Career & Education

8 skills STEM classrooms teach for the 21st century

Sunday, November 04, 2018

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STEM classes are much more than a graduation requirement—they teach many of the top skills employers are looking for in their future workforce since they provide a well-rounded worldview, foster a sense of responsibility, and make you a better job candidate in the future and a more connected student now.

So there is much more to learn in school this year. In addition to the usual academic subjects —reading, writing, maths, and science — your teachers are helping you learn 21st-century skills, which are also sometimes called soft skills. These are the skills experts think are most important for people to be successful.

1. Data Analysis

Despite the accessibility of calculators on everything from computers to watches, the ability to analyse data is extremely important. A calculator can give an end result of a formula, but comparing these figures with other numbers and information is integral to setting yourself apart. Productive citizens and workers need to be able to draw reasonable conclusions from data and spot when others have misrepresented or misinterpreted data. Still wondering when you'll ever use math in the real world?

2. Metacognition

Metacognition is one of the top skills because it can help students take control of their learning. Metacognition is the recognition and understanding of your own thoughts. Employers need workers who can find errors in their own reasoning, reflect on their own biases and misconceptions, and apply what they've learned about themselves to future problems. This is why teachers ask you to explain your thinking and show your work. Spending time examining your thought process can reveal a lot about how you approach problems and where you might make mistakes.

3. Information Literacy

In this world of immediate, easy-to-find news sources, the quality of the information doesn't quite match the quantity. To be an excellent student and great job candidate, you have to use trustworthy sources for news and information. Information literacy involves being able to recognise bias and skewed facts. Those who are information literate think about the author's motivation for writing and how their perspective influenced their perception of a particular topic or event. You know those bibliographies teachers are always making you include? They're important — and the sources you use for research should include them, too.

4. Global Awareness

In the classroom and around the globe, students are able to connect with people anywhere regardless of distance. The business world has gone global, with even small companies having the opportunity to collaborate and compete with others in different parts of the world. Because the world is getting smaller in so many ways, global awareness is one of the top skills you can have under your belt when you walk across the graduation stage after high school. When your teachers focus on global awareness, they are teaching diversity and tolerance, an understanding of other cultures, and each person's responsibility as part of a global society.

5. Problem Solving

In the 21st-century top skills set, problem solving doesn't always receive the attention it deserves. To become an adult who is able to communicate with others and work through different obstacles, you must have excellent problem-solving skills. Problem solving involves more than getting the right answer. When teachers ask you to show your work and challenge you to solve problems in more than one way, they are helping you strengthen your problem-solving muscles to prepare for challenges out in the real world. Companies want employees who can think flexibly and find unique solutions to common problems.

6. Initiative

When students take initiative, they show that they have pride in what they do and are interested in their current projects. Employers complain that too many workers need to be told exactly what to do in order to get anything done. They lack initiative and must be micromanaged to be successful in the workplace. As a result, they list initiative as one of the top skills they're looking for in employees. Bosses notice when someone sees a problem and does something about it instead of sitting back and waiting for someone to tell them to fix it. Initiative can be hard to teach, but your STEM teachers try to strengthen your initiative when they ask for volunteers and talk about personal responsibility and integrity.

7. Leadership

Don't follow the herd in STEM class or as you move into the world of work. Teachers and employers want to see how students, or job seekers, can lead a team. Leadership can mean building others up, helping your peers find their strengths, and settling conflicts in a fair and reasonable way. Leadership takes a long time to develop, but can take you far in the real world. Maybe that's why your teachers are so fond of group work…

8. Flexibility

While the top skills of leadership and initiative are important, remaining flexible is also necessary for success. Students who are flexible are able to listen to the concerns of others. Flexibility means that a person will be okay if a situation changes and the unexpected happens. The old saying goes “The only constant is change,” and it rings true for a reason. In a world that is advancing and changing so quickly, only the flexible will adapt, survive, and thrive.


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