The 21st century workforce is very different from the workforce of our predecessors. With the rise in automation and technology there are new demands that are being placed on employers to produce goods that are faster, more personalized, and more accessible. In order to meet these demands, this generation of employees must have a skillset that complements these demands. This skillset includes communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity (4C) skills. The problem of practice addressed in this dissertation is the lack of 4C skills among students currently in the K-12 education system, and the lack of opportunities students have to develop these 4C qualities. This problem was examined through a pilot study that was conducted in the context of a fifth grade setting in a small and rural school district in northeastern Florida. Teachers volunteered to provide a two-week unit of instruction to their students that focused on the development of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity (4C) skills within the context of state mandated curricular content. Curriculum also promoted the development of students' non-cognitive factors (academic behaviors, academic mindset, learning strategies, social skills, and perseverance) as stepping-stones to refining students' 4C skills. Over the course of the two-week unit, teachers tracked the development of their students' 4C skills, noting their perceived progress of students through teacher focus group sessions and through individual teacher's written reflections. The results revealed that teachers perceived their students 4C skills to improve over the course of the unit of study, especially after the first four days of instruction. One significant finding of the pilot was that teachers who subscribe to a more student-centered philosophy of teaching were more successful with implementing a 4C rich curriculum than teachers who preferred a teacher-centered classroom. Student-centered teachers also perceived more growth in their students' 4C abilities than teachers who were teacher-centered. The framework developed from this study is intended to assist educators who are interested in improving students' 4C abilities. The framework was created and refined to reflect the results of the pilot study. Each of the non-cognitive factors that supported the development of the 4C skills were aligned in a visual and described in a rubric that can be used by educators to guide their students' progression toward proficiency in 4C skills. In this pilot, learning strategies, academic behaviors, and academic mindset were the non-cognitive factors that supported the development of all 4Cs, while social skills were critical to the development of communication and collaboration, and academic perseverance was essential to the development of critical thinking and creativity. The non-cognitive factors that supported the development of each of the 4C skills were aligned in a visual and described in a rubric that can be used by educators who are interested in developing or refining their classroom practice to build these skills among students. Recommendations for further studies include repeating the pilot study with a larger sample size and across multiple grade levels, as well as providing more lengthy and in-depth training for teachers who are interested in promoting 4C skills in their classrooms.
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Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
College of Education and Human Performance
Teaching, Learning, and Leadership
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Harshbarger, Rodney, "Learning in the 21st Century: A Study Addressing Educational Trends and Implications" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 5043.