Applying Developmental Theories to Teach Students 21 Century Skills

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Applying Developmental Theories to Teach Students 21 Century Skills
Educators are faced everyday with new, innovative ways to prepare young people for the 21 Century. Even though technically we are already leaving in the 21 Century, our schools are not there yet. Teachers need to prepare students for the jobs that have not yet been created, for the new products that have not yet been invented, and for the new skills to build towards creativity and innovation.

According to Partnerships for 21 Century Skills, there is a profound gap between the knowledge and skills most students learn in school and the knowledge and skills they need in typical 21st century communities and workplaces. To successfully face rigorous higher education coursework, career challenges and a globally competitive workforce, U.S. schools must align classroom environments with real world environments by fusing the 3Rs: English, reading or language arts; mathematics; science; foreign languages; civics; government; economics; arts; history; and geography, and 4 Cs: Critical thinking and problem solving; communication, collaboration; and creativity and innovation. In addition, we should be preparing our students to use technology effectively and to develop skills for careers and life. Furthermore, young people should develop awareness and respect to cultural differences. According to Bronfenbrenner’s ecological system theory, the interaction between the different systems will have an impact on how the child develops and behaves. As a teacher I am aware that adolescents in my classes have issues with their families that affect their learning. For example the stress of losing a job will also stress the child. The changes in the parent’s life impact the child’s life. (exosystem). It is important for me to know about culture, customs and values of my students to understand some behaviors. ( macrosystem), as well as events that have affected the child. For example divorced parents ( cronosystem). Research has shown that learning a second language enhance children cognitive development. For example, research conducted in Canada with young children shows that those who are bilingual develop the concept of object permanence at an earlier age. Bilingual students learn sooner that an object remains the same, even though the object has a different name in another language. For example, a foot remains a foot and performs the function of a foot, whether it is labeled a foot in English or un pied in French (ACTLF). According to Piaget some students remain at the concrete operational stage throughout their school years, even throughout life. As a teacher I promote activities that enhance abstract reasoning and problem solving. Students are able to analyze materials, to compare, to debate. They compare and contrast stories, pictures, cultures, and customs. I present students real life images and situations, I use real locations in target-language countries and cities and ask questions such as “Can you walk from el Prado to el Palacio Real? What would be a better way to go?” I have students brainstorm ideas. In higher levels, students have debates about important issues. In my school right now there is a big emphasis on reading. When students read in Spanish, they guess the meaning of new words from the context in which they appear. They detect the nature and function of particular statements or images and are able to read between the lines for information that may not be explicitly stated. Reading and listening critically involve not only identifying the main idea but also finding evidence and examples that support it. Another technique to promote critical thinking is to provide more time for answers. A good way is to use the “think-pair-share” technique where students take several sentences to think about an answer, share it with a partner, and then follow up with a discussion of the answers with the whole class.

Another important aspect working with...
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