Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Teaching 21st Century Process Skills to Strengthen and Enhance Family and Consumer Sciences Education

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Teaching 21st Century Process Skills to Strengthen and Enhance Family and Consumer Sciences Education

Article excerpt

Family and consumer sciences (FCS) professionals need to be equipped with a set of strategies and tools to prepare their students for the challenges they will face in the 21st century. Nationwide, educators are integrating a set of skills deemed essential for student success in college and a career. Building upon these skills and the process areas in the National Standards for FCS Education, the authors created the 21st Century Process Skills Model and Assessment Framework. These tools, used with active learning strategies, can be incorporated into any FCS curriculum to teach and assess the 21st century process skills that can lead to student achievement and lifelong learning.

To prepare their students for the challenges of this century, family and consumer sciences (FCS) professionals need a framework and strategies for teaching the 21st century process skills advocated by educators nationwide. Although the set of skills is not new, the drive to teach them to students is greater than ever. Are FCS educators leading the way in teaching and assessing the process skills of learners to prepare them for tomorrow? These skills are important for both teachers and learners, whether in a middle or high school, university, or Extension setting.

21st Century Skills: Background

In 1992, the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills report was published by the U.S. Department of Labor as a guide to preparing students for success in the workplace. The SCANS report identified sets of "foundation skills" and "workplace competencies" essential for individuals to succeed in school, work, and life after high school. Since this report, other educational organizations have produced their own sets of skills. The North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (2003), an entity of the U.S. Department of Education, developed the "enGauge 21st Century Skills." Based on research and reports on workforce trends, the Laboratory's 2003 report focused on four primary skill areas: digital-age literacy, inventive thinking, effective communication, and high productivity.

More recently, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (known as "The Partnership") defined a framework for 21st century teaching and learning (2007). It is this framework that has led to the newest efforts in education to integrate the identified skills into the curriculum and assess students on learning outcomes. According to The Partnership, four forces are reshaping the educational platform for learning: (a) the need for more knowledgeable workers, (b) a better understanding of how to use technology as a thinking tool, (c) new ways to engage and keep "Net generation" students actively learning, and (d) better methods to implement research findings on how people learn (Trilling & Fadel, 2009). These forces are pushing the educational agenda of integrating 21st century skills into the curriculum as students prepare for the challenges of a more digitaloriented, global world. More than 14 states and many professional organizations have formally joined this effort, including ASCD, the National Education Association, and the American Association of School Librarians.

The Partnership's "Framework for 21st Century Learning" (2007) includes four interrelated areas of student outcomes. The core subjects and 21st century themes provide the foundation. This foundation is surrounded by three essential skill areas: learning and innovation skills; information, media, and technology skills; and life and career skills (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009). The Partnership advocates that the core subjects be studied through authentic, project-based learning grounded in five themes: (a) global awareness; (b) financial, economic, business, and entrepreneurial literacy; (c) civic literacy; (d) health literacy; and (e) environmental literacy.

The student outcome areas and the five themes are strongly supported by FCS. A review of the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences annual conference programs and recent issues of the Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences shows numerous connections with the 21st century themes. …

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