User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

The Other 21st Century Skills

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Many have attempted to identify the skills important for a learner today in this era of the 21st century (I know it is an overused phrase).  I have an affinity towards the skills identified by Tony Wagner:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
  • Agility and adaptability
  • Initiative and entrepreneurialism
  • Effective oral and written communication
  • Accessing and analyzing information
  • Curiosity and imagination

Today I viewed a slideshow created by Gallup entitled, The Economics of Human Development: The Path to Winning Again in Education.

Here are some slides from this presentation.


This presentation sparked my thinking about what other skills and attributes would serve the learners (of all ages) in this era of learning.  Some other ones that I believe important based on what I hear at conferences, read via blogs and other social networks include:

  • Perseverance
  • Resilience
  • Hope and Optimism
  • Vision
  • Self-Regulation
  • Empathy and Global Stewardship



How to Foster Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance: An Educator’s Guide

Students can develop psychological resources that promote grit, tenacity, and perseverance. Our research pointed to three facets—all of which have been shown to be malleable and teachable in certain contexts:

Academic mindsets. These constitute how students frame themselves as learners, their learning environment, and their relationships to the learning environment. They include beliefs, attitudes, dispositions, values, and ways of perceiving oneself. A core mindset that supports perseverance is called the “growth mindset”—knowing “My ability and competence grow with my effort.”

Effortful control. Students are constantly faced with tasks that are important for long-term goals but that in the short-term do not feel desirable or intrinsically motivating. Successful students marshal willpower and regulate their attention during such tasks and in the face of distractions.

Strategies and tactics. Students are also more likely to persevere when they can draw on specific strategies and tactics to deal with challenges and setbacks. They need actionable skills for taking responsibility and initiative, and for being productive under conditions of uncertainty—for example, defining tasks, planning, monitoring, changing course of action, and dealing with specific obstacles.

Resources for Educators:



Resilience is directly related to grit.  While grit is having the perseverance to continue on one’s journey, resilience is the ability is bounce back in the face of set-backs, obstacles, and failures.

Schools are an excellent place to foster healthy development in youngsters whether teaching the “Three Rs” or AP chemistry. Each adult can support resiliency development by

Resources for Educators:

Hope and Optimism

2013-05-22_1220For educators who want to help their students build these skills of hope, here are five research-based guidelines. From How to Help Students Develop Hope:

  1. Identify and prioritize their top goals, from macro to micro. Start by having students create a “big picture” list of what’s important to them—such as their academics, friends, family, sports, or career—and then have them reflect on which areas are most important to them and how satisfied they are with each.
  2. Breakdown the goals—especially long-term ones—into steps. Research has suggested that students with low hope frequently think goals have to be accomplished all-at-once, possibly because they haven’t had the parental guidance on how to achieve goals in steps. Teaching them how to see their goals as a series of steps will also give students reasons to celebrate their successes along the way—a great way to keep motivation high!
  3. Teach students that there’s more than one way to reach a goal. Studies show that one of the greatest challenges for students with low hope is their inability to move past obstacles. They often lack key problem-solving skills, causing them to abandon the quest for their goals.
  4. Tell stories of success.  Scientists have found that hopeful students draw on memories of other successes when they face an obstacle; however, students with low hope often don’t have these kinds of memories. That’s why it’s vital for teachers to read books or share stories of other people—especially kids—who have overcome adversity to reach their goals.
  5. Keep it light and positive. It’s important to teach students to enjoy the process of attaining their goals, even to laugh at themselves when they face obstacles and make mistakes. Above all, no self-pity! Research has found that students who use positive self-talk, rather than beating themselves up for mistakes, are more likely to reach their goals.

Resources for Educators:

Vision for the Future


The impossible has been obtained in this globe mainly due to the objectives and experienced concepts and objectives of so-called mavericks. Having a desire, be it to fight social injustices or to journey through space, has allowed humans to create the globe a better place to live in and to discover the secret that is life and beyond. Motivating learners to have little or big objectives, picturing and success stories is a great addiction to teach (Helping Students Achieve Dreams Through the Vision Board).

Resources for Teachers:



Globalization and technological advancements require that students learn to be more autonomous, flexible, and critical in their thinking. To reflect societal changes, educational reform has focused on the learning environment, developing more problem-based, collaborative, and student-centered classrooms to better represent the complex learning situations students may face in a real-life work environment. Part of this ongoing reform involves teaching students appropriate learning strategies and self-regulatory skills to help them adapt to these future situations and become life-long learners (Zimmerman & Schunk, 2003).  For today’s educator, knowledge of self-regulation, its development, and strategies to optimize self-regulation in all learners is pivotal for student success.  Self-regulation is a complex process involving numerous motivational, affective, cognitive, physiological and behavioral factors that individuals proactively direct and manage in order to attain self-set goals (Zeidner, Boekaerts, & Pintrich, 2000). It is a broad construct incorporating behaviors and strategies utilized by individuals across their lifespan to modulate or control their own emotional and behavioral responses. Students who self-regulate believe that they are responsible for their own learning and are more adept at dictating what, where, and how their learning occurs (Bandura, 2006). These students often persist longer through academic tasks and display higher levels of motivation and achievement (Schunk & Ertmer, 2000; Zimmerman & Schunk, 2001) (BC’s Self-Regulation Story: Engaging the First Wave Classrooms and Schools).

Resources for Educators:

Empathy and Global Stewardship


The general hope is that teaching empathy might lead to greater social harmony, altruistic action, social justice, and interpersonal and intercultural understanding. If we’re to reverse the increasing disregard for human suffering in this country and around the world, with the growing gap between rich and poor, empathy education — if it could be successful and massive — could make a major difference.  The problem is never too much empathy. The problem is not enough. Empathy education needs to move beyond volunteerism and toward social transformation. One has to have the kind of empathy that really understands you don’t just give people handouts; what you do is transform the system so the people themselves can be transformed. While empathy is not itself sufficient, it is necessary for greater social justice to come about (Teaching Empathy to the ‘Me’ Generation).

Resources for Educators:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 22, 2013 at 10:06 pm

37 Responses

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  1. Great work, thanks Jackie.

  2. Jackie,
    These are all important life skills – hope, resilience, grit, etc.The question is, how do we instill these core skills in the next generation when I see so many adults in our generation lacking them? For example, we talk about cyberbullying taking place among students, but I read a statistic today that said 1 in 3 teachers felt bullied at work.
    There is a huge shift that needs to take place in our society, and it’s time we all stop talking about it, and do it!
    Thanks for the great food for thought.


    May 23, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    • Thanks, Laura – I’ve been thinking about this. I used to be a counselor educator. If I were to help educators, I would first have them do personal inventories of their own skills in each area and develop strategies for improving them. Doing one’s own personal inventory and journey increases awareness and then increases the ability to do this process with others. Thanks for your feedback and responses.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      May 23, 2013 at 8:11 pm

  3. Thanks, Jackie, for the shout out to hope, empathy, social justice, and global stewardship.

    David Potter

    May 23, 2013 at 10:30 pm

  4. The initial visual should be on the wall of every classroom across the globe – Grit, hope & optimism, Empathy, initiative and all the rest – you have captured the connected 21st century learner in one image and then followed on with breaking it down and pulling apart each section. Thank you for the share.


    May 23, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    • Wow . . . and thank you for the great feedback!

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      May 24, 2013 at 12:53 am

  5. Great post – thank you. I moved into International Baccalaureate education with fervour when I learned that at the heart of the scheme was the Learner Profile – a set of attributes that defined not just academic competence but emotional and social responsibility. C21st skills growth and awareness expands beautifully on this vision of developing young people who really do interact with the world and each other intelligently, wisely and with responsible empathy. Success in education should not be defined by getting a great (insert subject) score, but by showing understanding of how knowledge and skills acquired in (insert every subject) can contribute towards a better world for everyone.

  6. I love these different pictures with the attributes we instill in our students I do think Hope is number one


    May 24, 2013 at 4:10 pm

  7. Jackie-I have to say that I just love the way you think! You continually put all things education into perspective. I’m a teacher-librarian and our profession’s teaching for learning standards include not only the skills but also the dispositions (and responsibilities) needed for effective learners. I see these dispositions very much like the attributes you’ve highlighted, much like Habits of Mind addressed by other thinkers. And how do we foster these skills for our students: model, share and reflect. Put these terms, examples of efforts which exhibit these dispositions and the need for students to foster them out there! Talk with students and have then reflect on their learning not only the skills they learned, but also the dispositions they experienced.

    Deb Schiano

    May 24, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    • Thanks, Deb, for the feedback – it means a lot to me! I don’t know how to classify them – skills, attributes, dispositions 🙂 – but I know they are important. We need to stop focusing on education as a process from the ears up – too often only involving the ears and brain. I think many librarians both in school and in after school settings often understand this whole student education better than many classroom teachers.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      May 25, 2013 at 12:49 am

  8. Thank you, Jackie. This is a post everyone should read. You are so helping to bring educational dialogue back to what really matters — leading/drawing out the strengths of students, building a community of learners through meaningful work. Build what works, instead of worrying about what’s wrong. You have gathered together a powerful set of resources that must form the basis of our educational system. Thanks again.


    May 25, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    • Thank you so much, Sheri! I know you “get it” and that you are a critical consumer of content – that’s why your feedback means so much to me.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      May 25, 2013 at 9:41 pm

  9. This post is powerful and helpful. Our school is working on an inquiry around resilience and persistence, so your post and sharing of resources is very timely. What we are finding is that it is hard to quantify what this looks like in children in the midst of learning. So, our first steps are likely to be: what we are looking for?


    May 26, 2013 at 9:31 am

    • Thanks for the response, Kevin – how exciting that your school is focusing on these so called soft skills.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      May 26, 2013 at 1:28 pm

  10. Is this post about “The Other 21st Century Skills” or “the skills important for a learner today”?

    In the latter case, some entries are highly disputable. For instance, “Effective oral and written communication” may be an important skill, but it is not one central to _learning_. (Notwithstanding that there may be some college courses were such skills can be beneficial for getting a good grade. Grades and learning are different things, however.)

    From a more general perspective: The hands down most important characteristic (not necessarily skill) of a learner is joy at learning and activities that lead to learning.


    May 30, 2013 at 11:08 pm

  11. Hello Jackie!

    What a wonderful post, I really enjoyed reading it and will share it with my students too. I agree that, Grit, re-silence, hope & optimism, vision, self-regulation and empathy are important traits for growth and complete personality development.

    thanks for sharing!

    Anil MN

    July 19, 2013 at 6:47 am

    • Thank you, Anil.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      July 19, 2013 at 1:09 pm

  12. I would like to know the origin of the first illustration. There is a logo in the lower left corner, but it is too blurry to read and no citation is given.

    Castle Librarian

    October 3, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    • Thanks for asking – it is one I created.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      October 3, 2013 at 11:48 pm

  13. Hi Jackie,

    I am glad to have come across your blog. Amazing stuff! Myself and some colleagues are interested in using that graphic in our classroom. Is it available for download or purchase? I think it would be a powerful piece to blow up and hang in the classroom.

    Looking forward to reading more.

    Ryan Matthews

    January 26, 2014 at 12:33 am

    • Thanks, Ryan – the graphic is under creative commons – You can use it as long as you give me attribution. Enjoy!

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      January 26, 2014 at 12:38 am

  14. I concur! Five of your illustrations (critical thinking, collaboration, emotional intelligence, resilience, and vision) are explored in depth along with innovation and leadership in 21st Century Parenting: Grow a Generation

    Ellen Cavanaugh

    January 26, 2014 at 2:50 pm

  15. Thanks Jackie for this post. As a budding education advocate, I think the “real” tangible skills that easily translate from the classroom to the workplace are often overlooked when developing a curriculum to meet the needs of students. I really enjoyed your post, the infographic, and the descriptions you have for each skill you discussed. I gave you credit in my blog for your post. I look forward to reading more of your posts.


    January 26, 2014 at 9:29 pm

  16. Hi Jackie, do you know where the “Skills and Attributes of Today’s Learner” graphic is from? I see what looks like a logo or possible authorship statement in the bottom left hand corner, but it’s too tiny for me to make out. I note that many bloggers/writers state that it’s an Edudemic image (based on this post from Jeff Dunn, but he refers to your post).

    I would like to use the image in a presentation and would really like to be able to give proper credit to the creator 🙂

    • Hi Constance – it is my image – he used my image in his post. Sure – go ahead and use and thanks for giving me credit. That is my creative commons attribution that I ask for.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      January 29, 2014 at 9:34 pm

  17. This blog is so well stated and right in line with supporting research. I would love to re-post this on my site if you are okay with that. Your graphic is brilliant too. The only thing I would add to your list is gratitude. New interventions with children are coming up in the literature with successful outcomes and promise for further research.

    Dustine Rey, Ed.D.

    January 29, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    • Thanks, Dustine – appreciate your feedback! Sure – go ahead and re-blog, thanks for asking – enjoy!

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      January 29, 2014 at 9:31 pm

  18. I just love your post.As someone working in Socio-Emotional space I was thrilled to see your blog.So many educators spend hours on content and knowledge -if only they focused on the child and the qualities you list here.Thank you

    Usha Gowri

    June 11, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    • thanks-agree!

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      June 11, 2014 at 11:34 pm

  19. I learned these skills when I worked in a call center. The experience of working is VERY different from school. I had a hard time adjusting to the work ethics. But when I developed (some) strong work ethic I now know that I should value education all the more, especially the skills that we learn in school such as learning effective communication both written and oral and being disciplined with your schedule, and being flexible with working in groups. At work it is 1000x more rigorous and by-the-book-students may have to learn it the hard way, especially if you can’t stomach failure and trial-and-error.

    Blanche Blanch

    October 26, 2014 at 12:22 am

  20. Jackie,

    I would love to reprint the top graphic about the skills and attributes of today’s learners for a military child education magazine. Please email me to discuss at

    Thank you!

    Jessica Thibodeau

    October 1, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    • Hi Jessica – All more work is creative commons – meaning you can use them as long as you give me attribution.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      October 1, 2015 at 10:40 pm

  21. Hello Jackie,

    I too would like to reference your graphic in a presentation. I will give you attribution as requested for Jessica if you give me permission. Thank you

    Anna Rogers

    January 24, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    • All my work is creative commons – so as long as you give me credit, go for it!

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      January 24, 2016 at 10:47 pm

  22. Dear Jackie,

    I am in the process of writing a book about the pedagogy of trust. I would love to make use of your figure (girl with the skills & attributes). I hereby ask you for the permission to use it in my book with the reference towards you and this webpage. Is that okay?


    March 3, 2017 at 10:10 am

    • Sure – that’s fine.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      March 3, 2017 at 1:02 pm

  23. Great slides! Thanks for sharing


    March 4, 2017 at 6:58 pm

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