our students can succeed to their maximum potential in the 21st century without being good readers and proficient in logical and numerical reasoning. Of course there are other areas of intelligence that can be targeted through the use of technology. For instance, interpersonal skills can be built through the use of blogging, as students can become comfortable with interacting with people all around the country or even the world. What intelligences to you think that we should really hone in on during the 21st century?

Custom Essays said...

These are really nice principles, especially last one, this is really what we miss while crafting our benchmarks.

Anonymous said...

It was very interesting for me to read this post. Thank you for it. I like such topics and everything connected to this matter. I would like to read a bit more soon.

Anonymous said...

These priciples are both for now and all time. Although I am only a student and haven't the experience to say too much, I feel that upholding these principles should be something all teachers must try tp be concious of every day.