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The Essential Skills of 21st Century Classroom (4Cs)

  • Reach University


21st Century Learning demands exercising Higher-Order Thinking Skills in the process of both teaching and learning. Among the Higher order thinking skills (HOTS), Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Collaboration, and Communication (4Cs) are so essential and need to be included consistently on a daily basis. Students who were exposed to these 4Cs have proven their efficiency through mastery of the given content and problem-solving.
The Essential Skills of 21st Century Classroom (4Cs) Dr. Suresh Babu Chiruguru
The Essential Skills of 21st Century Classroom
“I’m calling on our nation’s governors and state education chiefs to develop
standards and assessments that don’t simply measure whether students can fill
in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-
solving and critical thinking and entrepreneurship and creativity.”
President Barak Obama
Research Prepared by:
Dr. Suresh Babu Chiruguru.
The Essential Skills of 21st Century Classroom (4Cs) Dr. Suresh Babu Chiruguru
Today’s National Education systems was built for an economy and a society
that no longer exists. In the manufacturing and agrarian economies that existed 50
years ago, it was enough to master the “Three Rs” (reading, writing and arithmetic).
In the modern “flat world,” the “The Rs” simply aren’t enough. If today’s students
want to compete in this global society, however, they must also be proficient
communicators, creators, critical thinkers, and collaborators (the “Four Cs”).
Life today is exponentially more complicated and complex than it was 50
years ago. This is true for civic life as much as it is for work life. In the 21st century,
citizenship requires levels for information and technological literacy that go far
beyond the basic knowledge that was sufficient in the past. With a host of challenges
facing our communities, along with instant connectivity to a global society, civic
literacy couldn’t be more relevant or applicable to the curricula in our schools.
Global warming, immigration reform, pandemic diseases, and financial meltdowns
are just a few of the issues today’s students will be called upon to address. Today’s
students must be prepared to solve these challenges.
In addition, workforce skills and demands have changed dramatically in the last 20
years. The rapid decline in “routine” work has been well documented by many
researchers and organizations. At the same time, there has been a rapid increase in
jobs involving nonroutine, analytic, and interactive communication skills. Today’s
job market requires competencies such as critical thinking and the ability to interact
with people from many linguistic and cultural backgrounds (cultural competency).
The Essential Skills of 21st Century Classroom (4Cs) Dr. Suresh Babu Chiruguru
It is clear that the “Four Cs” need to be fully integrated into classrooms, schools,
and districts around the country to produce citizens and employees adequately
prepared for the 21st century.
1 21st Century Learning. (2016, December 28). Retrieved from
The Essential Skills of 21st Century Classroom (4Cs) Dr. Suresh Babu Chiruguru
1. Critical Thinking
“Critical thinking has long been a valued skill in society. Today, every student
not just the academically advanced needs it. While critical thinking and problem
solving used to be the domain of gifted students, now it’s a critical domain for
every student.” (Roekel, n.d.)2
Critical thinking has been essential skill in every century and profession.
However, technology has changed the critical thinking platform. Critical thinking
is looking at problems in a new way and linking learning across subjects and
disciplines. Teaching critical thinking and problem solving effectively in the
classroom is viral for students. Learning critical thinking leads students to develop
other skills, such as a higher level of concentration, deeper analytical abilities, and
improved thought processing.
Today’s citizens must be active critical thinkers if they are to compare
evidence, evaluate competing claims, and make sensible decisions. Today’s 21st
century families must sift through a vast array of information regarding financial,
health, civic, even leisure activities to formulate plausible plans of action. The
solutions to international problems, such as global warming, require highly
developed critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. In everyday work,
employees must employ critical thinking to better serve customers, develop better
products, and continuously improve themselves within an ever-changing global
economy. (Roekel, n.d.)3
2 Roekel, D. V. (n.d.). Preparing 21st Century students for Global society. Retrieved from
The Essential Skills of 21st Century Classroom (4Cs) Dr. Suresh Babu Chiruguru
Critical thinking and problem-solving can be defined in many ways.
1. Reason effectively
a. Use various types of reasoning (inductive, deductive, etc.) as
appropriate to the situation.
2. Use systems Thinking
a. Analyze how parts of a whole interact with each other to produce
overall outcomes in complex systems.
3. Make judgements and decisions.
a. Effectively analyze and evaluate evidence, arguments, claims, and
b. Analyze and evaluate major alternative points of view.
c. Synthesize and make connections between information and arguments.
d. Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis.
e. Reflect critically on learning experiences and processes.
4. Solve problems
a. Solve different kinds of unfamiliar problems in both conventional and
innovative ways.
b. Identify and ask significant questions that clarify various points of
view and lead to better solutions.
Critical thinking also draws on other skills, such as communication and
information literacy, to examine, then analyze, interpret, and evaluate it.
The Essential Skills of 21st Century Classroom (4Cs) Dr. Suresh Babu Chiruguru
2. Creativity
“In the past, Americans perceived creativity and innovation as secondary in our
national curriculum. Today, creativity and innovation are key drivers in the global
economy.” (Roekel, n.d.)4
The 21st century is a fun time to be creative. Though the traditional ways of
creativity are still available, with the emergence of technology there are tons of new
possibilities made available. Creativity is trying new approaches to get things done,
innovation, and invention. Instead of just painting a picture, you can animate it or
arrange a piece of music on a computer without ever learning how to play an
instrument. All that said, it’s still up to you to put things through the creative
In today’s world of global competition and task automation, innovative
capacity and a creative spirit are fast becoming requirements for personal and
professional success. Sir Kenneth Robinson, a leading thinker and speaker on
creativity said, “Creativity is as important in education as literacy and we should
treat it with the same status.” In a world in which good design is increasingly used
as a means of differentiating objects of mass production, creative design skills are
highly desired in the labor force.
4 Roekel, D. V. (n.d.). Preparing 21st Century students for Global society. Retrieved from
The Essential Skills of 21st Century Classroom (4Cs) Dr. Suresh Babu Chiruguru
Howard Gardner cites “the creative mind” as one of the five minds we’ll need
in the future. To cultivate such a mind, he says, we need education that features,
“exploration, challenging problems, and the tolerance, if not active encouragement,
of productive mistakes.”
Creativity can be defined as follows:
1. Think Creatively
a. Use a wide range of idea creation techniques (such as brainstorming)
b. Create new and worthwhile ideas (incremental and radical concepts)
c. Elaborate, refine, analyze, and evaluate original ideas to improve and
maximize creative efforts.
2. Work creatively with others
a. Develop, implement, and communicate new ideas to others effectively.
b. Be open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives; incorporate
group input and feedback into the work.
c. Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work and understand the
real-world limits to adopting new ideas.
d. View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and
innovation are part of a long-term, cyclical process of small successes
and frequent mistakes.
3. Implement innovation
a. Act on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the
field in which the innovation will occur.
The Essential Skills of 21st Century Classroom (4Cs) Dr. Suresh Babu Chiruguru
Creativity can be closely intertwined with some other skills such as critical
thinking and problem-solving. Innovation today has a social component and
requires adaptability, leadership, teamwork, and interpersonal skills.
Increasingly, today the capacity to innovate is linked to the ability to connect
with others and with a facility for communication and collaboration.
3. Collaboration
“collaboration is essential in our classrooms because it is inherent in the nature
of how work is accomplished in our civic and workforce lives. Fifty year ago,
much work was accomplished by individuals working alone, but not today. Much
of all significant work is accomplished in teams, and in many cases, global
teams.” (Roekel, n.d.)5
Collaboration is about working together to reach a goal and putting talent,
expertise, and smarts to work. Just like with communication, technology has made
collaboration easier. Actually, technology takes collaboration a step farther, making
types of collaboration possible that weren’t before technology. As the world goes
more interconnected, collaboration will become a more and more essential skill that
it already is, which is why it makes the list of the 4Cs for 21st Century skills.
Generally, collaboration has been accepted as a skill that’s essential to
achieve meaningful and effective results. In the past decade, however, it has become
5 Roekel, D. V. (n.d.). Preparing 21st Century students for Global society. Retrieved from
The Essential Skills of 21st Century Classroom (4Cs) Dr. Suresh Babu Chiruguru
increasingly clear that collaboration is not only important but necessary for students
and employees, due to globalization and the rise of technology.
Various scholars and authors have emphasized the importance of
collaboration. Author James Surowiecki, for example, explains how we use the
“wisdom of crowds” in the new economy by saying that ‘under the right
circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the
smartest people in them.” Surowiecki underscores the importance of collaboration
by remarking that “…..a large group of diverse individuals will come up with better
and more robust forecasts and make more intelligent decisions than even the most
skilled ‘decision maker.’” Diversity brings multiple individual and cultural
perspectives into the collaboration. Not only does a collaborative effort creates
more holistic results than individual efforts, but it also creates knowledge for a
greater number of people.
As a result of students working collaboratively, the group can generate more
knowledge, making collaboration a key ingredient to student success in today’s
global society.
Collaboration can be defined as:
1. Demonstrate ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams.
2. Exercise flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary
compromises to accomplish a common goal.
The Essential Skills of 21st Century Classroom (4Cs) Dr. Suresh Babu Chiruguru
3. Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual
contributions made by each team member.
4. Communication
“Expressing thoughts clearly, crisply articulating opinions, communicating
coherent instructions, motivating others through powerful speech these skilled
have always been valued in the workplace and in public life. But in the 21st
Century, these skills have been transformed and are even more important today.”
(Roekel, n.d.)6
Communication is about sharing thoughts, questions, ideas, and
solutions. In the technological age, it’s much easier and, at the same time, harder to
communicate. Technology has provided with more convenient ways to
communicate, but sometimes the various ways can become overwhelming. Without
effective communication, there’s no way to get anything done inside the classroom
or anywhere, which is why this is an essential 21st Century skill.
Students must be able to effectively analyze and process the overwhelming
amount of communication in their lives today. Which information sources are
6 Roekel, D. V. (n.d.). Preparing 21st Century students for Global society. Retrieved from
The Essential Skills of 21st Century Classroom (4Cs) Dr. Suresh Babu Chiruguru
accurate? Which ones are not? How can they be used or leveraged effectively? The
power of modern media and the ubiquity of communication technologies in all
aspects of life make teaching strong communication skills even more important.
While education has always emphasized fluent reading, correct speech, and clear
writing, there is evidence that students are not mastering these most basic skills. In
the report, Are they really ready for work? Employers note that although oral and
written communication are among the top four skills they seek in new hires, all
graduates are lacking in these areas. High school graduates fare the worst, with 72
percent of employers citing this group’s deficiency in writing English, and 81
percent citing their deficiency in written communication.
Communication skills are especially critical in the expanding service
economy estimated to be 81 percent of jobs where relationships with customers
and fellow employees are of vital importance. Linguistically and culturally effective
listening, empathy, and effective communication skills are essential skills for every
person in the service economy.
Communication can be defined as follows:
1. Communicate clearly
a. Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written, and
nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts.
b. Listen effectively to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values,
attitudes, and intentions.
c. Use communication for a range of purposes (e.g. to inform, instruct,
motivate, and persuade)
The Essential Skills of 21st Century Classroom (4Cs) Dr. Suresh Babu Chiruguru
d. Use multiple media and technologies and know how to assess impact
and their effectiveness a priority.
e. Communicate effectively in diverse environments (including
multilingual and multicultural)
While it is important to emphasize communication skills, it can be difficult
to separate them from other Cs especially collaboration. As represented in the 21st
Century skills Framework, communication competencies such as clearly
articulating ideas through speaking and writing are closely related to collaboration
skills, such as working effectively with diverse teams, making necessary
compromises to accomplish a common goal, and assuming shared responsibility for
collaborative work. Communication cannot be effective unless the message is
received and understood.
Research backs up the importance and interconnection of communication
and collaboration as well. In her work with young children, professor Carol Seefeldt
found that “social skills and communication skills go hand in hand. Children who
look at the child they are talking with, who understand turn taking when
communicating, and who know how to solve verbal conflicts, are those who make
and keep friends easily.”
The Essential Skills of 21st Century Classroom (4Cs) Dr. Suresh Babu Chiruguru
(academy, n.d.)7
7 Roekel, D. V. (n.d.). Preparing 21st Century students for Global society. Retrieved from
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... To use the Constructivism approach in the 21 stcentury classroom, teachers should consider several factors to provide an effective learning process. Competencies like critical thinking and the capacity to communicate with people from various languages and cultural backgrounds are needed in today's labour market and benefit learners (Chiruguru, 2020). ...
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... Nowadays, the world has entered the 21st century, making many life changes. Thus, people need to master the 21st century 4Cs (Critical thinking, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity) to be able to compete in the global society (Chiruguru, 2020). The skills of the 21st century refer to skills, work habits, insight, and character that are essential for human success (Malik, 2018). ...
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