Future Frontiers Analytical Report: Key Skills for the 21st Century

Photos of the authors of the Key Skills for the 21st Century analytical report - Professor Stephen Lamb, Dr Quentin Maire and Esther Doecke
Professor Stephen LambDr Quentin MaireEsther Doecke

Centre for International Research on Education Systems, Victoria University

In response to rapidly changing technologies, schools are often exhorted to redirect their energies to teaching ‘21st century skills’, but these skills are hardly new. Going beyond the headlines, Professor Stephen Lamb and his team from Victoria University’s Centre for International Research on Education Systems investigate the evidence for 21st century skills and how they might be best taught and assessed.

Nine skills are common to most 21st century skills frameworks

  • The report examines the evidence for the transferability of nine commonly identified skills: critical thinking, creativity, metacognition, problem solving, collaboration, motivation, self-efficacy, conscientiousness and perseverance.
  • The evidence is limited for how and where these skills are best developed, as it is for causal links with academic achievement.

There are gaps in policy and practice across jurisdictions that have adopted these frameworks

  • Case studies from seven jurisdictions highlight significant variations in the level of teacher professional development, innovative practice, evaluation of projects and assessment of skills.
  • There are few rigorous studies of successful implementation of 21st century skills frameworks and greater focus is needed on research and evaluation running in tandem with policy reform.

No single form of assessment is applied

  • Assessing these skills can be particularly challenging, with many jurisdictions using a combination of assessments including self-reports, direct assessments and teacher judgement.
  • With each of these forms of assessment having strengths and weaknesses, it is likely that a combination of assessment types will provide the most robust approach to reflect the complexity of these skills.
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