Barriers in Teaching the Four C's of 21st Century Competencies: Dismantling the Obstacles

Barriers in Teaching the Four C's of 21st Century Competencies: Dismantling the Obstacles

Jesse Mitchell Redlo
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6967-2.ch001
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This chapter defines the four C's in practical terms, based on their applications in the literature. Building on the definitions, each of the four C's are examined in terms of their challenges in implementation for teachers, with ideas for overcoming the challenges provided. The role of technology in teaching the four C's is analyzed and connected with practical methods for educators to incorporate technology, especially social media, into their teaching practice. The author shares detailed examples from professional teaching practice to make the concepts relatable to fellow educators. The chapter concludes with suggestions for future research, as well as a brief discussion on the importance of the four C's and the ever-changing nature of technology.
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This chapter will begin by defining the 4 C's of 21st century competencies in practical terms. Following the definitions, each of the competencies will be explored; focusing on challenges associated with teaching each one. The purpose of this exploration is to propose practical solutions for overcoming the challenges to effectively teach each of the competencies. Lastly, the chapter will end by explaining the interconnectedness of the 4 C's, their importance in student development, and the integration of technology to facilitate student comprehension of the 4 C's.


The importance of 21st century competencies receives an abundance of attention in the literature, but little has been written about specific instructional methods and/or challenges with teaching 21st century competencies. Within the discussion of 21st century competencies, most of the skills revolve around four key themes, nicknamed the 4 C's: collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking (Stauffer, 2020). Each of the 4 C's has many definitions and applications throughout the literature, as what specifically constitutes each concept can be subjective (Seitova, 2020). For the purposes of this chapter, the following definitions will be used: collaboration is two or more people working together, communication is expressing information to an individual or group, creativity is developing original idea(s), and critical thinking is analyzing information to form a conclusion. These definitions will guide the discussion of barriers to and methods for teaching 21st century competencies.

Curriculums throughout the United States have focused on incorporating the teaching of the 4 C's, as these critical 21st century skills are sought after by employers across disciplines (McGunagle & Zizka, 2020). Given the increasing emphasis on teaching these skills, educators need practical instructional methods for overcoming the barriers of teaching the skills. Without proper resources given to educations, student success tends to decrease (Redlo, 2020).


Exploring The 4 C's

While it is logical to explore the 4 C's together, there is also a need to examine them individually, as each area has unique challenges and instructional methods. Moreover, from the standpoint of training teachers to integrate the 4 C's into their practice, research shows the importance of scaffolding in teacher comprehension of instructional methods to prevent information overload (Redlo, 2020). As each area is discussed, ideas and examples from multiple disciplines will be discussed, as teachers across all of the disciplines should work to incorporate the 4 C's into their instruction.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Creativity: Developing original idea(s).

Standardized Test: An assessment wherein students answer the same questions which are scored in a consistent manner for the purpose of comparing students' performance.

Collaboration: Two or more people working together.

Respect: Acknowledging and considering the perspectives of others.

Metacognition: Thinking about how one thinks.

Critical Thinking: Analyzing information to form a conclusion.

Communication: Expressing information to an individual or group.

Social media: Any interactive, digital technology, which promotes the sharing of information.

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