We are exploring "rigorous pursuit" at Saint David's this year. In a 2008 Educational Leadership article and subsequently in various forms and in several publications, Tony Wagner from Harvard's Change Leadership Group, wrote a piece entitled Rigor Redefined. In it, he wrote of even the best schools failing to prepare students for successful careers and citizenship in this new century. I've included two of his recent books.
After extensive research, including conversations with several hundred business, nonprofit, philanthropic, and education leaders and observational visits to many schools across the country, Wagner identified two overarching themes--the ability to ask questions and engage others in "good discussion"--to be fundamentally critical. He also developed seven essential skills:
1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving. At the core of these skills is the ability to ask the right questions at the right time. “Yesterday’s answers won’t solve today’s problems.” In today's much faster paced world this is even more important than it has been in the past.
2. Collaboration and Leadership. Technological advances, especially in the virtual arena have changed the definition of team. Teamwork is no longer defined by physical proximity. The ability to influence--leadership and collaboration are essential. I would add to this the ability to recognize and appreciate difference in language, culture, race, religion, etc.
3. Agility and Adaptability. This includes flexibility, adaptability to change, or ability to be a change agent. Skills associated with learning and adapting will be more important than the technical skills themselves--because they change so frequently now.
4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism. In essence, this boils down to learning to avoid "risk aversion" and develop a willingness to attempt, fail, and learn.
5. Effective Oral and Written Communication. Communication is the key: verbal skills, written skills, presentation skills--clear and concise. What's the take-away should be obvious in the first 60 seconds.
6. Accessing and Analyzing Information. The ability to access, determine the legitimacy of, and synthesize large quantities of information and subsequently apply the results of the above to successful completion of a task or solve a problem.
7. Curiosity and Imagination. People increasingly want unique products and services. They need novel solutions to the problems of the day. Fostering, recognizing and celebrating creativity, imagination and divergent thinking is increasingly important.