Designing for 21st Century Learning

The Need for Transdisciplinary Skills

Educators today are faced with the daunting task of preparing learners for an age in which technologies are transforming lives and society. Industries have shifted from a focus on manufacturing and trade to a focus on knowledge and ideas, with knowledge work becoming the main source of economic growth. In addition to gaining disciplinary expertise, students have to learn how to learn and develop the literacies needed to succeed in a society and in which creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and ICT literacies are the new canon (Bellanca, 2010).

The Importance of Non-cognitive skills

Students further have to develop the habits of mind also known as affective and conative skills that allow them to adapt, explore, learn, and apply new knowledge and skills on their own. These literacies are not only deemed important for a successful economy, but for “effective community and social engagement, participatory democracy, and for living fulfilling meaningful lives” (Bereiter & Scardamalia, p.5). This presents educators with the responsibility to rethink what students learn and how to design learning experiences that foster the development of 21st Century Skills.

Pedagogical Innovations

This is particularly true for the online classroom, which presents an ideal sandbox for pedagogical innovations. Each virtual  learning environment holds the promise of creating a transformative learning experience that challenges learners, engages them in meaningful inquiry, and provides them with agency so that they may develop the skills needed for the future.


Bellanca, J. A. (Ed.). (2010). 21st century Skills: Rethinking how students learn. Solution Tree Press.

Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (2008). Toward research-based innovation. Innovating to learn, learning to innovate, 67-87.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2009). Framework for 21st century learning.