Life skills equip students to thrive in the classroom and in the world beyond. The 21st century life skills are flexibility, initiative, social skills, productivity, and leadership.
Given the rapid rate of change in our world, the ability to adjust and adapt is critical to success. Students needs to learn to quickly analyze what is going on around them and make adjustments on the fly—all the while keeping their goals at the forefront of their minds. Flexibility is not spinelessness. In fact, a spine needs to be flexible to allow the person to move while remaining upright with eyes on the prize.
The inquiry process requires and rewards flexibility. Instead of following a set course or a rigid set of instructions, students must make constant course corrections as they do the following:
- set goals
- seek answers
- navigate information
- collaborate with others
- create something
- evaluate their work
- improve it
- share it with the world
The entrepreneurial spirit is founded on initiative—the willingness to step forward with an idea and take the risk of bringing it to fruition. The changing economic landscape requires entrepreneurs. Students need to learn how to set goals for themselves, plan how they will reach their goals, and enact their plans. Once students feel comfortable with charting their own course, they will readily launch into activity.
By teaching students the inquiry process, you equip them to take initiative. When you step back into a facilitating role, you require students to step forward. Students take the initiative when they
- improve, and
Human being have always been social creatures, connecting to and depending on a tribe of some hundred others. Technology now allows people to belong to multiple tribes—students at the same school, friends on Facebook, colleagues on LinkedIn, fans on fan sites, gamers on massively multiplayer online games. In all of these environments, social skills are critical. Whether students are having a face-to-face meeting or are tweeting with hundreds of strangers, there are real human beings with real thoughts, feelings, and needs on the other end. And, as work environments become more collaborative, social skills are a key to success.
The best way for students to develop social skills is to collaborate with others. When students work together on a project, they have common goals and interests, they are required to develop social skills such as these:
- decision making
- using emotional intelligence
- using constructive criticism
- trusting others
- delivering on promises
- coordinating work
During the recent recession, the productivity of the American worker reached an all-time high. Clearly, those who kept their jobs did so in part by producing more than they needed to before. The increase in productivity among workers in the U.S. means that more is being produced by fewer people, which means that the job market is even more competitive after the recession than during it. Workers who have lower productivity are being left behind.
By using the inquiry process and developing projects, students learn the habits of productivity:
- Goal setting
- Time management
Leadership is a suite of related skills that combines the other life skills. Good leaders take initiative, have strong social skills, are flexible, and are productive. They also do the following:
- Identify goals
- Inspire others to share those goals
- Organize a group so that all members can contribute according to their abilities
- Resolve conflicts among members
- Encourage the group to reach their goals
- Help group members solve problems and improve performance
- Give credit where it is due
That list pretty well describes what you do daily as a teacher—because you are the leader of your class. However, if students are perpetually in the role of followers, they never have to learn these skills. They need to occasionally become the teacher, and inquiry allows them to do so. Group projects also require students to take on leadership responsibilities. Inquire provides many projects that can be done in groups.