Progressive educators have long been pushing to develop curriculum and teaching methods that will help students build skills that will be useful outside the perimeter of school. President Obama, legislators and dozens of business leaders have noted that the American education system isn’t teaching young people to think critically or solve problems creatively – skills that will be needed for the jobs of the future.
“The gap exists because we are not talking about this skill set with specificity,” said Angela Maiers, a former teacher and author of Classroom Habitudes. “We talk about it in generalities, but that doesn't get us anywhere if we don’t know what that would look like in the classroom.” She explained her method of fostering curiosity, adaptability, courage, and self-awareness among other traits in a recent edWeb webinar.
“Every five-year old that I know has that skill set,” Maiers said. “It’s not about this new agenda that we have to have or adopt or add on. It’s the recognition that you are already in the presence of genius.” Schools should cherish and cultivate the natural passion and curiosity in young children throughout their school careers, Maiers said.
While there are dozens of skills that could be useful to learners, Maiers recommends that teachers focus on specific ones that are most appropriate for the particular learning goals of that class and district. Then all the activities and discussion can focus on cultivating those traits. For Maiers, those important skills are: imagination, curiosity, self-awareness, perseverance, courage, adaptability, and passion. Maiers has developed a three-step process to help kids understand and embody these important, but hard to measure skills.