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What Does the Portrait of a Graduate Look Like for Education in 2018?

In part three of a three-part series, Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart, explains technologies that are changing education and the future workforce.

The Partnership for 21st Century Learning created a Framework for 21st Century Learning, which was developed with input from teachers, education experts and business leaders to define and illustrate the skills and knowledge students need to succeed in work, life and citizenship, as well as the support systems necessary for 21st-century learning outcomes.

Through this organization, the Portrait of a Graduate was launched. The goal is that by 2021, 21 percent of school systems across the country are engaging with their communities to develop and implement a Portrait of a Graduate. The idea is that the portrait will frame the new vision for the school system.

Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart, believes that, “it’s a great time for communities to have a conversation about what students will be able to do. We’ve seen this work in hundreds of communities. If you have a conversation about how has the world changed since you were in school, and what kids will need to know and be able to do, the next question is: What kinds of experiences are likely to produce those outcomes and will help communities develop really thoughtful lists of new priorities? It’s been exciting to see in the last year really good examples of new graduate profiles or student learning goals.”

Vander Ark also believes that a new set of priorities are emerging from this community work. He believes that literacy and numeracy will continue to be important, but the new priorities are around those that truly make us human, such as the ability to manage ourselves, read social situations, and good decision-making. These are often referred to as social emotional learning indicators.

He also speaks to the importance of design thinking, and how we can teach students a structured approach to attacking problems that they’ve never seen before. Vander Ark states that design thinking is “similar to computational thinking, which comes from a computer science background, but in both cases it’s a structured approach to say, wow, I’ve never seen this problem. And then it’s a structured approach to iterative development where you try stuff and you see how it works.

“In our panel, Jonathan Rochelle from Google talked about how what he most wanted from kids was a sense of confidence,” said Vander Ark. “I love that idea. I want them to be confident using attack skills for walking into complex situations. I want them to appreciate and be humble about complexity, but I want them to be confident that they know how to tackle new and complicated settings.

“The last new priority would be entrepreneurship. The idea that we’re all entrepreneurs now. Even those that join a large company are going to be expected to show initiative and understand how they can make a difference in their company,” Vander Ark said. This is how the Portrait of a Graduate is pointing to what the future of learning will look like and require for students today.