“Students leaving school must be able to do more than read, write, and compute as measured by standard assessment instruments. They must be able to apply those skills in real-life, authentic performance situations… Textbook-based training alone is insufficient for effective workplace performance. Skills developed through liberal studies must be exercised in reality-based applications in order to transfer effectively to workplace settings.” SCANS Report, Sept. 1990
The following are excerpts from the SCANS Report (Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills), “Identifying and Describing the Skills Required by Work” prepared by Michael Kane, Sue Berryman, David Goslin & Ann Meltzer for the U.S. Department of Labor, in 1990. Unlike Common Core, this report emphasized practical “team-work” and “learning to learn” skills required for successful 21st century careers, rather than for standardized testing situations.
“People learn best when they are taught in a context of application–in a functional context. If teachers and students know what performance is required for success in modern work contexts, schools can organize instruction to teach the skills that support such performance..
It is now becoming widely recognized that the United States must choose between two futures. We can become increasingly divided into rich and poor, a nation of second-rate products and services; or, we can continue to be a highly productive and thriving economic force.
To remain the latter we must restructure our schools and workplaces and greatly increase the skills of much of our current and future workforce– especially those of our frontline, non-college educated workers.
Changes in the workplace have consequences for the skills that students must learn, for the ways in which they are taught and for the performance standards to which they are held. For example, facing a life of continuous learning, they need to learn how to learn.
The emphasis on teamwork in more and more workplaces means that instructional approaches must also emphasize learning collaboratively not just individually. The need for high-quality work performance means that students must be held to, and come to hold themselves to, high standards of careful and best effort performances.
These changes also have consequences for who learns. As job content changes rapidly, narrow, specific skills have become less important, and broader, more generic skills more important. The generic skills required (i.e., metacognitive skills–the ability to think about what one is doing and its consequences for the work goal) have become more similar across higher- and lower- skill jobs.
This blurring of historical skill differences between occupations implies a change in who gets taught what. It raises serious questions about our distinct educational traditions of elite education and mass education, as usually embodied in “academic” versus “vocational” tracks.
Review of Research
The Commission staff held discussions with key researchers in a variety of fields. The Commission’s research team consisted of researchers on education policy and labor force training from Pelavin Associates; researchers on job analysis and assessment from the American Institutes for Research (AIR); and researchers on work and cognition from the Institute on Education and the Economy (IEE) of Teachers College, Columbia University.
To change education at the level necessary to improve workplace preparation, appropriate outcome measures (i.e., assessments) must be available and used, and instruction must build on an understanding of real-world work situations.
In the final session a group of experts agreed on the following recommendations:
o This Commission should define “skills that high school graduates need to ensure a productive career.” The Commission should not focus solely on entry-level skills but should also include those skills required for movement up a career ladder. Individual progress and corporate success imply that the ability to learn effectively and to take on new roles is a required entry-level skill, regardless of the nature of the initial job assignment.
o The Commission should emphasize the importance of the affective dimension in workplace performance.
o The Commission should emphasize that students leaving school must be able to do more than read, write, and compute as measured by standard assessment instruments. They must be able to apply those skills in real-life, authentic performance situations.
o The Commission should state that textbook-based training alone is insufficient for effective workplace performance. Skills developed through liberal studies must be exercised in reality-based applications in order to transfer effectively to workplace settings.
o The Commission should recognize that scenarios can cover a variety of situations, from those that are work-based to those that are more personal (e.g., the planning and budgeting to afford a car). For purposes of the Commission’s report, the scenarios should be based on work situations. In this way students will also learn about the world of work.”