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Life Skills

Life skills describes a category of knowledge that is useful across the content areas as well as important for the world of work. This category is comprised of four areas: Thinking and Reasoning, Working with Others, Self-Regulation, and Life Work.

Thinking and Reasoning

The following process was used to identify standards and benchmarks in the category of thinking and reasoning:

Identification of Target Reports

No single document was used as the reference report for standards and benchmarks in the thinking and reasoning category. Rather, those statements that were judged to articulate thinking and reasoning processes that can be applied across content areas were extracted from the various documents reviewed. The following documents have been used to construct standards and benchmarks in the thinking and reasoning category:

  • * Benchmarks for Science Literacy (Project 2061, 1993).
  • * Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 1989).
  • * Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies (NCSS, 1994).
  • * Geography for Life: National Geography Standards (Geography Education Standards Project, 1994).
  • * Moving Into the Future, National Standards for Physical Education: A Guide to Content and Assessment (NASPE, 1995).
  • * National Health Education Standards: Achieving Health Literacy (JHESC, 1995).
  • * National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996).
  • * National Standards for Arts Education: What Every Young American Should Know and Be Able to Do in the Arts (CNAEA, 1994).
  • * National Standards for Civics and Government (CCE, 1994).
  • * National Standards for History: Basic Edition (NCHS, 1996).
  • * Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century (NSFLEP, 1996).
  • * Standards in Practice: Grades K-2 (Crafton, 1996).
  • * Standards in Practice: Grades 3-5 (Sierra-Perry, 1996).
  • * Standards in Practice: Grades 6-8 (Wilhelm, 1996).
  • * Standards in Practice: Grades 9-12 (Smagorinsky, 1996).
  • * What Work Requires of Schools: A SCANS Report for America 2000 (The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, 1991).
  • * Workplace Basics: The Essential Skills Employers Want (Carnevale, Gainer & Meltzer, 1990).
Identification of Standards and Benchmarks from Target Reports

Explicit statements of thinking and reasoning were identified in all target reports. To illustrate, consider the following statements from NCTM's Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (1989):

  • make and test conjectures
  • formulate counter examples
  • follow logical arguments
  • judge the validity of arguments
  • construct simple valid arguments
Each of these statements represents a reasoning process or subprocess that could be used in a variety of subject areas. For example, one could judge the validity of arguments or construct simple valid arguments in mathematics, in science, or in history. Statements such as these found in any document were extracted and used as the statement base from which the thinking and reasoning standards were constructed.

In addition to explicit statements of general reasoning processes like those above, implicit statements of general thinking and reasoning processes were also identified. For example, the NCTM document contains the following statement:

  • formulate problems from everyday and mathematical situations (p.23)
In this case, the thinking and reasoning process was made explicit:
  • formulate problems within a variety of situations
In summary, both implicit and explicit statements of general thinking and reasoning processes were used to construct the standards and benchmarks in the thinking and reasoning category. It is again important to emphasize that our listing of these processes is not meant to imply that thinking and reasoning can or should be addressed in isolation of domain-specific content. However, providing a listing of generalized processes allows a school or district to distribute thinking and reasoning processes systematically throughout the various content domains. Additionally, it is our hope that a listing such as ours will help schools and districts break the perceptual set regarding many thinking and reasoning processes. For example, it is usually assumed that problem solving should be assigned exclusively to the domain of mathematics and hypothesis testing exclusively to the domain of science. However, careful examination of the standard in this section entitled "applies basic trouble-shooting and problem-solving techniques" will show that it is applicable to many domains, as is the standard "understands and applies basic principles of hypothesis testing and scientific inquiry."

Working with Others

The following process was used to identify standards and benchmarks in the category of working with others:

Identification of National Reports and Reference Documents

The category of standards entitled "working with others" deals with skills and abilities that are associated within groups and with those skills and abilities associated with effective interpersonal communications. Even though many of the national reports mentioned the need for students to work in cooperative environments and use interpersonal communication skills, it was primarily those reports from the domain of workplace literacy that identified specific skills and abilities that should be demonstrated by students. Two documents from this domain were selected as the reference reports for this category: What Work Requires of Schools: A SCANS Report for America 2000 (The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, 1991) and Workplace Basics: The Essential Skills Employers Want (Carnevale, Gainer, & Meltzer, 1990). These documents were selected as co-reference documents because of their similar purpose and format. Workplace Basics places heavy emphasis on this category of standards, although it does not explicitly identify a category referred to as "working with others." Rather, it articulates related categories such as interpersonal skills, negotiation skills, teamwork, and listening and oral communication skills. The SCANS report identifies working with others as one of the five general competencies important in the workplace. Within this category it lists such areas as: participates as a team member, teaches others new skills, and exercises leadership.

Additionally, one content-area document contained explicit statements of what students should know and be able to do while working with others: Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies (NCSS, 1994). Also, the document from NCTE entitled Democracy through Language (1989) contained general references to the skills students should exhibit while working with others.

Identification of Standards and Benchmarks and the Integration of Information from Other Documents

Both the SCANS report and Workplace Basics articulate skills and abilities at a level of generality highly compatible with the specific declarative, procedural, and contextualized structures that serve as the foundation for the standards and benchmarks identified in this report. However, one convention adopted by both reports was not compatible with this study. Specifically, neither report identifies the levels at which articulated skills and abilities should be emphasized. The SCANS report simply notes that all identified skills and abilities should be reinforced at kindergarten through 12th-grade levels; Workplace Basics lists the skills and abilities it identifies as important for graduation. Rather than arbitrarily identify the levels at which the various skills and abilities should be emphasized, we adopted the convention of placing them all at level IV (Grades K12). Thus, a school or district wishing to adopt the skills and abilities in this section would need to devise a system to determine appropriate benchmark levels.

Self-Regulation

The following process was used to identify standards and benchmarks in the category of self-regulation:

Identification of Significant Reports and Reference Documents

Self-regulation standards include skills and abilities that address executive and metacognitive functions such as setting and monitoring goals and maintaining a healthy sense of self. Because of their similar purpose and format, two documents were identified as co-reference reports for this category of standards: What Work Requires of Schools: A SCANS Report of America 2000 (The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, 1991) and Workplace Basics: The Essential Skills Employers Want (Carnevale, Gainer & Meltzer, 1990). Although neither document contains a category referred to as self-regulation per se, both contain categories that are strongly related. For example, the SCANS report lists skills and abilities in the general areas of setting goals, managing resources, self-esteem, and self-management. Workplace Basics describes skills and abilities in categories such as self-esteem, goal setting, motivation, and learning to learn.

Identification of Standards and Benchmarks

Both documents report their skills and abilities at levels highly compatible with the format for benchmarks adopted in this study. That is, both documents present statements that are easily translated into specific elements of declarative, procedural, and contextual knowledge. Neither document, however, describes the levels at which their identified skills and abilities should be emphasized. Rather, both allude to the fact that all skills and abilities should be acquired by students by the time they graduate. The declarative, procedural, and contextual elements in this category were assigned to level IV (Grades K12). The knowledge and skills were identified as important across all grade levels. For a discussion of grades and the levels to which they are assigned, see How the Subject-Area Sections Are Structured.

Life Work

The following process was used to identify standards and benchmarks in the category of life work:

Identification of Significant Reports and Reference Documents

Standards in the life work category encompass those skills and abilities commonly considered necessary to secure and maintain employment. Two co-reference documents were selected for this category of standards because of their similar purpose and format: What Work Requires of Schools: A SCANS Report for America 2000 (The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, 1991) and Workplace Basics: The Essential Skills Employers Want (Carnevale, Gainer, & Meltzer, 1990). As their titles indicate, both documents are explicitly designed to provide students with guidance in terms of those skills that are valued and expected in the marketplace. In fact, Workplace Basics lists as one of its sixteen categories of skills, Employability -- Career Development. Additionally, Benchmarks for Science Literacy (Project 2061, 1993) was identified as relevant to this category.

Identification of Standards and Benchmarks and Integration of Information from Other Documents

Although both reference documents list skills and abilities at a high level of specificity that renders them quite compatible with the structure of standards used in this study, neither identifies the level at which these skills and abilities should be addressed. Consequently, with one exception, the elements listed under the standards in this section are all assigned to level IV (grades 912). The one exception is the standard entitled "Makes effective use of basic tools." All components for this standard were drawn from the document Benchmarks for Science Literacy (1993), which lists skills and abilities by grade level.