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21st Century Skills - Competencies without a Classroom Podcast - Episode 2 Recap

S2 E2: Ryan Tibbens @classcastpod
Eric Do Couto
April 13, 2021

In the second #21For21 episode of Competencies without a Classroom podcast, we interview Ryan Tibbens, a high school English teacher and host of the ClassCast Podcast at

Persuasive Communication and 21st Century Skills

The 21st century skill that Ryan believes is important to students is the ability to be persuasive in their communications. Ryan starts with a basic introduction to rhetoric and builds from there to introduce the idea of all communication being persuasive. An interesting exercise is to get students to try to stump him, "Find a time when you were communicating where you weren't also trying to convince someone of something"

Ryan stresses the importance of persuasion in communication, as students who build their skills of persuasion can more often get the outcomes that they're aiming for -- and achieve those outcomes without resorting to lying or bullying. He believes that part of becoming a more effective person is your ability to influence or persuade others, while at the same time being able to identify when others are trying to influence you and how.

Ryan introduces to us the PASTA breakdown for persuasive communications. PASTA stands for Purpose, Audience, Subject, Tones and Author's bias. Ryan suggests that when reading or watching content, students should be able to identify these characteristics in the subject matter.

Most students inherently understand the 'rhetorical triangle' of purpose, audience and speaker; however, there is tremendous value in further understanding where tone and author's bias change the perception of the communication. Ryan believe that understanding the context of communication and having students learn to detect subtleties in tone will go a long way in building critical thinking skills in students.

Ryan has students create their own content, and allows them to have fun with it -- suggesting students create a radio advertisement or videos. After creating content, Ryan will ask students to do a PASTA breakdown of their creation, with opportunity for review (does this make sense for the audience? will they understand that word?) and reflection of why the student wrote or performed their work the way they did, and what they might do better next time to persuade their audience.

What 21st century competency or skill is being developed?

The PASTA framework looks to strengthen students persuasive communication skills, which directly build their critical thinking skills as well. Practice of student's communication skills can also indirectly build their public speaking abilities.

According to Ryan, students also learn to develop the ability to ask questions about what they're reading or watching, as well as the ability to incorporate the ideas and insights of those same questions in their own writing and communications.

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: Persuasive writing and communication.

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

A: Personal finance.

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

A: What is the best thing about your day?

Q: Which would you prioritize, EQ or IQ?

A: IQ. "I take IQ because a person with IQ, and a decent heart has the ability to learn, or at least fake the EQ."

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

A: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. (with honorable mention to The Tyranny of Merit by Michael Sandel)

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

A: Make high school a little bit more like college. "...folding some more vocational and trade-school sort of options. Students should have a better menu of choices between classes."

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. Ryan shares that if he were superintendent, all students would need to demonstrate evidence of persuasive writing. Why do you think persuasive writing is important as a 21st century skill? Give an example of where you use persuasive writing or communication outside of school.
  2. Ryan's magic wand would make high school a bit more like college. If you were in charge of designing the courses you needed to take/could choose from in high school, what course would you add? Why did you choose that course? What 21st century competencies could be developed through it?
  3. Ryan shares the PASTA framework that he uses with his students to promote persuasive communication. Find a recent piece of school work and try applying this strategy to it. Did you find it useful? What did you learn from it?
  4. Record or write a short advertisement. Breakdown the piece using each part of the PASTA framework. Why did you use this particular tone? What bias does the author/speaker carry have in this advertisement? What choices did you make in your communication to try to persuade your audience?
  5. Ryan spoke about persuasive communication as a tool to better achieve the outcomes we aim towards. Share a time when you displayed persuasive communication to achieve a specific outcome you were working towards, without resorting to lying or bullying.

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