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21st Century Skills - Competencies without a Classroom Podcast - Episode 4 Recap

S2 E4: Matt Rhoads @MattRhoads1990
Eric Do Couto
April 14, 2021

In the fourth #21For21 episode of Competencies without a Classroom podcast, we interview Matt Rhoads, a Secondary special education teacher, consultant and author. You can find out more about Matt at

Metacognition as a 21st Century Skill

The 21st century skill that Matt focuses on in his classrooms is reflection and metacognition.

Reflection and metacognition involves allowing students to first self-assess where they are with their feelings, their academics, how they’re interacting with others in the classroom, and how their effort & participation has been in the classroom.  The next step is providing students a number of different outlets for them to go through those reflection processes.

Matt suggests that he might provide opportunities for synchronous learning while they’re working on interactive slides, to put that there and share as a class. Then, at the end of a lesson, the class will reflect and summarize on the activity. What did we talk about? Did they understand? How did the conversations go with other students and with him? How was his feedback to students?

Often times these activities are scaffolded, where Matt first models how he might tackle or evaluate a particular topic and then asks students to do it themselves.

What 21st century competency or skill is being developed?

Metacognition/reflection skills that Matt believes are critical for success in the world today.

"There's going to be jobs that are changing in the next five to ten years that don't even exist. So you want people that are able to learn the skills are required for that job. And I think the idea of being able to reflect and summarize what they learned and show what they're able to do, what they're learning, and then articulate, what they did well versus what they need to improve in. Then that's going to put them into position to be a lifelong learner."

21st Century Skills - Rapid Fire Questions:

Q: What's the one competency that, if Ryan were the superintendent of a school board, every student would learn?

A: Critical thinking and reflection through the use of digital portfolios. Students can discuss their learnings over time, examples of what they did with their learning and how they can improve their skills as they move forward. Students can showcase their willingness to learn, their adaptability and their resilience.

Q: What's one life skill each student should learn in high school?

A: The ability to prioritize and create boundaries to prevent burnout.

Q: If you could post anything on a billboard for everyone to see, what would it be?

A: Don’t believe everything you see. Anyone can say and post anything online.

Q: What was your favorite subject in school?

A: History class.

"I just like then if a teacher was able to provide like a narrative of the historical events that always seem to really engage me. I always liked the idea of if someone's able to really tell a good story, and I think history provides that content where you're able to give that story. And you can also show like images and things that are related to it."

Q: What's your favorite book or the one you wish you read before you turned 18?

A: Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. The book covers how humans can learn a lot about each other and our behavior by looking at our search data. The book also covers how often times our search data is going to be far more accurate representation of peoples thoughts compared to what people actually tell you when you're speaking to them.

Q: If you have a magic wand, what is one thing you would change about K-12 education today?

A: Integrating more formative assessments into the curriculum that can be used for state indicators of success. Matt suggests that major yearly summative assessments (state testing) are not as valuable as formative assessments.

"... I also want to get rid of standardized tests for university entry as I don't feel like there's any sort of indicator for them that demonstrates future success."

Reflection Prompts for Your Students

Use the prompts below to have your students reflect on what they heard in the episode and consider how Lauren's advice can be applied to them.

  1. Matt suggests that if he was superintendent, all students would need to demonstrate evidence of critical thinking through reflection. Why do you think reflection is important as a 21st century skill?
  2. Matt talks about not believing everything you see and to be critical of what is presented to you online especially. Describe a time when you found something online that you believed to be misinformation or outright false. How were you able to identify the information as less than truthful? What tells or indicators led you to be suspicious? How did that experience shape how you look at information online today?
  3. If you were in charge of creating a class to showcase reflection and metacognition, what would that class look like? What tools might students use to reflect and document their learning?
  4. Learning to prioritize responsibilities and manage work-school or work-life balance was aa life skill that Matt suggested was important to learn in high school. Is this a skill you believe you have? How might you go about improving this skill? Set a SMART goal with an action plan to continue developing/improving this skill.
  5. What skill that you've learned in high school do you believe will be most useful for you after school? Describe a time in which you displayed this 21st century skill.

Matt's Books

Published: Navigating the Toggled Term - preparing secondary educators for navigation fall 2020 and beyond

Coming Soon: Navigating the Toggled Term: A guide for K-12 classroom and school leaders

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Capture the moments where growth happens with portfolios your students actually want to use
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