Now more than ever, students will rely on an ever-evolving skill set to be successful after their schooling. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker has ten different jobs before they turn 40, and this will continue to grow. Perhaps even more important, many of the careers current students will pursue do not yet exist and will require technology that hasn’t yet been invented. This makes redefining the skills students develop in school incredibly important to ensure that they have what it takes to be successful in the future.
To prepare students for a future that does not yet exist, educators are called upon to teach students how to make transitions and navigate options as they map their futures. Creating a thoughtful graduate profile that not only focuses on academic content, but also prioritizes new “skills for success” is a clear way to keep the important work at the forefront of planning every day. Some of these “new skills for success,” such as collaboration, critical thinking, and communication, are already common in the world of education. Students will also need agency, self-directed learning, and wayfinding skills to navigate the changing landscape of jobs and life, and it is essential to include them in an updated graduate profile.
The NGLC MyWays Student Success Framework is a good place to start when considering what new skills students will need. The framework consists of 20 competencies that include practiced habits, transferable skills, and applied knowledge that will help students succeed amid changes in the labor market, postsecondary sector, and social capital arena. You can read about them, their impact, and their relevance in education in this recent report.
A good place to start is to focus on designing systems that help students develop three key skills: wayfinding, self-directed learning, and agency. Wayfinding prepares students to navigate options and opportunities as they present themselves. Self-directed learning helps students establish and persevere through goals and plans. Agency empowers students to advocate for self during different circumstances.
Wayfinding skills enable students to build social capital, find the right postsecondary options, and build careers in the absence of yesterday’s linear education-to-work paths. As this NGLC resource explains, “Today, young people need to navigate multiple options and excel at making numerous transitions. Wayfinding is essentially a process—a navigation process—[that draws] on knowledge, skills, habits, and behaviors that help students drive their own life decisions. In essence, wayfinding abilities prepare students to project-manage their lives and get things done.”
Educators in all subjects and at all grade levels can support students in developing these competencies. NGLC suggests educators focus on helping students learn to:
When young people develop agency over their actions and choices, they begin to identify their purpose and passions in life. Speaking up about their preferences and desires leads them to more engaged and productive learning. Agency has also been identified as a key skill to increase equity and long-term success for students who are members of historically disadvantaged populations. In fact, agency and equity seem to be entwined; when you increase agency, you increase equity.
Learning independently can be challenging, even for the brightest and most motivated students. However, it has never been more important to develop this ability than today. The ability to be a self-directed learner has been a major differentiator of success in distance learning, highlighting the need to develop skills like goal-setting, researching, progress monitoring, self-management, and communication, to name a few. (Read this report by the Learning Accelerator for more information.)
Creating a graduate profile helps to redefine success in school by aligning instruction and experiences to desired outcomes. This profile helps focus the community on a core set of learning goals that will impact professional development, budget, and organizational decision making. The graduate profile is an organizational north star.