Lately, everywhere you go, it seems educators are buzzing about the importance of the “4 Cs” in defining meaningful learner work. They are:
2. Critical thinking
The 4 Cs are the center of Learner Work. Imagine a school system that promotes the opportunity to communicate, collaborate, create and think critically on a routine basis. Imagine a classroom that requires this and learning beyond the four walls to include parents, the community and the world. How might one determine if this is taking place in a classroom? Watch what our learners do. Are they in neat rows, answering questions with neat answers? Or are they engaging with messy problems and projects for which their are no right answers?
Let’s look at each of the 4 Cs and imagine the possibilities:
- Creativity – Might a learner be able to suggest multiple ways to achieve the standard and do so with a personal flair or interest? Perhaps a learner is enamored with the arts and can find suitable content there.
- Critical Thinking – Might a learner be able to challenge the status quo, write a letter to persuade, and rethink a design or product and receive credit for it?
- Communication – Might a learner embrace the notion that the world is flat and communicate with others around the world in an effort to complete a project? NASA, government officials, industry leaders and authors are there for the asking. Isn’t that what we do in the real world? It is called networking and something our youngest learners are already doing.
- Collaboration – Working together to solve a problem is another real world requirement. But where in our schools are there spaces designed to foster collaboration, teamwork and the ability to conduct a virtual meeting? For an example of what this looks like, check out Penn State University’s space.
The 4 Cs offer a world of possibilities to our learners and offer us a chance to truly raise the bar when it comes to learner work. Yet there are 3 Cs that continue to hold us back from what could be possible with our learner’s work in a customized learning environment. And no one likes to “buzz” about these. They are:
If we are honest, and willing to poke fun at ourselves, we can admit to holding on to teaching curriculum that we are familiar with and have taught for years (think dinosaurs in 3rd grade even though we moved that to 4th grade two years ago, or the history teacher lovingly spending an extra week on the American Revolution because George Washington was his boyhood hero).
There will always be content that we, as educators, need to teach our learners. However, content – coupled with comfort and control – is what led to the well-worn path of the industrial model of education. It’s human nature to desire comfort (think of your favorite pair of jeans) and control (think of your day) … until it threatens your future and you still refuse to see the need to change.
But how will our learners uncover, discover and really connect with all that they must learn if we don’t set aside those 3 Cs and embrace the 4 Cs … and more? The 4 Cs hold promise as a framework to move forward, not hold on to our educational past.
If you are still confused, simply ask a learner how is this best learned … and listen.