EDEV_506 Week 1_4

You ask, “Is something going wrong?”

Sponsored by Google, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) put together a report aim at identifying the extent to which so-called 21st-century learning skills are actually being taught. Data is derived from surveys of teachers, business leaders and students. Findings reveal that only 34% of business executives are content with graduate skill levels upon entering the workplace, with 52% confirming that a lack of skills is negatively impacting organisational performance (“Driving the skills agenda,” 2015). Both of these numbers are similar to teacher and student perceptions, less than half of which also feel that education is not adequately preparing students. Contrary to widespread presumption that skills such as digital literacy, leadership and creativity are essential skills, business leaders indicate that none of these capacities account for more than 20%. The top three needed skills reported by business leaders are problem-solving [50%], teamwork [35%], communication [32%], and critical thinking [27%]. And while everyone agrees that deployment of emergent technologies can improve education, only 23% of 18 to 25-year-olds believe their respective educational institutions are effectively utilising technology, and more than 50% of teachers admit that students understand technology better (“Driving the skills agenda,” 2015).

Is something going wrong???? –Tutor post

My brief answer is that most things are going right most of the time for most people.

How many students graduate knowing everything in their textbooks and have complete command of the cognitive skills they were exposed to during their time in HE? If all students graduated with a 3-plus GPA, I suspect that more business leaders would be happier. However, this is unlikely to happen unless grade inflation muddies the pond. Student development during their college years has been well documented since Perry (1970), and although many types of scale exist for epistemological, moral and intellectual development (Evans, Forney, Guido, Patton, & Renn, 2010), the consensus is clear: students typically begin their HE studies with a much weaker set of abilities than when they graduate. The typical patterns that have been observed form an outer bound of what is possible within the four years. Higher level cognitive skills (to include critical thinking, however that may be defined) do not spontaneously arise upon matriculation. They take time, and cognitive development continues well into adulthood (Kegan, 1982). We cannot expect 22- to 25-year-olds to have mastered our entire curricula.

Furthermore, neuroscientists tell educators that the prefrontal cortex, which controls cognitive development (Miller, 2011) is not fully formed until the age of 25. It is, therefore, unreasonable to expect so much of higher education when the human is subject to its own internal developmental stages. I can tell my 10-year-old about theories of cognitive development, but it will be of little use.

Finally, I would expect that the youth have more technical savvy than older adults. This is the nature of life. However, I’d like to see this tested a bit more. I suspect that students are far more adept at the physical manipulation of technological devices, being digital natives, but I also suspect that their skill does not extend much farther than the use of SMS, web browsing and other social media. Most of my students, for example, are hopeless with Excel, have no clue of page layout software and need serious training on most advanced software that I introduce. Most can’t even touch type!


Evans, N., Forney, D., Guido, F., Patton, L., & Renn, K. (2010). Student Development in College: Theory, Research, and Practice(2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Kegan, R. (1982). The evolving self: Problem and process in human development. Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.

Miller, P. H. (2011). Theories of Developmental Psychology (5th ed.). New York: Worth.

Perry, W. G. (1970). Forms of Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years: A Scheme. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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