Curriculum Opinion

Where Deeper Learning, 21st-Century Skills, and Global Competence Meet

By Anthony Jackson — August 01, 2014 4 min read
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Today we share a piece by a teacher at Oak Hill High School in Cincinnati, Ohio; a member of Asia Society’s International Studies Schools Network. Meghan Sullivan is a French and World History teacher who has openly embraced the pillars of 21st century skills, global competence, and deeper learning. Read on to see how she combines all of these in her classroom.

by Meghan Sullivan

How can a high school develop all graduates’ global awareness?

Since the founding of Cincinnati’s Oak Hills High School in 1954, education has changed. Our mission claims that “Oak Hills High School students will achieve success by graduating with a shared sense of global awareness and the critical skills to be college and career ready.” In order achieve its goal, Oak Hills’ students and teachers must point to 21st century student outcomes.

According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ rainbow, students should use a variety of deeper learning skills to enhance their education. In order to accomplish these goals, teachers have needed to adapt their curriculum-based instruction. No longer does Oak Hills curriculum exist in a vacuum. It requires an interdisciplinary, competency, and problem-based approach that transcends school walls. This begs the question: how does an institution steeply based in traditional instruction adapt to one that develops problem solving, critical thinking, and enhances global awareness?

The How-to Answers

Many of us never had the joy as early learners to discover the world stage through technology. No computers. No smart phones. No Internet. No VOIP with talking and interacting with friends, families, and who knows whomever else anywhere around the globe. These digital wonders appeared after our school time.

This does not hold true for those who are entering our first grade classrooms—they are comfortable with talking, seeing, and interacting anywhere, anytime. That gives us—those charged with teaching these young techno-whizzes, who have access to the wonderfully widened world stage on which they live with all of its rights and responsibilities, challenges, and opportunities—more than enough tools to help these youngsters learn what it takes to become seasoned actors on this world stage as active citizens in a global community.

A History Lesson

Three years ago, Oak Hills High School developed a relationship with the Asia Society’s International Studies Schools Network (ISSN). The Asia Society partners with schools “to prepare students to be globally competent and ready for the global innovation age.” The switch to 21st century learning has to start with the classroom teachers and their perspective towards innovative instruction. The ISSN has helped give a framework to this transition, providing our staff with necessary resources.

According to P21, professional development needs to highlight the integration of 21st century tools and instructional strategies, cultivate the teacher’s ability to assess learning styles and knowledge acquisition through formative assessments, and encourage knowledge through a variety of collaborative sharing opportunities. The ISSN offers exactly this type of professional development to our school.

Oak Hills High School offers a wide variety of learning modules to their students, housed in an online library. These experiences are varied, ranging from international partnerships to business communication tools to real-life scientific research. All adhere to our mission statement.

From a teacher’s perspective, the use of ISSN modules is imperative on the road to providing deeper learning experiences. For example, we have developed an international, cross-curricular partnership with a high school in Evreux, France. Our partnership has taken on both interdisciplinary, academic projects connected to environmental themes, but has also implemented a successful student exchange. This year, each school investigated the importance of clean drinking water worldwide. In addition to investigating the topic, students were asked to further their knowledge through departmental projects (i.e. creation of water-themed French board games, Ohio River water quality testing, analysis of water-themed music lyrics, creation and administration of stereotyping surveys, etc.) The knowledge is then communicated locally and internationally and action is taken to improve the situation. This year, our students also raised money to fund the Proctor & Gamble Children’s Safe Drinking Water Campaign.

Additionally, our freshmen World History students were asked to investigate a current global topic. Students then investigated their relevance and connected their theme to curricular topics. In doing so, students communicated their findings to their classmates in a collaborative Gallery Walk format. Students invited relevant members of the community to participate as well. And, this year, our students were able to discuss these topics with our Congressmen Steve Chabot and a Holocaust survivor from the Netherlands. The project encouraged students to connect curriculum to the real world.

Finally, our entire school participated in a giant PBL unit to celebrate Global Awareness Day. This structured interaction facilitated 21st century skills applied to the global awareness theme.

Deeper Learning from 21st Century Skills.
21st century learning is unique, deep, and powerful. Students hold a new key to our future, one they can only use by forcing themselves to investigate, communicate, recognize differences, and take action.

Meghan Sullivan is a French and World History teacher at Oak Hills High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.

This piece originally appeared on the blog of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

The opinions expressed in Global Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.