Transfer: Connecting 21st Century Skills to the Real World

Many call for students and grads to possess 21st century skills, but few know how to measure whether or not a student has mastered 21st century skills.

A group of education and science experts recently released a report that aims to “define just what researchers, educators, and policymakers mean when they talk about ‘deeper learning’ and ’21st century skills,” according to Education Week. They found skills can be divided in three categories: cognitive skills, interpersonal skills, and intrapersonal skills. However, what was most important and proves to be the hardest to implement and measure is the underlying skill that gives value to all these skills: transfer.

Transfer means students know how to take the 21st century skills learned in K12 to college, and beyond to their career. Transfer can also mean making connections across disciplines or connections in and out of school, like what a student learned on his part-time bussing job that he can apply to his chemistry lab group. This might be the most important skill for educators and students to understand about 21st century skills. Like any subject students learn in school, we hope they will see the real-world application for the knowledge they gained in any course, whether it’s now or 10 years later. Mastery is often defined by doing well on a test. With 21st century skills, you can use your critical thinking, for example, and show mastery by taking something you know out of context and applying it to something else. Making connections among seemingly unrelated things is one of the most sought after skills in the world of work because it inspires innovation, launches new projects and helps people to see the mundane and the ordinary in different and, often, more impactful ways.

In the article, one researcher describes the 21st century student as a “Renaissance man.” Students will need to be experts in a variety of disciplines, transferring their skills from one profession, or problem, to the next.  Students who can make these kinds of connections will become employees who see opportunity, take initiative to start an idea, and have the wherewithal to see it through, evaluating the effect and the outcome.

Next week we are holding our CRITICAL AND CREATIVE THINKING workshop for students in grades 7-9. During this one week workshop, students will learn:

  • How to think outside the box
  • How to observe
  • How to ask questions
  • How to analyze problems
  • How to imagine solutions
  • How to evaluate outcomes

This workshop will be held in Lakewood, CO. We still have openings and multiple financing options. Find out more about this amazing summer learning opportunity at 



“Study: ’21st Century Learning’ Demands Mix of Abilities,” by Sarah D. Sparks. 10 July 2012. Education Week. Accessed on 12 July 2012.

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