Demand is growing around the globe for college graduates with 21st century skills like teamwork and critical thinking. After an instructor at a university in Uruguay, South America, took an online course from the University of Wisconsin–Madison on the topic, the Universidad Tecnológica del Uruguay (UTEC) requested that it be translated into Spanish for use in South American classrooms and beyond.
The online course, Teaching 21st Century Skills in College Courses provides a robust way for education faculty and administrators to learn the science behind the expertise most commonly linked to workplace success and civic-mindedness.
“One of UTEC’s challenges is to develop faculty who can adapt their teaching methodology to mostly first-generation college students,” says Álvaro Pena Perea, director of the Department of Special Programs at UTEC. “Our faculty need to work on the type of knowledge they want to transmit and what technologies they want to use to make that possible but, most importantly, on what abilities our students will need to become successful citizens and professionals.”
Preparing college students for life and work
The course instructor is Dr. Matthew Hora, a leading authority on skills development and author of the award-winning Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work.
“We know that skills like critical thinking and self-motivated learned are very difficult to teach and to learn,” says Hora. “But we also know these skills make students not just better learners and better future employees, but better citizens. So we were thrilled when our colleagues at UTEC took the course, and got so much out of it that they wanted to help us revise it and offer it in Spanish to their educators.”
Pena Perea adds, “The course required UTEC faculty to review their teaching practices and re-design their courses. We saw a large number of interactions among faculty via email suggesting modifications to our current syllabus structure and brainstorming ideas to improve the assessment of 21st-century skills.”
He notes that UTEC is a strong advocate for the development of 21st-century skills awareness among Latin American higher-education teachers.
“We are confident that this course can make a positive contribution to the integration of 21st-century skills in university studies,” he says.
The Wisconsin Idea in Uruguay and beyond
This kind of sharing of information and expertise is exactly what UW–Madison hopes to accomplish through the Wisconsin Idea, its guiding principle to spread learning beyond the walls of the university.
“Educators and workplace trainers, no matter what country they live in, need to learn the basics of instructional design and how to cultivate skills like critical thinking and teamwork,” says Hora. “As importantly, we all need to be mindful of the ways that culture, race and power influence how these skills are valued and rewarded.”
The next online Teaching 21st Century Skills in College Courses in English and in Spanish begins September 23, 2019. Registration is currently open.
Over seven weeks, students work with the instructor to modify one of their course syllabi to more effectively feature one or more of four critical skills: critical thinking, teamwork, communication and self-regulated learning.