Do You Want Your Students to Be Job-Ready with 21st Century Skills? Change Pedagogies: A Pedagogical Paradigm Shift from Vygotskyian Social Constructivism to Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Siemens’ Digital Connectivism

Charles Kivunja


As Michael Fullan (2001) so cogently asserts, the moral purpose of education is to equip students with the skills that will enable them to be productive citizens when they finish school. Whereas pre-21st century learning paradigms catered reasonably well for the pursuit of this moral purpose in turning out school leavers with specialized skills that were applicable in highly compartmentalized and specialized Industrial Age economies, 21st century skills require a new paradigm. In their seminal book entitled 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, Trilling and Fadel (2009) eloquently elaborate on the essential skills for 21st century learning and occupations. I call the adoption of these essential skills the pedagogical paradigm shift.According to these leaders in the field, the essential skills for 21st century learning and occupations fall into four domains. First are the core subjects and skills such as the orthodoxy 3Rs that every educated person should have mastery of. Second is the learning and innovations skills domain requiring skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. The third is the career and life skills domain, calling for skills such as collaboration, teamwork and leadership. Fourth, is the digital literacy skills domain, requiring skills such as computer literacy and digital fluency. While computers and digital technologies play a central role in the development and utilization of the skills, the more essential skills for 21st century learning and occupations relate not just to the application of technology but more importantly, to the ability to engage in independent critical thinking, and a high level of problem solving, often using technology. This paper reviews the learning paradigms that have guided pedagogy over the centuries and argues that a shift is needed in pedagogy and curriculum towards a paradigm that emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving as proposed by Trilling and Fadel (2009) within the social connectivist paradigm as well articulated by Siemens rather than the dominant Vygotskyian social constructivist paradigm.   

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c)

International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email:

Copyright © Sciedu Press

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.