Administration & Leadership

Becoming a 21st Century School or District: Use the 4Cs to Support Teachers (6 of 7)

Focus on the 4Cs in student work, and meaningful feedback and evaluations for teachers, says Ken Kay.

October 16, 2011

Welcome back to our series on becoming a 21st century school or district. For the earlier installments of this series, please scroll to the bottom of this page.

We have covered a lot of ground since we started this 7 step series. We have talked about embracing the 4Cs (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) and embedding them in professional development (step 4), and curriculum and assessment (step 5). But, the goals of your initiative can't be accomplished if your teachers aren't supported in making them happen in the classroom for each and every student.

Engage Your Teachers

Your 21st century education initiative rests upon your ability to engage and support every teacher in their practice around the 4Cs. Engage your teachers in active conversations about the 4Cs. Provide them with resources necessary for their 21st century education journey.

Give them a copy of "Preparing Our Students for the 21st Century: An Educator's Guide to the Four Cs" from the National Education Association. Send your requests for the guide to Andrea Prejean, aprejean AT nea DOT org.

Help teachers visualize 21st century classroom practice by showing them videos of 21st century classrooms. You will find helpful videos at:

Help Teachers Focus on Student Work

Another way to help educators focus on 4Cs instruction is to review student work and ask the question, "Does this work display any of the 4Cs?" It forces you to think in concrete terms about what student outcomes you are trying to support.

Consider organizing one or more professional development sessions around the sharing and discussion of 4Cs student work. Check out this example of student work from Henrico County Public Schools in Virginia.

Now, answer the following set of questions about this sample of student work:

  • Does the project display adequate mastery of core content?
  • Does this student work illustrate mastery of at least one of the 4Cs? Why or why not?
  • What instructional strategy do you suspect supported this outcome?
  • What additional instructional strategies might have enhanced this student work? Why?

Ask teachers to bring at least one example of student work that he/she believes illustrates some aspect of 4Cs mastery. Then facilitate small and large-group discussions focused on the four questions above.

Give Teachers Feedback on Their "4Cs Pedagogy"

Beyond their common understanding around the 4Cs and student work, teachers need to understand how to reflect on and refine their practice. "Walk throughs" are commonly used to support teachers and 4Cs instruction. These visits are not used as compliance exercises or performance reviews, but are used to inform professional learning throughout the school or district. When used to support teachers, walk-throughs by peers and administrators can be extremely effective at providing specific feedback around 4Cs instruction.

Provide 21st Century Teacher Evaluations

Another obvious place where teacher feedback is important involves teacher evaluations. In the Odyssey School in Denver, Colorado (an Expeditionary Learning [EL] school), the school's director Marcia Fulton has launched an innovative approach to evaluating teacher performance. Fulton developed an online evaluation tool so her teachers could collaborate with her throughout the evaluation process. The system is designed to collect and store multiple pieces of evidence for each teacher. Artifacts include Fulton's observations from class visits, feedback based on rubric criteria, teacher comments and teacher-provided evidence such as lesson plans. Fulton's approach is a useful example because she has focused on creating a teacher evaluation system that models the structures and processes that comprise "best practices" for student evaluations.


  • Are we allowing teachers enough autonomy and flexible time for 4Cs lesson planning and instruction?
  • Are we giving teachers the kind of feedback that will help them improve their 4Cs pedagogy?
  • Are we modeling 21st century techniques in evaluating our teachers?


Step 6 is an important one. Without teachers fully supported, 21st century education will never happen in your school or district. Support of your teachers must be a critical component of your overall strategy.But one last question remains: Are you, your teachers, your school and your district truly committed to a culture of continuous improvement?

We will address that final challenge in step 7. See you next week!

Used with permission by EdLeader21 (C) All rights reserved 2011.

Share This Story

  • email icon

Filed Under

  • Administration & Leadership

Follow Edutopia

  • facebook icon
  • twitter icon
  • instagram icon
  • youtube icon
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
George Lucas Educational Foundation
Edutopia is an initiative of the George Lucas Educational Foundation.
Edutopia®, the EDU Logo™ and Lucas Education Research Logo® are trademarks or registered trademarks of the George Lucas Educational Foundation in the U.S. and other countries.