Just imagine that schools could only guarantee to improve three things for all learners. What should they be?
I have asked this question hundreds of times to parents, students, ministers, teachers and school leaders in over twenty countries. What is remarkable is that that the top twenty answers to the question always come out the same.
- The ability to be resilient and confident but at the same time considerate and reliable. Some describe this in terms of being organised or self reliant. More >>
- Second on the list is normally… learners should contribute positively to their society. This may sometimes be about learners being globally aware, politically active or being able to get involved and be active in their school. More >>
Creative Problem Solving:
- Third is normally the ability to solve problems creativity and then put these ideas into practice in useful ways . Some describe this in terms of expressing ideas creatively others describe these skills in the context of entrepreneurship and inventiveness. More >>
- Next is normally the ability to love learning, unlearning and relearning. It is those skills that drive people to gain feedback and set themselves challenges. More >>
- There is the argument that we should not teach it if you can ‘Google’ it. Some believe that if all learners have the internet in their pocket via their phone then why would they need us to teach them facts. If this is true then it becomes absolutely vital that we teach students how to deal with information, how to detect bias and how to research from a range of sources then analyse the results and come to a conclusion. More >>
- When you group these you find that top of the list is normally…. learners should be able to work together. This may be called Collaboration or Team work or even Reciprocity. More >>
The first letters of these skill categories is SECRET. There is strong agreement that these are the most critical things that learners need and that schools should provide but to teach them alone without content is not what is being suggested.
The critical thing to remember at this point is that outstanding teachers select different strategies at different times so that they can teach their subject AND these competencies at the same time. They understand that the competencies assist in learning and are not an added extra. It isn’t competencies OR content it is setting up the learning experience so that learners can improve their competencies through learning the content. Who chooses the content is a different question and often one not in the power of teachers to control. Download this file for a quick way to modify lessons to include and assess the SECRET skills up to and including level 4 SECRET lesson outcomes
Defining the SECRET skills
For a quick definition of the SECRET skill set I love the following video which was produced by the students of prospect primary school in Australia. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vP-9rL1kx0E
To define these skills in more detail we researched how others had defined them and found that 54 organisations and governments around the world had already done an excellent job . These ranged from the Oxfam Education for Global Citizenship[i] to the Tasmanian essential learnings[ii]. Together with Anna Hazeldine we combined all of these sets into one set and grouped them under the SECRET headings. Click on any of the skill categories to read more about these or click on the ladder titles to see complete ladders for each skill ranging from level 1 to level 9. Level 9 is set as the most skilled adult professional we could think of so please get back to us if you know how we should update it.
Self-Manager – Click this link for an overview of the skills of Self management as well as guidance for how to set up learning activities. Click in the links below to view complete definitions of each of the four skills that make up Self Management skills.
Effective Participator – This page also provides guidance for how teachers can create opportunities for their students
Creative Thinker – This page also provides guidance for how teachers can create opportunities for their students
Reflective Learner – This page also provides guidance for how teachers can create opportunities for their students
Enquirer – This page also provides guidance for how teachers can create opportunities for their students
Team Worker – This page also provides guidance for how teachers can create opportunities for their students
There are others such as the 4Cs of the Partnership for 21st Century Schools and EdLeader 21, the eight essential competencies of the European Union, the skills framework of ACT21S and so on. In fact I found 54 sets all with different titles and all covering the same skills. It is not important which of these is used but much more important that we work together to make whatever definitions you decide upon work. I devised the content of the SECRET set by combining all of those available at the time so tend to use this set in all my work but the same priciples apply to all.
Sites that define skills that are essential for all learners
If you are on a comittee or in a school and about to list your own definition of what skills are essential I urge you to either research those from the following list and mix and match to make use of the work that has been done around them or contact me to assist you in this process. Definitions are just the first step and for them to be used throughout the system there are considerable resorces that are needed. It is often the repetition of this effort that adds to the complexity and further dilutes efforts to achieve our shared goals. I would argue it is better to have 75% of what you agreed as essential implemented everywhere rather than 100% which is never followed through.
- SECRET: The most comprehensive description of 24 skills at 9 levels is, I would argue, the SECRET set which appear on this site.
- European Union: Eight Key Competencies for Lifelong Learning
- Adams 50, Denver Social Standards – Based on work i did with Adams 50 this is a simplified SECRET set with just 17 ladders at three levels each
- Partnership for 21st Century Schools
- Tasmanian Essential Learnings
- Australian General Capabilities
- Scottish Curriculum for Excellence
- Northern Ireland Skills and Capabilities defining document and summary diagram
- EPIC, Educational Policy Improvement Centre’s Metacognitive skills
- Lumina Foundation Degree Qualification Profile, defined at the Associate Degree level, Bachelor Degree Level and Masters Degree Level
- Posters that summarise each SECRET skills with the content of each taken from the master poster we sent out free to all UK schools.
Ways of authentically assessing these skills
- Personalisation by Pieces version 2: www.pbyp.co.uk
My work in helping schools continuously improve how they provide these skills
- MS Innovative Schools Workshops: http://www.is-toolkit.com/workshops.html
- PbyP approach version 7: http://www.scribd.com/doc/55169589/Personal-is-at-Ion-by-Pieces-Approach-PbyP-v7
[i] OXFAM – Education for Global Citizenship http://www.oxfam.org.uk/education/gc/files/education_for_global_citizenship_a_guide_for_schools.pdf
[ii] Essential Learnings – a curriculum for the 21st century
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I created the skills framework prior to becomming a Director at Cambridge Education, I was then able to delevop it further and am now through http://www.learningbyladders.com increasing the ease of adoption.