Book Review

21st Century Skills

Rethinking How Students Learn

edited by James Bellanca and Ron Brandt, Solution Tree Press, Bloomington, Ind., 2010, 375 pp., $34.95 hardcover

Imagine that you wanted to prepare someone to be a successful basketball coach, so you asked the best coaches and players in the NBA to tell you what they believe makes them successful.

21st Century Skills

That’s what James Bellanca, CEO of International Renewal Institute, and Ron Brandt, former publications editor at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, did for 21st-century learning skills in their book. Howard Gardner, Linda Darling-Hammond, Richard and Rebecca DuFour, Jay McTighe, Alan November, Douglas Reeves, Andy Hargreaves and a dozen other renowned leaders in education give their perspective on what students will need and what educators must do to prepare students for the future.

As Ken Kay points out in the introduction to 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn, “Students need both content knowledge and skills to apply and transform their knowledge for useful and creative purposes and to keep learning as content and circumstances change.”

The surprise for me was the ability of the editors to pull together such a diverse group of strongly opinionated educational leaders and yet end up with a relatively coherent conceptual framework and collection of skills. In chapter after chapter, the noted authors add layers of insight from their own experience and research that sometimes challenge and sometimes build upon the directions that education is moving.

The curriculum and instruction leader in my former school district is using this book as the focus for a professional learning community with administrators serving as discussion leaders at monthly sessions. That sounds like a great way to model and grow from this rich source of contemporary thinking.

Reviewed by Bob Schultz, instructor, Brandman University, Roseville, Calif.