Life in the twenty-first century can be complex and stressful. Many of the interpersonal and interactive skills that we need in our everyday lives – things such as digital literacies, intercultural competence, and emotional self-regulation – have not always been formally taught in schools. The movement to embrace Global Skills in education is now looking to change that. Continue reading
The world is changing at a rapid pace and it is hard for educators to even imagine what kind of skills and competences their learners will need 10, 20, 30 or even 50 years from now. What is clear, however, is that traditional academic subjects alone will not be enough. Many curricula across the globe already include some form of life skills education. It has increasingly become the norm that many educators are expected to integrate the teaching of these skills into their subject teaching. Yet, the support and training educators receive varies widely. This is where we hope our Position Paper can help ELT teachers, in particular, to reflect on and find ways to teach global skills alongside their language aims in sustainable ways.
After having examined many diverse frameworks for global skills, we have distilled them into five clusters. These are:
- Communication and collaboration
- Creativity and critical thinking
- Intercultural competence and citizenship
- Emotional self-regulation and wellbeing
- Digital literacies
How an ELT teacher approaches the teaching of these skills will depend on their own interests, competences, resources, and local curricular constraints. There is no one single way to approach this. We have proposed a range of teaching approaches stretching from single activities to extended projects. Each teacher will select ideas as suits them and their learners. Here are a few ideas to consider and if you would like to know more, please download our free Global Skills Position Paper.
1. Compare different media sources:
In the era of ‘fake news’, critical thinking skills are more important than ever! You can help older learners develop these skills as part of a longer activity, by asking them to analyse different news articles.
Choose a current topic in the news to discuss with your learners. Give them a newspaper article or a news bulletin on the topic and ask them to share their response with a partner. Then, with the class, examine the same story in different media sources. Ask them to consider the author, the intended audience, the emotions involved, and the strategies that are used to engage the reader.
Do you want to develop your students’ digital literacies at the same time? Ask your students to fact check one of the articles online, using more than one source of information. They should think about which source is the most reliable and which to trust.
2. Create digital reports:
Try asking your learners to create a digital report on a global issue like endangered animals or inequality! They should work in pairs, and use their mobile devices to video or audio record a short news report about the issue, describing the problem and offering suggested solutions. Learners can share these reports with each other online, and give each other comments and feedback. The project could also be extended, and you could ask learners to create a detailed proposal for solving the issue. This will help them think critically and learn to solve problems.
3. Ask open-ended questions:
Simply changing the style of your questions can help your learners develop their creativity and critical thinking skills. Open-ended questions encourage students to interpret and analyse information, helping them to practice these essential skills. You can easily integrate these questions into your everyday teaching by asking questions about classroom topics – or you could ask questions about important issues to help your students develop their citizenship skills. For example, you could ask older learners questions like:
- What is the most serious environmental issue in our town/region/country?
- What causes this issue? Who is responsible for it?
- What can we, as individuals, do about it?
You could ask younger learners questions like:
- How can we help look after our pets?
- How can we care for the animals around us?
This kind of activity provides a good foundation for deeper work on critical thinking in longer activities. It also helps students to practice their language skills by encouraging them to respond in detail.
4. Encourage project work:
Project work is one of the best ways for learners to develop their global skills. By working in groups, setting their own agenda, and personalising their approach, learners feel more engaged and develop multiple skills at once.
One example involves asking students to design their own project to address a problem in their local or global community. Secondary school learners could design projects around:
- Working locally with people in an elderly care home who need to improve their technological skills to connect with others
- Organising a fundraiser or protest march to help prevent climate change
These examples will encourage older students to develop skills like communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Learners will also develop their citizenship and intercultural competence by investigating global issues and thinking about which groups of people need support. They will learn to think about their local and global communities, and learn how to address important issues.
Learners can also report on the project online to develop their digital literacies encourage others to engage in similar projects.
5. Start small:
Are you unsure how to begin teaching global skills like communication and collaboration? Try starting small! Every lesson, integrate a short language-learning activity that includes a focus on one of these global skills. Later, you can begin to integrate larger, more focused activities and sequences of tasks which allow for a more in-depth approach to developing the skills – including project work.
Do you want more great tips, including an exclusive Teachers’ Toolkit? Download our expert advice now!
Sarah Mercer is Professor of Foreign Language Teaching at the University of Graz, Austria, where she is Head of ELT Methodology. Her research interests include all aspects of the psychology surrounding the foreign language learning experience, and she has written and edited prize-winning books in this area.
Nicky Hockly is the Director of Pedagogy of The Consultants-E, an online training and development consultancy. She is a teacher, trainer, and educational technology consultant who works with teachers all over the world. Nicky writes regular columns on technology for EFL teachers in professional journals and has written several prizewinning methodology books.
Both Sarah and Nicky are lead authors of the position paper, Global Skills: Creating empowered 21st century learners.
The development of the 4Cs – the skills of Critical thinking, Creativity, Communication and Collaboration – has been around in education and English language teaching for some time now. This has influenced coursebook design, our everyday teaching, and our general attitude towards teaching and learning. As I was planning tasks for the development of these 4 key skills in my own teaching, I have always felt the need for (and I am sure many of you have had the same experience) a broader layer that encompasses these as well as a number of other skills that are just as important for our fast-paced world, where students need to be empowered to shape their own futures. The challenges I’ve faced recently with my teenage students such as lack of motivation, interest, poor attention span, higher emotional instability, being easily distracted, have led me to look for solutions.
I discovered that natural curiosity, love of learning, self-control, resilience, self-reflection, and humour to name a few are just as important in preparing our students for lifelong success. Angela L. Duckworth and Martin E.P. Seligman in their article “The science of practice and self-control” discovered “that self-control ‘outdoes’ talent in predicting academic success during adolescence. Since then, a surfeit of longitudinal evidence has affirmed the importance of self-control to achieving everyday goals that conflict with momentary temptations”. According to a number of researchers of positive education, all these skills together with the 4 Cs fall under the development of character strengths and virtues.
With this broader framework in mind, I found it a lot easier to design and select appropriate teaching materials and tasks for my teenage students.
One of my favourite ways of approaching a topic developing the 4Cs and beyond is through questioning.
- I give students the main words or ideas of the unit, for example, ‘remember’, “memory”, ‘remind’ and ‘forget’. I then ask them to brainstorm questions using these words and the question’s words ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘why’, ‘when’, ‘where’ in pairs or small groups. They might come up with questions like ‘What do we remember?’, ‘How do we remember?’, ‘Why do we forget?’, and ‘What do we need to do to remember?’
- Then I ask them to choose two or three questions that they feel would be interesting to find the answer to.
- In the next stage, I re-group them to discuss the answers to the questions of their choice, giving them ideas of where to look for answers if they are stuck. This tends to be the longest most engaging stage of the exercise as it taps into their natural curiosity and their desire to find answers to the questions posed by their peers.
- Students then go back to their original groups to collect the answers together. These can be represented on posters that can evolve and expand while working around the specific topic, including all the experiments and discoveries they may personally make along this learning journey. They should make notes of the unanswered questions with an aim to seek answers to these as well.
- The posters are displayed and revisited from time to time as further questions or answers start to surface. It’s a good idea at this stage to ask students to read each other’s questions and answers, prompting them to look for interesting ideas or to simply express their opinions.
- Towards the end, I try to make students aware of what they’ve learnt, as well as get them to reflect on how they felt, the effort they have put into it, their level of engagement, etc.
If you look back at the tasks set above, students are given several opportunities to build not only their creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaborative skills, but they also develop a love of learning, perseverance, tolerating ambiguity, etc. in an engaging and meaningful way.
Erika Osváth is a freelance teacher, teacher trainer, materials writer and co-author of the European Language Award-winning 6-week eLearning programme for language exam preparation. She worked for International House schools in Eastern and Central Europe as a co-ordinator, trainer, and Director of Studies. Erika is co-author with Edmund Dudley of Mixed-Ability Teaching.
In the second blog post in our series on 21st Century skills, (to accompany our teacher training videos on the same subject), Charles Vilina talks more specifically about critical thinking skills and how you can bring critical thinking into your lessons.
In my earlier blog, I introduced some of the main 21st Century skills, and argued that the English language classroom is a perfect environment to build those skills. After suggesting five “strategies” that I feel are essential to encourage 21st Century thinking and learning, I promised some more specifics in later blogs.
My focus for this particular post is on the skill known as “critical thinking.” I look at critical thinking as a series of abilities that take students beyond simple comprehension of information. A critical thinker uses logic and evidence to prioritize and classify information, find relationships, make judgments, and solve problems.
You might argue that our students don’t need to move beyond the simple comprehension of words and sentences. However, critical thinkers are better learners, because they explore meaning much more deeply. As English language curriculums continue to use more content to teach English, critical thinking strategies give students a chance to analyze and process the information in valuable ways.
Let’s look at one specific way in which you can begin to bring critical thinking into your lessons. It begins with vocabulary, one of the building blocks of language.
In all vocabulary development, students must know a word in three ways: by its form, its meaning, and its use. Critical thinking takes this concept even further. Students should know a word as it relates to other words. For example, let’s say that you are teaching students the following lexical set about forms of transportation:
|airplane||hot air balloon|
Once your students have a solid understanding of the above words, I’d suggest the following activity:
- Divide the class into groups of four students.
- Ask student groups to list the above forms of transportation in order from slowest to fastest.
- Ask each student group to discuss their list with another group.
This activity, as simple as it sounds, involves lots of logic and critical thinking. For example, students may decide that a skateboard is probably the slowest form of transportation on the list. However, it gets a bit more difficult after that. Is a bicycle faster than a sailboat? It depends on the wind speed. Therefore, does a sailboat move at the same speed as a hot air balloon, since they both move with the wind? Does a taxi move faster than a subway train? Sometimes, but then a taxi has to stop at intersections. How about a cruise ship? Perhaps we can find the average speed of one on the Internet. Is a rocket the fastest form of transportation? Yes, everyone agrees that it is.
The goal is actually NOT to arrive at a correct answer, but to get students to think more deeply about words, what they represent, how they are each part of bigger systems, how they relate to each other within those systems, and so on.
By doing so, students are required to use all of their language skills in the process. The lesson is no longer about memorization and simple meaning. It has transcended this and become an experience. Students are much more likely to remember and use these vocabulary words after such an activity.
Of course, any number of vocabulary sets can be used, with a variety of other critical thinking activities. For example:
1. The lexical set is “inventions”
Activity One: List the words on a timeline in the order in which they were invented.
Activity Two: List the words again in the order of importance to humans.
2. The lexical set is “sports”
Activity One: List the words in a Venn Diagram, dividing sports into those that can be played indoors only, outdoors only, and both indoors and outdoors.
Activity Two: List the words again in the order of the amount of equipment needed to play them.
3. The lexical set is “adjectives”
Activity One: List the words under the headings of Positive, Negative, and Neutral.
Activity Two: List the words in a Venn Diagram, dividing the adjectives into those that can describe people, things, or both.
As mentioned before, get students into groups to collaborate and to achieve the goals of each activity. Then, get groups talking together to discuss their choices.
These types of activities are especially helpful as students later create sentences using these words. After all, they’ve had a chance to explore the vocabulary more deeply with their fellow classmates.
In coming blogs, we’ll discuss many more ways to include critical thinking in your lessons. Until then, Happy Teaching!
- 5 Ways to Prepare Your Students for the 21st Century (oupeltglobalblog.com)