Monday, 05 November 2012 08:00

21st Century Competencies

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21st Century Competencies

In their recent article “A Comparative Analysis of International Frameworks for 21st Century Competencies: Implications for National Curriculum Policies,” Voogt and Roblin (2012) refer to our society as a “knowledge society” where “ideas and knowledge function as commodities” (299-300). The study analyzed global curriculums in order to determine what is deemed a 21st century competency. Their results outline a global definition of what a competent individual is in this age of information, thereby impacting what should be focused on in the post-secondary classroom.

The following competencies were mentioned in all or most frameworks (309 ):

Competencies defined  

  • Information and communication technology literacy: the ability to use “digital technology, communication tools, and/or netwroks to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information in order to function in a knowledge society” (Voogt & Parajeroblin, 2012)
  • Social/cultural skills and citizenship: the ability to be aware of social and cultural norms and act accordingly
  • Communication: the ability to communicate effectively in diverse situations
  • Collaboration: the ability to work effectively and efficiently with others in a team environment
  • Critical thinking: the ability to purposefully reflect and make judgments/actions in diverse, and sometimes complex, situations
  • Problem solving: the ability to work through the details of a problem to reach a solution
  • Creativity: the ability to think and/or act innovatively
  • Quality work and production: the ability to value quality and work efficiently to achieve it

While it may be a step forward acknowledging what competencies learners require, there are also some issues to consider.

Defining the competencies’ role within the curriculum

Should they be taught separately as new courses, in tandem with current models in a cross-curricular fashion, or should curriculum be transformed entirely?

Role of teacher and PD to support it

Sometimes there are attitudinal barriers on the part of instructors or leadership. Even after this barrier is removed there is the question of where to find the time and money to ensure teachers are trained in these competencies in order to model them to students.

Stakeholder involvement

Is it worth hearing the voice of all the stakeholders involved to decide how this should be approached (public – government; private – business, parents and students; and the educational community – teachers, researchers, etc.). While potentially beneficial to hear all voices it is also a large undertaking, implying a certain amount of bureaucracy.


In order to assess properly, we would need cross-curricular assessments that allow student collaboration in authentic and diverse settings. Though not impossible, it would be a complete overhaul of current trends towards autonomous classes.

The road we are journeying down in order to prepare 21st century learners may appear bumpy, but is, all-in-all, very exciting.

What are your thoughts on Voogt and Roblin’s list? Have you seen the need for these competencies in today’s world? Are any missing? How will we overcome the barriers to implementation? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Voogt, J., Pareja Roblin, N. (2012). A comparative analysis of international frameworks for 21st century competences: Implications for national curriculum policies. Journal of Curriculum Studies. 44:3, 299-321.

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Christie Robertson

I remember what it was like being a new instructor: too many questions and too many resources to sift through. My goal as a writer for Learning Connections is to help instructors with common teaching issues, whether they are f-2-f, blended or online. I want answers to those frequently asked question to be easy to find!