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.
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 leadership. 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, 2009): 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 Std. The present study used a tool first designed by the Category Mean Frequency rate Deviation 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 Std. To ensure the high quality of the survey in terms of Mean T-Value P-Value deviation content, relevance and proper data collection, the author gave 21 Century Skills st 3.2010 0.64558 -10.961 .000
4. 4/8 Abualrob / Interdisciplinary Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 15(1), e02206 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 accordingly 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
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