Transdisciplinary Skills

What Are They?

T-Skills are not new. They comprise a set of higher-order skills, abilities, and learner dispositions that have been identified as required for success in today’s complex, rapidly-changing, interdependent, technology-driven society. These skills have been articulated into frameworks by numerous national and international educational organizations for over a decade [AACU] (2007), Educational Testing Service [ETS] (2007), International Society for Technology in Education [ISTE] (2007), North Central Regional Educational Laboratory  [NCREL] (2003), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] ( 2005), Partnership for 21st Century Skills [P21] (2006); State Educational Technology Directors Association [SETDA] (2001), etc. in an effort to foster educational innovation in support of these skills.  

21st century skills graphic


Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration - the 4 Cs

While organized in slightly different ways, these individual frameworks are found to be “generally consistent with each other” (Dede, p.11) in their emphasis on creativity & innovation, critical thinking & problem-solving, communication, and collaboration. In addition to gaining disciplinary expertise, learners need to practice these skills in the activities and assessments they engage in. 

Creativity and Innovation badgeCritical Thinking and Problem Solving BadgeCommunication BadgeCollaboration badge


Information, Media, and ICT Literacy

The need for ongoing information, media, and ICT literacies are a direct result of technologies changing the way we communicate, interact, and work together. To practice these literacies learners need to be required to reserach, communicate, and collaborate using a variety of media as well as become producers of media products.

Information Literacy badgeMedia Literacy badgeICT Literacy badge


The Importance of "Soft" Skills

Arguably some of the most important 21st century skills are those that set us apart form the machine. Being able to live and work in today’s rapidly changing, globalized, interconnected and interdependent world requires collaboration, social and cross-cultural skills, adaptability and self-regulation, productivity and accountability, leadership and responsibility.

To develop these interpersonal and intrapersonal skils, learners need to practice working in collaboration with others, explore cultural differences and perspectives, develop self-reflective practices, appreciate that all knowledge comes with lenses, and grapple with the complexity inherent in our diverse, interconnected, and interdependent world (Lynch, Russell, Evans, & Sutterer, 2009; Marzano, 2008).

These transdisciplinary skills, or T-skills are not only deemed important for a successful economy and are sought by employers from college graduates entering the workforce (Conley, 2012; Gray, 2016), they are required for “effective community and social engagement, participatory democracy, and for living fulfilling meaningful lives” (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 2008, p.5).

To develop these important affective and conative skills educators consider HOW students learn and draw on what is known about the science of learning beyond the cognitive to foster these meta-outcomes (Laurillard, 2002, 2012, 2013).

Flexibility and Adaptability badgeInitiative and Self-direction badgeSocial and Cross Cultural SkillsProductivity and Accountability badgeLeadership and Responsibility badge


21st Century Themes

Last, 21st Century themes such as global awareness, financial-economic-business-entrepreneurial-civic literacy, health literacy, and environmental literacy are needed to understand and respond to the issues facing today’s globalized, interconnected, and interdependent societies. Incorporating 21st themes into the curriculum helps foster the system's thinking and transdiciplinary mindset that helps us understand today's complex world.

Global Awareness badgeFinancial, Business, Managerial, and Entrepreneurial Literacy (FEBE) badgeCivic Literacy badgeHealth Literacy badgeEnvironmental Literacy badge

Together, these skills make a compelling appeal for the rethinking of pedagogies in order to foster them (Beetham & Sharpe, 2007; Bellanca, 2010; Bereiter & Scardamalia, 2008; Guerriero, 2017).

University of Minnesota SLO / SDO alignment to 21st Century Skills

National Organization

International Organizations


Dede, C. (2010). Comparing frameworks for 21st century Skills. 21st century Skills: Rethinking how students learn, 20, 51-76.

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