Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century

From the publisher’s description: “Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century describes this important set of key skills that increase deeper learning, college and career readiness, student-centered learning, and higher order thinking. These labels include both cognitive and non-cognitive skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, effective communication, motivation, persistence, and learning to learn. 21st century skills also include creativity, innovation, and ethics that are important to later success and may be developed in formal or informal learning environments.

“This report also describes how these skills relate to each other and to more traditional academic skills and content in the key disciplines of reading, mathematics, and science. Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century summarizes the findings of the research that investigates the importance of such skills to success in education, work, and other areas of adult responsibility and that demonstrates the importance of developing these skills in K-16 education. In this report, features related to learning these skills are identified, which include teacher professional development, curriculum, assessment, after-school and out-of-school programs, and informal learning centers such as exhibits and museums.”

Content Comments 

Simply stated, deeper learning is about transfer. The committee defines deeper learning “as the process through which an individual becomes capable of taking what was learned in one situation and applying it to new situations” (p. 5). The product of deeper learning is content knowledge and skills, which are considered “21st century competencies” (p. 6). This report from the National Research Council is a must read for all educators, policy makers, and stakeholders interested in student learning. The authors review the latest research in learning and provide conclusions and recommendations based on the literature.

The National Academies Press website includes helpful additional resources to assist readers in accessing the report’s findings and recommendations, including a practitioner's guide (summarizes key information from the report and describes effective teaching approaches) and a policy brief (4-page booklet that summarizes the policy highlights of the report.