21st Century Skills & Core Curriculum

A lot is happening these days in regards to state and national K-12 curricula. Cedar River Music is based in Iowa, where we have the Iowa Core Curriculum, which integrates the English Language Arts and Mathematics Common Core (a national movement) with other subjects like Science, Social Studies, and 21st Century Skills. In addition to these content/skill areas, Iowa has adopted what are known as the Universal Constructs:

  • Critical
  • Complex Communication
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Flexibility & Adaptability
  • Productivity & Accountability

Just as the Iowa Core is a variant on the national Core Curriculum movement, the Universal Constructs come in part from a national coalition known as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. P21 organizes their guide into the following:

  • Core Subjects – 3Rs and 21st Century Themes
  • Information, Media, & Technology Skills
  • Learning & Innovation Skills
    • Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
    • Communication & Collaboration
    • Creativity & Innovation
  • Life & Career Skills
    • Flexibility & Adaptability
    • Initiative & Self-Direction
    • Social & Cross-Cultural Skills
    • Productivity & Accountability
    • Leadership & Responsibility

OK, I know what you’re thinking. This all sounds great, but where’s the music and other Fine Arts?! Well, it’s there, in a way. Universal Constructs and P21 Skills are both ways of describing how children learn, just as the Creative Sequence Process does.

Universal Constructs & Creative Sequence Process
Universal Constructs & Creative Sequence Process

As you can see, it is quite easy to link what we are doing as music educators to these new initiatives. Moreover, it adds value to the arts when we can demonstrate how we daily integrate more of these “universal skills” than many other subject area teachers. Page 81 of Creative Sequence: Teaching Music with Flexibility & Organization also lists all the connections to the P21 Learning, Innovation, Life, & Career skills.

Finally, another ray of hope. Not to be left out, a group of national arts education organizations, including NAfME, have come together to rewrite the National Standards for Arts in Education. Originally published in 1994, the nine National Standards for Music Education (p. 79 of Creative Sequence) are familiar to many of us, and are the foundation of numerous state and local music curricula.

The new organization, the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards has wisely jumped on the bandwagon, tagging the word “core” to the standards revision. In Iowa, Fine Arts leadership in connection with the DOE have already written standards, which are known now as “Iowa Core Companion” documents, but will hopefully be legislated into the actual Core curriculum in the near future.

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