What the Research Says

Bryan Nixon

Bryan Nixon

Last week, just before Thanksgiving, a new report titled “Skills for Success: Supporting and Assessing Key Habits, Mindsets, and Skills in PreK-12” was published (November 2014) by New America, a non-profit civic enterprise dedicated to the renewal of American politics, prosperity and purpose in the Digital Age. The report gathers insights, knowledge and experiences from numerous researchers, experts and practitioners into an area of learning that has had much public discourse—often associated with the words “grit” and “character.”

This area is defined as ‘Skills for Success’. As the authors state:

“Self-regulation. Planning and goal-setting. Collaboration and communication. These skills—and others like them, such as persistence, flexibility, and initiative—are critical to academic and social success in school and later in life. However, many students do not fully develop and learn how to use these “skills for success” (SFS).”

The authors go on to propose that, “…while parents and communities play an important role in helping children and adolescents develop these skills, so can formal educational experiences.” They reference the fact that high-quality pre-kindergarten programs for three- and four-year-olds, for example, focus on building early academic skills as well as developing the ability to make friends, show curiosity, pay attention, solve problems, and stick with a task even when it is complicated. This provides a backdrop to suggest that such a holistic approach to learning needs to continue throughout the Elementary and Secondary School continuum. 

The National Research Council defines these ‘skills for success’ or 21st Century Skills as: 

Cognitive Skills

Intrapersonal Skills

Interpersonal Skills

Intellectual ability, Knowledge, creativity

Work Ethic, conscientiousness, intellectual openness, curiosity

Collaboration, communication, conflict resolution, leadership


As I read the report and considered these 21st Century Skills, I could not help but be proud of the program we deliver here at Whitby. While we see the value in academic achievement, we also see the need to ensure our children are ready in every way for the transitions and changes that will occur throughout their learning journeys and future career choices. The connectedness of the IB Learner Profile attributes (such as knowledgeable, critical thinkers, communicators, open-minded etc.) to these 21st Century Skills is stark and completely in line with ‘best practice’ in schools.

At Whitby, we are learners, from the administration to the youngest child who walks our hallways. Our mission statement, which captures both the passion for learning and ownership for the process of learning, is celebrated and explored through each and every day in our exciting learning environment.

Our innovative, balanced, and personalized approach to learning, one in which the journey is as celebrated as much as each developmental touchstone a student reaches as they grow, is not only supported in this new study, but is already woven into the fabric of the Whitby educational continuum which our children engage in from Stepping Stones through to Grade 8. Our graduates are ready for their High Schools, reflective about their learning, successful in their academic courses and have gained ‘the cognitive, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills’ for future success in their life journey.

Bryan Nixon

Bryan Nixon

Bryan Nixon is now the Head of School at TASIS England, having previously served the Whitby School community for 5 wonderful years. The 'Life of Bryan' continues to be an adventure in many ways. From Belfast to Bavaria and Cardiff to Connecticut, and now onto London, his learning journey has proved to be a source of wonder and exploration through each opportunity and challenge enjoyed. Bryan shares this journey with his family and the school communities that he serves. He draws inspiration from the multiple perspectives provided by students, parents and colleagues that continue to enrich his learning and expand his horizons.