A survey of nearly 1000 members of our community including business leaders, post-secondary educators, parents, students and K-12 educators were asked, “What skills are essential for the future success of our graduates?” The top responses included critical thinking and problem solving, responsibility, communication, creativity, collaboration, resilience, growth mindset, and financial literacy. Our district strategic planning team opted to use this input and include these eight skills as elements in our K-12 courses. Each of our essential skills and dispositions have objective success criteria laid out in a proficiency scale created by our district committees of teachers who referenced expert literature and SUU’s essential learning outcome rubrics. Subjective determinations of proficiency in these areas is not appropriate. Teachers are encouraged to assess these eight by using the proficiency scales within their curriculum and activities they already do in their classes. For example, when students present their projects they could be assessed on communication and creativity, in addition to the academic standards, based upon the criteria listed in the grade appropriate proficiency scale. These skills should be measured somewhat frequently and through multiple means of evidence if they are included as part of a students grade report so students can act on the feedback to improve and parents are not caught off guard by the results at the end of the term.
The students we are educating today and into the future will be preparing for jobs that may not even exist today! Information at all levels is literally at their fingertips. When we consider adequate preparation for the future, we must consider skills that are transferable and consider them as important to teach as our content. If that is the case, then we also report the learning of these skills in the same way as we report learning on our content. Many of the essential eight skills are, in themselves, content related, such as critical thinking communication, collaboration, creativity, and financial literacy. Skills such as responsibility, resilience, and growth mindset are dispositions that many consider not only essential life skills, but also important to the learning of content within the classroom. When we value and report on those skills they become important to students, teachers and parents, and will in fact support the learning of the content. Students that master the content easily, may benefit from the development of these dispositions where they wouldn’t bother otherwise. If these skills were not valued in the grade, students may opt not to do homework, pass in assignments late, give up easily, give only minimal effort instead of best work and other acts of irresponsibility in their studies. Students that struggle with the content, but have developed the dispositions of responsibility, resilience, and growth mindset may benefit from a grade report that includes these, rather than one that only values content.