The 4 Cs To 21st Century Learning

If your school is anything like mine, then your mission statement probably includes something along the lines of “21st century learning skills.” We are now well into the 21st century and I don’t know about you but not much in the way of how we educate has changed. Yes, many schools have added STEM/STEAM to their curriculums, but is that enough? Our world is changing so rapidly that as educators we need to begin to recognize that there’s a new formula for education. Are you thinking “ What is the new formula? How do I use it in my classroom?” Well, read on to discover the 4 Cs of 21st Century Learning.


First up we are going to dig into “creativity” and explore how to implement this daily in our classrooms. We know that modeling for students is a key component to student success. Or is it?

What if we revamp our structure of teaching, modeling, and students repeating the process back to one where we pose a problem and let students get creative with how they solve it. Are they going to make mistakes? Yep! Does that mean that they fail? Nope. That means their first attempt didn’t work and they have to rethink how what they can change.

So as your designing your lessons you could easily try to think how can you incorporate an art or design element into the lesson that students can demonstrate their creativity and understanding. The younger we can instill this way of thinking into students the more prepared they will be to rethink their thinking as they move into older grades.


We live in a world where we are constantly connected to others. Yet, often times in our classrooms what we teach stays within those four walls. What if we start creating environments where we share our learning with the WORLD? What? Too scary? Okay, then start small and share with your local community. Write an article for your local newspaper. Talk to professionals in your unit of study and see if you can set up a Zoom meeting so they can share their expertise with your students. Talk about bringing the real world into the classroom!

Heck, you might even consider starting a class Instagram page and set the settings to private so you can control who follows you. Basically, start small with something on your comfort level where your students can share with others outside your classroom what they’re learning about.


This “C” is a BIG one. You see, no matter where you are in the education field your goal is to get students to think critically about their learning. Don’t just teach 2+2=4, but rather explain the why to your students. Provide as many real world examples as you can in your teaching so the know the “why” behind what they are learning.

This stage can be tricky for teachers because we have a hard time watching our students make mistakes or get stuck. Rather than jumping in and trying to save the day, let your students push themselves. You can be a scaffold in the process and provide the tools, but allow the students to be the leaders.

Critical thinking can also be fostered by providing choices for your students. One size doesn’t fit all and it would be AMAZING if we can start making that shift in the learning process. Start small with choice boards that will foster in depth learning and build from there.


Collaboration is the skill that students will probably need the most as we progress into the 21st century education. Your students need to learn how to collaborate effectively which means they will listen just as much as they share.

Putting students in groups to work isn’t effective collaboration. For example, in a guided reading lesson try giving students a designated duty such as discussion director, passage finder, artist or designer so they know specifically what contributions they can bring to the group. Can they help one another throughout the process? Yes. Absolutely. The goal is to get students to work together to reach a common goal. This is also a great way to differentiate skills based on interest levels.

Start small with having students work collaboratively in your classroom and then start working towards more global collaboration with schools in another local district, state or even country. How cool would it be if we start connecting our classrooms one homeroom at a time?


So those are the 4 C’s of 21st century learning: Creativity, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Collaboration. Hopefully you picked up on the theme of implementation: start small. Making small steps forward will over time create the change in education that needs to happen. I can’t speak enough about about Kasey Bell’s book Shake Up Learning, which goes into great detail with the Dynamic Learning Process. If you haven’t given it a read yet, I highly encourage you to do so. Be sure to check out the Shake Up Learning Website

As always, please feel free to reach out to us if you need more ideas or have any questions about the 4 Cs of 21st century learning. You can reach us on Instagram (@lessonplantoolbox) or email ([email protected]) and we will be happy to serve you.


Be sure to checkout last week’s blog with our 7 Successful Interview Tips and Tricks for Landing Your Dream Job.

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