This strange time in history has prompted reflection on right and wrong decisions, good and bad people, life and death options. Some people have so much certainty in this uncertain world about where they stand on such matters. but being absolutely convinced can be an entry to a rabbit hole that sucks you into a story that connects to all your past anxieties or antagonisms. The echo chamber of social media can confirms your cognitive bias and once you develop a set of beliefs you want to defend – sometimes to the death. When fake news is all around us, our children need critical thinking to be able to stand back, reflect, adapt, empathise with other views and get creative solutions to the challenges ahead.
The World Economic Forum constantly updates the skills most required by employers now and into the future. These skills are not always a priority within our curriculum – but they should be! Teaching them enhances a teacher’s own pedagogical skills and adds a crucial personal growth dimension to the essential knowledge we deliver to children. I have written The Complete Learners Toolkit, a book full of lessons for 9 to 14-year olds, to help our children to thrive in a more uncertain world with a whole new set of values and priorities.
The lessons are built on the following WEF skills:
Active learning and learning strategies
Aim: To help students understand more about how their brains work so that they become more effective learners.
We know that learning changes brains, but each brain is unique.
One of the most important research discoveries about knowledge and memory, according to Peter Brown et al. in Make It Stick, is that active retrieval is the most powerful way to strengthen learning. Making a determined effort to recall your knowledge and test yourself on it works.
Complex problem solving
Aim: To remind students that they are natural problem solvers and that there are many ways to tackle any problems they face in their learning.
According to Mike Berners-Lee, we have created an ever more complicated and complex world, demanding a challenging mix of interdependency and technical mastery. However, we are born problem solvers. Children are experts at solving problems. As infants, they solved the problem of how to get fed, talk, walk and adapt to life. They did it through playing, watching, listening, copying, practising and learning how to learn, showing that we – as a species – are natural problem solvers who can follow our instinct to work out what to do next.
Aim: To help students realise and practise how to think and reflect objectively so that they can make good judgements.
Critical thinking is a crucial skill for achieving success at school and at work in later life. It involves observing, analysing, assessing and evaluating evidence in an objective, open-minded manner. It also asks that we cultivate a sense of curiosity that is always willing to ask questions and challenge for the truth.
Aim: To make students consider ways in which they can have the courage to take necessary risks to find new ways of thinking.
Creativity develops new thinking, leading to different approaches and novel ways of doing things, solving problems and finding new answers. It takes courage to be creative because as we grow older, we get used to doing things in ways that make us feel comfortable.
Leadership and social influence
Aim: To help students develop the skills to lead and communicate effectively.
The skills needed to get on with other people are key to success at school and in the workplace. Social skills can be developed and nurtured by working as team members and leaders.
Aim: To help students develop the self-awareness and emotional regulation that will serve them well at school, at home and in their future workplace.
Emotional intelligence encompasses self-awareness and self-management skills which develop confidence, tolerance and success. Emotional intelligence combines interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence and leads to the development of expert communication skills. Becoming emotionally intelligent helps students enjoy a challenge with less self-judgment or comparison with others.
Judgement and decision making
Aim: To help students identify their values and encourage them to make conscious choices for their own benefit.
Having good judgement and being able to make sensible decisions is an essential skill for us all. So why is it that some children (and, indeed, some adults) make choices that endanger their health and happiness? We need to help students to think purposefully about their personal values and how they can use them to make good choices in life.
Aim: To encourage students to want to help other people and to take pride in delivering high-quality outcomes.
The idea of being ‘in service’ could be seen as demeaning – perhaps slightly reminiscent of domestic duties or outmoded class hierarchies. However, adopting the mindset of serving others is a very powerful way to see the emergence of a generous spirit and the humility of true self-confidence.
Aim: To practise good listening and communication skills that will empower students to develop healthy relationships.
Being able to negotiate involves effective communication and emotional resilience so that you can take an objective view and see all aspects of a situation. The gifts of patient listening and empathy will create great negotiators.
Aim: To help students be able to adapt to new situations and maximise their learning capacity.
This is the ability to change your mind and adapt to different circumstances by knowing when to have a growth mindset attitude to the struggle ahead.
Teaching these skills within the knowledge curriculum means weaving the lessons in this book into your classroom so that students can apply them in practice and see how they impact on their learning. I taught these lessons myself for decades and discovered that when children understand themselves as learners, they can teach themselves, adapt to change and self-regulate effectively. The new ‘normal’ education must deliver this as a priority so our children can, indeed, save our world.