Development of 21st Century Skills By Teacher

Contributed by:
Since the turn of the century, there have been profound transformations that have touched all aspects of life. Today,
developments and changes in social, technological, and economic areas need robust educational systems that can tap
all the resources available. Failing to do so would render such systems irrelevant. As a response, today’s educational systems prioritize practices that link school curriculum to the market
needs as well as the future professional career.
1. Interdisciplinary Journal of Environmental and Science Education
2019, 15(1), e02206
ISSN 2633-6537 (Online)
The Role of Science Teachers in Developing the 21st Century Skills
for the Elementary School Students
Marwan Mohammad Abualrob 1*
Arab American University, PALESTINE
*Corresponding Author: [email protected]
Citation: Abualrob, M. M. (2019). The Role of Science Teachers in Developing the 21st Century Skills for the Elementary School Students.
Interdisciplinary Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 15(1), e02206.
Received: 15 Jan. 2019 The paper measures the actual role of science teachers in developing the 21st century skills for the elementary
Revised: 14 Dec. 2019 stage students in Palestine. The population consisted of all West Bank and Gaza’s science 3-9 grade teachers. The
sample comprised 560 male and female teachers who were chosen randomly. A scale was used to test 48 practices
Accepted: 14 Dec. 2019
across 8 major categories: Critical Thinking Skills, Collaboration Skills, Communication Skills, Innovation Skills,
Self -Direction Skills, Global Connections Skills, Local Connections Skills and Using Technology as a Tool for
Learning. Surveyed teachers reported that they advance toward these categories with a frequency of 1-3 times a
month, which is not quite Adequate. The findings should be sequential for educators, education planners and
stakeholders focused on professional development and teacher training.
Keywords: 21st century skills, educational transformation, performance-based education
framework for professional teacher development (Kay, 2010),
INTRODUCTION which helps in reaching the best possible solutions (Beers,
Since the turn of the century, there has been profound Today, the pace at which these changes are taking place–
transformations that have touched all aspects of life. Today, not the least globalization, technological breakthroughs,
developments and changes in social, technological and scientific innovation, different requirements for labor, and
economic areas need robust educational systems that can tap stiffening competitiveness— is re-delineating the range of
all the resources available. Failing to do so would render such skills that prepare students for effective contribution to
systems irrelevant. As a response, today’s educational systems today’s society (Levy & Murnane, 2005; Stewart, 2010). One
prioritize practices that link school curriculum to the market way of keeping pace with transformations over time is to
needs as well as the future professional career. Windschitl consider building educational systems that are focused on
(2009) observes that the 21st century skills help build honing students’ skills and developing their learning to be able
competencies across the board, including critical thinking, to meet the ongoing challenges, all for professional and
thus preparing workforce for a new economy. In the age of personal success. At the core of that lies the conviction that
knowledge-based economy, all individuals within a dealing with such transformations requires the possession of a
community are expected to possess the means that ensure range of skills and competencies necessary for individuals to
them decent life. Thus, equipping students with the skills that be able to engage in effective society-building activities.
enable them to survive the modern day requires teachers to be
However, many teachers still focus on back-to-basics
aware of the market needs, and thus incorporating within their
traditional education methods. Few of them deliver education
teaching strategies modules, sometimes extracurricular, that
in a way that encourages critical thinking, effective
nurture and develop such skills. One remarkable initiative
communication, cooperation, negotiation and problem-
toward this goal was launched in 2002 in the United States. The
solution skills. Usually, the lack of these skills is associated
Partnership for 21st Century Skills Organization urges schools
with poor education that has failed to cope with the rapid
to integrate technology into education and make sure all
technological advancement.
resources are available to streamline education. In general, the
21st century skills provide a structured framework that ensures Rationale
students engage in the learning process and helps them build
The Palestinian schools in the West Bank and Gaza are
confidence, innovation and leadership. They also provide a
lagging behind in terms of technology utilization and
Copyright © 2019 by Author/s and Licensed by Veritas Publications Ltd., UK. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which
permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
2. 2/8 Abualrob / Interdisciplinary Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 15(1), e02206
innovative teaching/learning skills. Many teachers still deliver Technology as a Tool for Learning, Self-direction Skills, Local
education in conventional methods that depend on Connections, Global Connections.”
memorization (Ministry of Education and Higher Education, These definitions, however varied, share some common
2017). This gap perhaps requires a comprehensive reform in themes. All are based on the premise that effective learning
the system. In the IEA’s Trends in International Mathematics produces a set of preferable outcomes, the most important of
and Science Study (TIMSS) series of international assessments, which is enabling learners to acquire knowledge together with
Palestinian students tend to perform poorly in mathematics critical thinking skills (Voogt & Roblin, 2012).
and science, even in comparison with other comparable
Thousands of studies on the topic from around the world
neighboring countries in the Middle East and North Africa. It
do exist. Below, we narrow down our review to few studies that
is the case that making students memorize too much is a
problem in many schools in the West Bank and Gaza, and best serve our analysis. Gut (2011) focused on the need for
perhaps students underperform because they are stressed out integrating the 21st century skills within educational content
by too much back-to-basics content. This is not the case of in the schools of the United States. The author presented us
TIMSS, which focuses on analyzing, synthesizing and critical- with real-life models where the 21st century skills are
thinking skills. effectively and successfully infused into the system. The
content focused on themes as diverse as global awareness,
CARE International’s “Skills gaps and development in the
financial, economic, business, entrepreneurial, and civic
Occupied Palestinian Territory” report (2015) examined
literacy, and health and wellness; as well as skills such as
barriers to participation in the economy by young Palestinians,
critical-thinking and problem-solving, communication and
focusing on the skills development necessary for more
collaboration, and creativity and innovation. The author
inclusive, sustainable, and equitable employment and
presented a set of recommendations for teachers, particularly
entrepreneurship. The report findings suggest the existence of
focusing on life (soft) and career (hard) skills, namely
a fundamental skills gap– a dissociation between employers’
flexibility, adaptability, self-direction, social and cross-
views of graduates’ skills and the belief among educational
cultural interaction, productivity, accountability, and
institutions that graduates have the necessary skills to enter
the workforce. The findings have also been reiterated by the
Palestinian Ministry of Education’s Monitoring and Evaluating Online resources are now being used to instill and hone
Report (2017), as well as with the report by the Ministry of 21st century skills. Miller (2009) studies the development of
Planning and Administrative Development (2018). Both communication, collaboration, and digital literacy skills of
reports reached the conclusion that the current state of students at American high schools using social network tools.
education does not help much in developing life skills. The author’s starting point was a premise that high school and
universities do not equip graduates with such skills and that
This research measures the extent to which Palestinian
employers always complain that their employees lack the
science teachers at elementary schools build in their pupils the
practical skills that adequately prepare them for the job. Miller
21st century skills. The results of the research are expected to
offers a model through which high schools can incorporate
contribute to the efforts intended to informpolicymakers at
social network tools (Facebook, Diigo, Google Sites, Google
the Palestinian Ministry of Education of how schools deliver
Docs, and Twitter) into traditional learning environments to
education, so that the Ministry would be able to infuse such
build the 21st century skills. Miller found that the target
skills within teacher and student training programs. This is a
students were able to develop collaborative learning, research
cooperative effort where higher education institutions are also
skills, and effective public communication skills.
expected to contribute through programs designed to produce
science teachers who possess such skills and are able to deliver Locally, a study by Naqa (2011) measured infusion of
them to their students. critical thinking skills at high schools in Khan Younis, Gaza.
The findings suggest poor critical thinking content. Naqa
reasons that a host of factors might be invoked:”large number
LITERATURE REVIEW of students in classrooms, many units within textbooks, no
critical thinking integration in lower stages (elementary
There is no one comprehensive classification of the set of schools), teachers’ indifference toward nurturing such skills,
21st century skills. The skills and competencies are varied, students’ focus on grades rather than on skills, and absence of
depending on the area, culture and priorities: skill-based assessment methods” (Abualrob, 2019, p. 109).
1. In North America, they comprise critical thinking skills, However, two studies came with starkly contrast findings.
effective communication, high productivity and digital The first was by Zidan and Odeh (2007). The authors measured
capabilities. the science teachers’ integration of critical thinking skills at
elementary schools in Hebron, West Bank. They found that
2. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills Organization
creative content is particularly significant and that students,
named 6 major competences: core subjects, 21st century
as a result, have high critical thinking skills. A more recent
content, learning and thinking skills, information and
study by Abualrob (2019) explored the factors influencing the
communication technologies (ICT) literacy, life skills, and 21st
development of 21st century skills in the elementary stage
century assessments (Trilling & Fadel, 2009).
science students in Palestine. The author concluded that the
3. Ravitz, Hixson, English and Mergendoller’s definition efforts toward fostering the 21st century skills in Palestine have
(2012, p. 2): “Collaboration Skills, Critical Thinking Skills, of late seen improvement, which, however, remains slow and
Creativity and Innovation Skills, Communication Skills, Using unlikely to indicate a breakthrough in the offing.
3. Abualrob / Interdisciplinary Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 15(1), e02206 3/8
Study Question the survey to experienced reviewers from the faculty members
at Arab American University-Palestine. Based on their
The study is designed to answer the following question: To
feedback, some items were modified in terms of word choice
what degree, if any, do Palestinian science teachers at
and phrasing.
elementary schools foster in their pupils the key 21st century
skills of technology utilization, communication, innovation, Statistical Standard
self-direction, collaboration, local and global connectiveness,
The study used the median absolute deviation to measure
and critical thinking?
statistical dispersion and the variability of the data sample to
Methodology interpret the answers of respondents: (Kotrlik and Redmann,
This paper is part of a broader effort meant to measure the
extent to which the 21s century skills are being incorporated 1. Scale 1 = Almost never, 2 = A few times a semester, 3 =
into teaching elementary school students in Palestine. The 1-3 times per month, 4 = 1-3 times per week, and 5 = Almost
series of studies, with the present research being the second, daily.
used a questionnaire to collect data about the target 2. Scale interpretation: 1–1.49 = Almost never, 1.50–2.49
population. = A few times a semester, 2.50–3.49 = 1-3 times per month,
3.50–4.49 = 1-3 times per week, and 4.50–5.00 = Almost daily.
Statistical Testing
As part of the extended study that we started earlier– with
the present study being the second of the series, we measure RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
the role of science teachers in developing the 21st century
skills– for the elementary school students using one sample t Table 1 shows that the mean of the total score of the eight
test to determine whether the sample has been generated by a categories is 3.2010. The frequency of delivering education
process with a specific mean. that fosters the 21st century skills is 1-3 times per month.
Collaboration came first at a mean of 3.4905 (1-3 times per
Population and Sample
month), slightly ahead of Critical Thinking, with a mean of
The study population comprised all science teachers in 3.4833 (1-3 times per month). On the other hand, education
Palestine’s elementary schools (3-9 grades), while the study was found lagging behind in terms of fostering Global
subjects consisted of 560 male and female West Bank’s Communication: with a mean of 2.4262 and a frequency rate
teachers who were chosen based on stratified sampling for the of few times a semester.
purposes of the study (Abualrob, 2019). Table 1. Mean, standard deviation and frequency rate of the 8
Study Tools categories
The present study used a tool first designed by the Category Mean Frequency rate
International Innovative Teaching and Learning Study (Shear, Collaboration skills 3.4905 .71772 1-3 times per month
Novais, Means, Gallagher, & Langworthy, 2010) and later Critical thinking skills 3.4833 .73049 1-3 times per month
modified by Ravitz et al. (2012) to test the feasibility of “48 Creativity and
3.4686 .75946 1-3 times per month
practices across 8 major categories: Critical Thinking Skills, innovation skills
Collaboration Skills, Communication Skills, Innovation Skills, Communication skills 3.4514 .76764 1-3 times per month
Self-Direction Skills, Global Connections, Local Connections Using technology as a
3.2821 .85844 1-3 times per month
and Using Technology as a Tool for Learning” (Abualrob, 2019, tool for learning
Self-direction skills 3.1143 .84439 1-3 times per month
p. 110). This same tool was used later by many researchers (e.g.
Local connections 2.8914 .83142 1-3 times per month
Tindowe et al., 2017). The scale involves five codes as to the
Global connections 2.4262 .89061 A few times a semester
frequency of incorporating 21st century skills (almost daily, 1-
Total 3.2010 0.64558 1-3 times per month
3 times a week, 1-3 times a month, a few times a semester, and
almost never). The sample teachers responded to each item by A one sample t test was administered to measure the
choosing one alternative that best describes their practice. development of the 21st century skills and test whether the
mean for such skills is significantly different from 3.5, the
Consistency of Tool generally accepted level for Palestinian students, with values
Apart from the Ravitz scale– that was used for the at or above the point being statistically significant and
consistency of data (with internal consistency of 0.90-0.95), positively indicative. As the figures in Table 2 show, the t test
the author administered a pilot survey of 30 science teachers value (t=-10.961, p-value =0.000) was found highly significant,
to so that efficiency in testing and is ensured and the survey and well below the cutoff point (the one accepted for the
questionnaire is verified prior to executing the large-scale purpose of this research); yet it is negatively correlated,
survey. The consistency coefficient was calculated using a suggesting a negative role of teachers in nurturing the 21st
Cronbach’s alpha with a value of 0.81-0.85, which is indicative Century Skills for the Elementary School Students.
for the purposes of the study (Abualrob, 2019). Table 2. Results of one sample t test for the role of science
teachers in developing the 21st century skills
Validity and Reliability of the Survey
To ensure the high quality of the survey in terms of Mean T-Value P-Value
content, relevance and proper data collection, the author gave 21 Century Skills
3.2010 0.64558 -10.961 .000
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Table 3. Results of one sample t test for the role of science teachers in developing collaboration
No. Statement Mean Std. Deviation T-Value P-Value
Q7 Work in pairs or small groups to complete a task 4.0857 .82437 16.814 .000
Q8 Work with other students to set goals and create a plan for their team 3.3857 .94640 -2.858 .004
Q9 Create joint products using contributions from each student 3.3286 1.13139 -3.586 .000
Q10 Present their group work to the class, teacher or others 3.1143 .95018 -9.606 .000
Q11 Work as a team to incorporate feedback on group tasks or products 3.2714 1.04183 -5.192 .000
Q12 Give feedback to peers or assess other students’ work 3.7571 .83631 7.276 .000
Average 3.4905 .71772 -.314 .754
Table 4. Results of one sample t test for the role of science teachers in developing critical thinking skills
No.Statement Mean Std. Deviation T-Value P-Value
Q1 Compare information from different sources before completing a task or assignment. 3.2000 .95104 -7.465 .000
Q2 Draw their own conclusions based on analysis of numbers, facts, or relevant information. 3.5286 1.05276 .642 .521
Q3 Summarize or create their own interpretation of what they have read or been taught. 3.8857 1.05033 8.690 .000
Q4 Analyze competing arguments, perspectives or solutions to a problem. 3.4143 .99362 -2.041 .042
Q5 Develop a persuasive argument based on supporting evidence or reasoning. 3.3143 1.09044 -4.030 .000
Try to solve complex problems or answer questions that have no single correct solution
Q6 3.5571 .96650 1.399 .162
or answer.
Average 3.4833 .73049 -.540 .589
The same t test was also carried out for collaboration skills. significance. In general, however, the figures suggest an
The values were found insignificant (t=-.314, p-value =.754). insignificant role of teachers in building the skills within this
In details, four of the items were well below the cutoff point, category (the average mean for all items is higher than the
while two had high significance, well above the cutoff point. In accepted level set for the purposes of this research).
general, however, the figures suggest insignificant role of Of course, critical thinking cannot be taught overnight, and
teachers in building the skills within this category (the average children cannot be said to have the rigid reasoning of the
mean for all items is lower than the accepted level set for the adults. However, the practice of a successful teacher can
purposes of this research). The figures for developing always provide the students with the right conditions and
collaboration skills (mean=3.4905, standard deviation=.71772, opportunities, creating for them a motivating, enabling
frequency rate= 1-3 times a month) are still below the cutoff environment. Students, thus, cannot be fully blamed for
point 3.5, and thus unpromising. Of the six practices within lacking critical thinking. Developing this skill needs teachers
this category, two had remarkably significant values: “Work in who are familiar with successful practice, knowing exactly not
pairs or small groups to complete a task” (mean=4.0857), and only what to teach, but also how to present the material for the
“Give feedback to peers or assess other students’ work” students. The teacher can always teach students that critical
(mean=3.7571). Other practices had a mean range of 3.1143- thinking can also be obtained from a range of other sources–
3.3857 (see Table 3). in addition to the teacher– including parents, classmates,
Although the curriculum has been built to foster experts, peers, and all people they come in contact with.
collaboration (which is crucial for effective teaching/learning), The total average for the teachers’ role in developing the
collaboration has yet to be given due attention by science innovation skills was found insignificant (t=-.980, p-value
teachers. Reasons for this discrepancy could range from =.327), with the mean a little lower than the accepted level of
overcrowded classrooms (and thus low teacher-to-student 3.5. As shown in Table 5, two of the items were negatively
ratio), to poor assessment system, to the heavy teaching correlated and two were positively correlated. Developing
burden. innovation, is not much better than the first two categories,
However, the personal attitude of the teacher remains the yet it is relatively promising, but with the same frequency rate
main culprit. It seems that science teachers are not aware of (1-3 times a month). Though the 3.4686 mean is still below the
the power of cooperation; hence their indifference about target, in two of the practices (“Create a solution to a complex,
designing collaboration activities. After all, students need a open-ended question or problem”, and “Generate their own
reason to cooperate. Presenting them with a challenging ideas about how to tackle a problem or question”), teachers
activity is likely to unleash their positive attitudes toward seem to have delivered adequate feed into these sub-skills
collaboration. Unfortunately, science teachers at elementary (with 3.7429 and 3.6143, respectively).
schools in Palestine do not seem to appreciate that young These results suggest that students are not adequately able
students do have the ability to work cooperatively to tackle a to come up with new and original ideas. It is not necessary that
problem or deal with a challenging activity. every student be innovative, but to survive in the 21st century
In terms of the efforts toward building the critical thinking people need to show more creativity. The relatively low
skills, the one sample t test results show that the average mean innovation figures (see Table 5) might be attributed to the
(3.4833) is a little below the accepted level, while the items educational system, with teachers adopting methods designed
average is insignificant (t=-.540, p-value=.589). As shown in to nurture safe, non-challenging experiences. While it is
Table 4, three of the items were significant (with negative undoubtedly not fair to exclusively blame teachers, there are
values), while only one item exhibited strong positive many things teachers can do to nurture imagination among
5. Abualrob / Interdisciplinary Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 15(1), e02206 5/8
Table 5. Results of one sample t test for the role of science teachers in developing innovation skills
No. Statement Mean Std. Deviation T-Value P-Value
Q18 Use idea creation techniques such as brainstorming or concept mapping 3.4286 .96554 -1.751 .081
Q19 Generate their own ideas about how to tackle a problem or question 3.6143 1.04692 2.583 .010
Q20 Test out different ideas and work to improve them 3.2000 .93587 -7.586 .000
Q21 Create a solution to a complex, open-ended question or problem 3.7429 .98192 5.853 .000
Q22 Create an original product or performance to express their ideas 3.3571 .89580 -3.774 .000
Average 3.4686 .75878 -.980 .327
Table 6. Results of one sample t test for the role of science teachers in supporting the use of technology
No. Statement Mean Std. Deviation T-Value P-Value
Q41 Use technology or the internet for self-instruction 4.1143 .99434 14.619 .000
Q42 Select appropriate technology tools or resources for completing a task 3.9000 .98867 9.574 .000
Q43 Evaluate the credibility and relevance of online resources 3.1714 1.19596 -6.501 .000
Q44 Use technology to analyze information 2.6286 1.13707 -18.136 .000
Q45 Use technology to help them share information 3.4000 1.06195 -2.228 .026
Q46 Use technology to support team work or collaboration 3.1000 1.20998 -7.823 .000
Q47 Use technology to interact directly with experts or members of local/global communities. 2.8286 1.26572 -12.553 .000
Q48 Use technology to keep track of their work on extended tasks or assignments 3.1143 1.32722 -6.877 .000
Average 3.2821 .85894 -6.002 .000
Table 7. Results of one sample t test for the role of science teachers in building Self-Direction Skills
No. Statement Mean Std. Deviation T-Value P-Value
Q23 Take the initiative when confronted with a difficult problem or question 3.4857 1.02551 -.330 .742
Q24 Choose their own topics of learning or questions to pursue 3.2429 .93335 -6.520 .000
Q25 Plan the steps they will take to accomplish a complex task 3.1429 .94630 -8.931 .000
Q26 Choose for themselves what examples to study or resources to use 2.9286 1.15145 -11.744 .000
Monitor their own progress towards completion of a complex task and modify their work
Q27 2.9714 1.13455 -11.025 .000
Q28 Use specific criteria to assess the quality of their work before it is completed 2.9571 1.07581 -11.941 .000
Q29 Use peer, teacher or expert feedback to revise their work 3.0714 1.17605 -8.624 .000
Average 3.1143 .84439 -10.810 .000
young learners. The Palestinian students’ acquisition of improves student engagement and motivation and speeds up
innovation skills in science subjects requires teachers to create learning. Nowadays, this has been made possible through tools
strategies based on active project-based learning and inquiry. that connect students with teachers, who would then be able
As shown in Table 6, the t test value for the use of to provide students with professional content and resources–
technology (t=-6.002, p-value =0.000) was found significant, thus allowing students to personalize learning.
with two items exhibiting high positive values and six showing The figures for developing self-direction skills are very
high negative values. These figures suggest that the role of close to those related to the use of technology. As shown in
teachers in encouraging the use of technology as a tool for Table 7, the t test value (t=-10.810, p-value =0.000) is
learning was not particularly helpful, with the mean far below significant (with the seven items within this category
the target (mean=3.2821), again with a frequency rate of 1-3 exhibiting significant negative values), while the mean
times a month. Out of eight sub-categories, two– “Use remains below the cutoff point. A mean of 3.1143 does not
technology or the internet for self-instruction” and “Select reflect effective involvement with practices that foster making
appropriate technology tools or resources for completing a decisions and managing one’s own learning activities. Even
task”– received scores higher than the cut point (4.1143 and the most salient practice within this category (“Take the
3.9000, respectively). initiative when confronted with a difficult problem or
Three reasons might explain these humble figures. First, question”) could not stand the cut point test (only 3.4857).
schools still depend largely on textbooks as the main source of Giving an account of this failure shouldn’t be difficult. Young
teaching/learning. Second, the test-based assessment system learners, it appears, have got used to a conventional method
seems to have restricted the use of technology. Third, although whereby the teacher is the center of the process and the
the Ministry of Education has provided teachers with training students are only receivers. They depend on the teacher for
on the use of technology (Intel courses), teachers have yet to decision-making and managing activities within the
acquire adequate skills necessary for using technology in classroom. Probably this is the reason why many students seek
education. knowledge outside the school system, often through tutoring.
Palestinian educators need to know that to produce The teachers’ role in nurturing local connections skills is
productive graduates, classrooms should be equipped with worrying. Table 8 shows a mean of 2.8914, well below the
digital learning tools, such as computers, internet access, standard, and even the best actual practice (“Apply what they
online learning materials and LCDs. The use of technology are learning to local situations, issues or problems”) could not
make it to the cut point. The t test value (t=-17.337, p-value
6. 6/8 Abualrob / Interdisciplinary Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 15(1), e02206
Table 8. Results of one sample t test for the role of science teachers in developing Local Connections Skills
No. Statement Mean Std. Deviation T-Value P-Value
Q36 Investigate topics or issues that are relevant to their family or community 2.9429 1.06847 -12.340 .000
Q37 Apply what they are learning to local situations, issues or problems 3.5143 1.14424 .295 .768
Q38 Talk to one or more members of the community about a class project or activity 2.9000 .98867 -14.361 .000
Q39 Analyze how different stakeholder groups or community members view an issue 2.4429 1.11757 -22.385 .000
Respond to a question or task in a way that weighs the concerns of different community
Q40 2.6571 1.08178 -18.438 .000
members or groups
Average 2.8914 .83067 -17.337 .000
Table 9. Results of one sample t test for the role of science teachers in developing Global Connections Skills
No. Statement Mean Std. Deviation T-Value P-Value
Q30 Read about other countries or cultures 2.1857 1.04692 -29.708 .000
Q31 Use information or ideas that come from people in other countries or cultures 2.2429 1.08903 -27.317 .000
Discuss issues related to global interdependency (for example, global environment trends,
Q32 2.4571 1.11821 -22.070 .000
global market economy)
Q33 Understand the life experiences of people in neighboring cultures 2.7429 1.14352 -15.669 .000
Q34 Read about the geography of distant countries 2.2429 .99279 -29.965 .000
Q35 Reflect on how their own experience and local issues are connected to global issues 2.6857 1.00863 -19.105 .000
Average 2.4262 .89061 -28.532 .000
Table 10. Results of one sample t test for the role of science teachers in developing Communication Skills
No. Statement Mean Std. Deviation T-Value P-Value
Structure data for use in written products or oral presentations (e.g., creating charts,
Q13 3.4714 1.01116 -.669 .504
tables or graphs)
Q14 Convey their ideas using media other than a written paper (e.g., posters, video, blogs, etc.) 3.2857 1.00293 -5.056 .000
Q15 Prepare and deliver an oral presentation to the teacher or others 3.2429 .94856 -6.415 .000
Q16 Answer questions in front of an audience 3.9143 1.15668 8.476 .000
Q17 Decide how they will present their work or demonstrate their learning 3.3429 1.02750 -3.619 .000
Average 3.4514 .76764 -1.497 .135
=0.000) was found significant, with four of the five items however, all teachers should embed within the activities
showing significant negative values. If anything, there is lack modules that address global awareness issues. This can be
of cooperation between schools and the local communities. done through curricular practice and extracurricular
The Palestinian society still sees schools as the only source for initiatives. Teachers who are keen to building global
gaining knowledge, and people assume that the school can connections skills in their students would always present their
deliver effective education independently of other players students with experiences that bring them face to face with
outside the educational system. Brought up to believe that global issues, such as poverty, climate change and different
children remain dependent on others, parents don’t believe lifestyles across cultures.
that their children can manage their issues by themselves or Finally, surveyed science teachers seem to have exerted
create their own learning activities. This is a gap that needs to more efforts in developing their students’ communication
be addressed at the national level. Developing local skills, though the level is still unsatisfactory. A remarkable
connection skills in students needs authentic connections value can be seen for one practice (“Answer questions in front
between schools and the Ministry of Education, on the one of an audience”), with a mean of 3.9143, which is promising.
hand, and families, community groups and nongovernmental However, the negative values for the rest of practices rendered
organizations, on the other. the overall mean of the category substandard (albeit
As shown in Table 9, Nurturing global connections skills marginally below the cutoff point). Looking at the t test value
was even worse (mean=2.4262, SD.89061) across the board. (t=-1.497, p-value=.135) in Table 10, one can clearly see three
Although this category shares the same frequency rate with out of four items exhibiting negative correlation.
other clusters (1-3 times a month), none of its practices has Failure in fostering communication skills can result from
positive significant values. The result of the t test (t=-28.532, wrong teaching practices. First, a teacher who scrimps on
p-value =0.000) suggested that all the items have negative creating a conversation, where students are involved, is
significant values. actually suppressing one of the most essential communication
The Palestinian society already suffers unrest and is skills: speaking. Second, a teacher who does not present
steeped with challenges and turmoil (Israeli occupation, high his/her students with material for discussion is unlikely to
unemployment rates, poverty, internal divide, non-control build listening skills in his/her students. Third, a teacher who
over own resources, etc.). Such internal problems are does not encourage group-built activities (which allow
restricting identification with global issues. On the other hand, students to work in groups, thereby minimizing pressure)
science teachers believe that fostering global connection skills cannot improve learners’ oral and even written
is the job of humanities teachers. In a model of best practices, communication skills.
7. Abualrob / Interdisciplinary Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 15(1), e02206 7/8
CONCLUSION the case with many science teachers in the West Bank and Gaza
elementary schools; and many still use traditional methods.
Where this is the case, young learners are marginalized to fact
The 21st century skills are being recognized increasingly
memorization. The result is that young learners can only
worldwide. However, our findings signal a humble role of
reproduce whatever they have learned, but may be unable to
teachers in improving our young learners’ 21st century skills,
develop critical thinking or innovation.
which are essential to effective participation in society
development. Science teachers’ nurture of 21st century skills The foregoing discussion suggests that teachers are the
for elementary stage students in Palestine is still main agents of change. If they are enthusiastic enough, then it
unsatisfactory (mean=3.2010, SD=0.64558). The frequency of is a matter of time before such skills are acquired by their
delivering education that fosters such competencies is 1-3 students. However, we should not overlook the role of other
times per month, which is inadequate. With this level of players.
teacher intervention, school students won’t be adequately At the national level, the Ministry of education could carry
prepared for life challenges. If anything, science teachers at out extensive research to identify the nature of such skills as
West Bank and Gaza elementary schools do not effectively well as the best ways to develop them. Identifying the nature
foster the development of the 21st century competencies. The of these competences should be the first step. To train
results of the survey suggest that the elementary stage science students on all these competencies, the 21st century skills
teachers clearly focus on delivering general knowledge rather should be incorporated within the science core curriculum.
than building skills. It seems that science teachers emphasize Those who have built the Palestinian elementary school
memorization of isolated facts; they rely heavily on textbooks curriculum might have assumed that teachers possess the
without taking into account student understanding; they allow skills and training necessary to foster the development of the
for limited student questions or comments in classroom 21st century skills. However, when it comes to infusing new
discourse. This results in repressing critical skills and harms skills, there is always a gap– not the least because the
the ability of students to link concepts to real life experiences curriculum itself does not include adequate material for
(Carlsen, 1991). practice, and the teachers are often left to create their own
However, there is still a promising potential to the results. activities. It is, therefore, essential to revisit the curriculum,
One could imagine learners’ performance if they were allowed making sure it includes clear instructions, material and
more time to practice such skills. An overall frequency of 1-3 activities that deal directly with 21st century skills.
times a month will never be adequate to cultivate new skills. Individual schools also have a role to play. The
The promotion of sustainable creative skills needs more time, management should make available all the resources needed
more feed and more dedication on the part of the teacher. to create an environment in which students participate
There are some unprofessional behaviors that teachers earnestly in the learning process. The physical environment is
show when they carry out their teaching practices. This important. An enabling one will naturally have labs with
requires a change in the teachers’ attitudes and their personal computers, internet access points, LCDs, projectors,
philosophy of teaching. The change could be possible through etc. Such an environment would be appealing even for the
system reforms that take into consideration building poorly-performing learners.
constructive, active and student-centered learning. In the All these agents must cooperate to foster the development
process, it is important to break with the traditional test-based of the 21st century skills. Once all resources are available, it
system and turn to real performance-based assessment. shouldn’t be difficult to reach goals. At the critical thinking
Palestinian science teachers, it seems, have adopted level, students need to process the generated data. Now
curriculum-based teaching learning/learning strategies. It is because by nature science is based on inquiry, learners need to
important to abandon such approaches, moving ahead to make reasoning and be able to make judgments about what is
performance-based methods that allow the students to move logical and what is not. In terms of collaboration, in order to
smoothly from the simple to the complex. The biggest do an activity in the right way, learners should interact
challenge for educators is the absence of well-defined effectively in such a way that allows easy flow of information.
approaches to teaching such skills. In this case, it is the role of This will help them work independently of the teacher and
the teacher to know how and when to infuse the 21st century become self-directed; and it facilitates communication and
skills into the classroom practice. The starting point should be fosters innovation as well. This can always be done with the
working on the part of the teachers to improving their own help of technology, where students have access to computer-
skills. This will have to do with extensive training which can based resources as well as online material, and even social
be provided by the supervisory bodies (the Ministry of networks. This was made easier with information building and
Education). Alternatively, teachers can use their own distribution methods: a simple Microsoft Word document, a
resources (for example, online resources) to build their podcast, a blog, etc. Now adding some aspects from other fields
competences, which will later be delivered to young learners. of knowledge should be possible. Many of science topics can be
Today, with almost all Palestinian homes connected to the extended toward local or global awareness. For example,
internet, this should be possible. linking the result of a specific activity to implications for the
local or global environment can be quite easy. At this stage,
Preparing students to mastering 21st century skills
the teacher might work as a facilitator, giving help to students
requires well trained teachers who draw on advances in
once they ask for it.
interdisciplinary fields. Teachers, for example, are expected to
be well acquainted with ICT skills. This is, unfortunately, not
8. 8/8 Abualrob / Interdisciplinary Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 15(1), e02206
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT Ministry of Planning and Administrative Development. (2018).
Report on the Millennium Development Goals. Ramallah,
I would like to thank Dr. Mahmoud Almanassra for
Reviewing the statistics part of this paper. Naqa, S. (2011). The level of creative thinking among students
in high school in the scientific culture and the degree of
encouraging science teachers to them from their point of
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