Designing Learning That Includes 21st Century Skills

Teachers participating in the 21st century learning grant project in my district have been hard at work on designing four units using Understanding by Design.  They have been working on these since an intensive 3 day training took place in June.  Most have drafted the 4 units at this point, and we are now beginning the peer evaluation phase of our project, which will include feedback on the unit designs and for peer observations.

As teachers are beginning to share their units within their assigned peer groups, they are wondering how to best provide feedback to each other on one particular element that we requested, which is not specifically a part of the UbD  process. That is to purposefully incorporate at least one of Colorado’s 21st century skills into the design.

To help them with this task, I created the following checklist:

What is it you want students to know and be able to do?

___Stage 1: One or two 21st century skills are identified as learning goals under “skills acquisition”

Probably all of the 21st century skills will be practiced at some point in the unit– but this skill will be purposefully modeled, taught, and assessed.*

How will you know that they know it and can do it

___ Stage 2: The performance assessment task provides ample opportunity for students to practice and demonstrate the skill(s) identified in stage 1.

___Formative assessments  (checklists, conferencing, peer assessment, reflection, etc.) are used frequently during the unit for the identified 21st century skill(s)

___Students receive regular, timely, useful feedback via the formative assessments of the 21st century skill(s)

The Learning Plan

___Stage 3:  The 21st century skill(s) identified in stage 1 are taught through modeling and/or direct instruction as appropriate

*Note: This is not necessarily about “grading.” It is about creating opportunity to give students feedback on the 21st century skills so they can improve!

What are your thoughts? What else should be included in this checklist?

Author: Nancy White

Learner, Curator, Innovator, Teacher, Librarian, and Collaborator. Passionate about designing learning that is engaging, relevant & sticks. 20+ years in education.

4 thoughts on “Designing Learning That Includes 21st Century Skills”

  1. I am looking for an observation or walkthrough document for principals that helps inform them if the teacher is addressing the targets of the 21st Century Skills. Any ideas.


    1. Keith, On the sidebar of our management wiki for the 21st Century Cadre in my district, you will find a link to an “Observation Checklist and Comment Form” that we developed as a tool to give feedback to the teachers participating in our 21st century cadre, and also to collect data for our grant. I like this because it focuses on student engagement and activities rather than direct instruction techniques and classroom management.


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