Last week I had the distinct pleasure of attending my first Critical Skills Institute at Antioch University New England[full disclosure: I will be teaching an online graduate-level class for AUNE this fall, so I was able to attend the Institute for free]. It was an amazingly powerful week filled with a deep examination of the power of problem-based learning.
First up: You’ve heard of twenty-first century skills, right? Well, forget about it. These people have been talking about that stuff for 25 years. The skills and dispositions in Critical Skills match up with the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ frameworks amazingly well, except for the lack of the less universally applicable media and technology skills.
As a student of professional development design these days, I loved the way the Institute was put together. For the first three days of the week, we basically lived in an increasingly challenging Critical Skills Classroom. In three days we went from a nearly complete group of strangers to a team that crushed an incredibly complicated day-long challenge with many moving parts. After experiencing it, we then moved on to spend the last two days of taking that rich understanding and applying it to classroom design.
Classroom design presents its own issues for me, since I don’t have a classroom of my own and I don’t have a set schedule. I also have a lot of moving pieces to any of my lessons, since I need to make sure that I address our district information and digital literacy standards as well as whatever subject-area standards we’re addressing. Now I’m looking at ways to also layer in these rich critical skills.
It took me a few days of banging my head against the wall before I began to see how I can make that work. My first step is that I can use the core concepts of CSC in PD sessions that I run for my staff. The benefit there would be to expose them to the CSC and its potential for their own classrooms. I have strong relationships with some of the teachers in my building, and many of the things I’ve done with those teachers has come closest to the CSC model. I can now take those activities and start layering in the missing pieces.