School News

The Four C’s of 21st Century Education Need to Become Six

Michael Bowler, Assistant Head of School
Kim wrote beautifully last week about the reasons why parents are attracted to an independent school education, and, in particular, a Fayerweather education. She spoke of the NAIS “Jobs to be Done” framework/study and the “jobs” that parents hire independent schools to do. Rightfully, she noted that Job 3 was one that resonated with what she has heard from parents most (although there is overlap between the jobs). Job 3 is described from a parent’s perspective as “When a school is focused almost solely on test scores and academic curriculum, help me find a school that will focus on my child’s social and emotional well being so that I can make sure that my child is well-rounded and a productive member of society.” Her writing had me reflecting on what the core principles or competencies of that third job looks like here at Fayerweather. 
For a long time now, education scholars and entrepreneurs alike have been talking about the “4 C’s” approach needed for 21st century learners. They have cited four crucial skills or competencies that students would need to navigate a modern, globalized world: Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, and Critical Thinking/Problem Solving. These skills and mindsets are definitely on display here at Fayerweather. Students learn how to ask strong inquiry questions, to work interdependently as a member of a team/group, they get opportunities to communicate their ideas to different audiences and measure impact, they pursue novel ideas and craft possible solutions, they identify patterns, make connections and take action ideas into the real world. Yet, at the same time, looking at the 4 C’s, I can’t help but think that there is something missing in using them to fully capture the values of a Fayerweather educational experience. Not only that, but in my opinion, the 4 C’s alone are not enough for our students to meet the challenges of the world that awaits them as adults. This is where reading educational scholars Joanne Quinn, Michael Fullan and colleagues talk about the “6 C’s” of 21st century learning where I can finally see the complete “Job 3” picture of a Fayerweather education.

Joanne Quinn and Michael Fullan in their book Dive into Deep Learning (2020) put forth an additional 2 C’s that they feel are crucial to student education: Character and Citizenship. This new 6 C’s framework addresses some of the shortcomings of only focusing on the original four: “An emphasis on academic achievement by itself will not be effective in educating students in high-poverty environments or serving students of higher socioeconomic status (SES) who are struggling with increasing anxiety and stress.” (pg. 6) I would add that social justice work and anti-bias education are not served well by schools with a purely academic achievement/job readiness focus. 

Let’s explore these “Job 3” competencies and how they fit so well with a Fayerweather education. Quinn and Fullan describe character competency to be one that, “builds the internal qualities of learning to learn; having a positive stance toward life; grit, tenacity, perseverance, and resilience; and the ability to understand empathy and compassion and to act with integrity.” (pg. 28) I hear the echoes of our mission directly reflected back in that description. When exploring the citizenship competency, they define it as “develop[ing] the skills to interact with the external world in a way that builds global perspective, allows one to act with empathy and compassion for diverse values and worldviews, contributes to human and environmental sustainability, and solves ambiguous, complex real-world problems.” (pg. 28)  Without these final two C’s added to the equation of 21st century education, our students would not have the compassion, empathy, social-emotional learning, entrepreneurialism, and global understanding to function in the way our world needs them to in the face of growing inequality, structural racism, climate change, uncertainty of jobs, unpredictable technologies, and the deterioration of social cohesion and trust within and across societies. While that list might sound daunting (and it is), it is only through a more complete and holistic educational model that includes a focus on character and citizenship that we empower students to confront and change the realities they face. 

I am excited to work with our staff and our families to explore and better identify the ways in which the 6 C’s are connected here throughout a Fayerweather education, as well as thinking of the ways we can expand and build on the C’s we know will be so valuable at producing young adults who are ready to be change makers in their community, in their world. As a parent, where do you see the six C’s reflected in your child’s Fayerweather education?
Fayerweather Street School | 765 Concord Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138 | 617-876-4746
Fayerweather is a private PreK, kindergarten, elementary and middle school. We engage each child’s intellect.