Carlo Favaretti

As Thomas Friedman put it in a recent New York Times column, globalization compounds the urgency for students to develop the skills and knowledge they need for economic and civic success in the 21st century. Yet despite widespread agreement among parents, educators, employers and policymakers worldwide that students need skills like critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and creativity, these skills are stubbornly difficult to teach and learn.

The “transmission” model, through which teachers transmit factual knowledge via lectures and textbooks, remains the dominant approach to compulsory education in much of the world. Students taught through this method typically do not practice applying knowledge to new contexts, communicating it in complex ways, solving problems or developing creativity. In short, as our new paper lays out, it is not the most effective way to teach 21st century skills.

Decades of empirical research about how individuals learn, however, provide valuable insight into…

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