Documenting 4C skills - Steve Barkley

Documenting 4C skills

I had a request to facilitate a team of high school teacher leaders and administrators who were exploring the possible implementation of a graduation portfolio or capstone project that would document students’ skills in the 4Cs: collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking.

In the same week I received a message from an international contact who was a managing director at a Fortune 500 company. She has worked as a volunteer in the hiring practices of recent graduates and in an HR assessment center. She shared that many candidates were missing the “soft skills” frequently defined as 21st century skills. She was interested in the training of high school students in these important skills.

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On the Glossary of Educational Reform website:

Capstone projects are described as ……..

“ generally designed to encourage students to think critically, solve challenging problems, and develop skills such as oral communication, public speaking, research skills, media literacy, teamwork, planning, self-sufficiency, or goal setting—i.e., skills that will help prepare them for college, modern careers, and adult life….. Capstone projects also tend to encourage students to connect their projects to community issues or problems, and to integrate outside-of-school learning experiences, including activities such as interviews, scientific observations, or internships.”

Capstone projects goals are commonly…

…Increasing the academic rigor of the senior year.

 …Increasing student motivation and engagement.

 …Increasing educational and career aspirations.

 …Improving student confidence and self-perceptions.

 …Demonstrating learning and proficiency.

 The International Baccalaureate Program for primary grades (PYP) culminates with an exhibition  for students prior to entering the middle grades.

The exhibition unit takes place under any transdisciplinary theme at the discretion of the school. Students are required to engage in a collaborative, transdisciplinary inquiry process that involves them in identifying, investigating and offering solutions to real-life issues or problems. The central idea selected must be of sufficient scope and significance to warrant a detailed investigation by all students.


Compare these desired outcomes of exhibition to the capstone outcomes above.

*for students to engage in an in-depth, collaborative inquiry

 *to provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate independence and responsibility for their own learning

  *to provide students with an opportunity to explore multiple perspectives

 *for students to synthesize and apply their learning of previous years and to reflect upon their journey through the PYP

 *to provide an authentic process for assessing student understanding

 *to demonstrate how students can take action as a result of their learning

 * to unite the students, teachers, parents and other members of the school community in a collaborative experience that incorporates the essential elements of the PYP

  *to celebrate the transition of learners from primary to middle/secondary education.

 Here are the questions I used with the leadership team to examine their beliefs about current practices and the need for change:

1 How important do you believe it is for students to develop their skills in the 4Cs of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking? Why?

 2 Where are the 4C’s currently practiced in the learning activities in which students are engaged?

 3 How aware are students of their current skill levels in in 4C’s? How much feedback do they receive?

 4 How might the implementation of a capstone project or graduation portfolio that focused on the 4Cs impact teaching and learning?

 5 What do you believe are critical elements that must be considered when designing a strategy for requiring the practice, assessment and documentation of 4C skills?

What might emerge from exploring these questions with your staff? What skills would you like to document that students possess exiting from your elementary, middle, and high schools? How might an exhibition, capstone, or portfolio help focus teaching and learning?


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One Response to “ Documenting 4C skills ”

  1. Kevin McIntyre Says:

    Hi Steve,
    Is great to see that you remain a major influence in education. I enjoy reading your quotes and feel as if I’m still talking with you at a NYSUT workshop/training.
    I retired from both classroom teaching and NYSUT. The last 7 years have been a consultant trainer for Kagan Cooperative Learning throughout the US. (I even managed to do a couple of trainings for them in Canada) That was quite an education as I worked with many Title I schools in the process from Texas to Wyoming, Chicago, Louisiana, Florida, New Jersey and New York to mention just a few. I said Good bye to Kagan due to some family health issues but continue to work locally in the Hudson Valley with Northern Westchester BOCES and their Science-21 Program. They service over 2000 classrooms. I both teach teachers how to teach Science as well as an involved in their curriculum writing program for the new set of science standards – the NGSS (or in NYS — the NYSSLS – New York State Science Learning Standards). I have always been a proponent for involving Cooperative Learning way before I worked with Kagan as my original training was with the Johnson Brothers – Roger and David. Also, PLS’s influence and training have me an ideal base as a presenter. Project TEACH and PRIDE, Learning Channels and IDEAS became ingrained in me not just as a presenter but first, and foremost, as a classroom teacher. Your influence along with that of Joe Hasenstaab made the world of difference in me as a teacher. I can’t thank you enough!! In fact one of my fondest memories was a workshop MANY, MANYB years ago at North Rockland High School. We all did a conferences day there as they were going through a bitter contact process. At the end of it, a few of us went out for a drink. I had a horrid experience as they arranged my room like I was doing theatre in the round. I had over 50 people. I was young at this. You told me it was Baptism by Fire and that everything went as well as could be expected. It helped me cope with that and future presentations. With Kagan I have presented 5-Day trainings to over 250 people. I still think back on North Rockland and realize how you helped me grow as a presenter.
    So, from me – the Classroom Teacher and me -the trainer/presenter — Thank you!!! Keep inspiring people!!! There are other people like me out there who need to help kids believe in themselves …. once the teacher starts believing in their own abilities! Thanks for making teaching a concrete adventure… after previous abstract college lessons.
    Kevin McIntyre

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