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21st century skills and competences, definitions.

What is a skill? What is a competence? What are 21st century skills and competencies? Why is it important to understand the difference?

At PocketConfidant AI, our mission is to empower students and learners so that they can develop the best version of themselves and make sense of their academic, professional and personal journey in their own way in order to find study-work-life balance and develop their inner “coaching capacity” to handle the constant change of our modern world.

It is very important for us, PocketConfidant AI, to provide some insights on how we are approaching skills and competences. This is a complex topic for students and learners, and even professionals and leaders may have difficulty defining the differences.

At PocketConfidant AI we’re specialized in coaching and we are developing a technology for self-coaching with the intention to support students and learners to develop their inner coaching capacities. Our approach supports their reflection and choice of response (their attitudes and behaviors) as they face complex situations or events, and adapt to change using their existing cognitive and conative capacities (thinking and emotional capacities). Coaching is helping someone to learn about, and use, their own capacities and surrounding resources to solve complex problems. Commonly acknowledged by our coaching accredited partners and network of experts, coaching is an approach that facilitates, even accelerates, learning and skill-building. In this way we are not talking about “teaching skills” but rather about engaging individuals in a discovery and problem-solving “process” that enables the activation, development and reinforcement (anchoring) of human competencies such as: critical and creative thinking, communication, collaboration, self-confidence, self-motivation and other skills that are critical in today’s world. We provide a list of skills and definitions at the end of this article for further insights.

Shedding light on the complexity: skills and competences

Looking at the definition of “skill” on the Cambridge dictionary defines a skill as “an ability to do an activity or job well, especially because you have practiced it”, while the Merriam-Webster dictionary gives us several definitions of a skill:

  • “the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance”
  • “dexterity or coordination especially in the execution of learned physical tasks”
  • “a learned power of doing something competently: a developed aptitude or ability”

Then, looking at the definition of “competence”, the Cambridge dictionary defines it as “an important skill that is needed to do a job” (mentioning managerial competencies as an example), while the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a competence as:

  • “the quality or state of being competent”
  • “a sufficiency of means for the necessities and conveniences of life”

Using academic and research definitions to explain 21st century skills and competences

The article “A comparative analysis of international frameworks for 21st century competences: Implications for national curriculum policies” from Voogt and Pareja Roblin, tell us the following: “commonly referred to as 21st century competences or 21st century skills, are generally characterized as being (a) transversal (i.e. they are not directly linked to a specific field but are relevant across many fields), (b) multidimensional (i.e. they include knowledge, skills, and attitudes), and (c) associated with higher order skills and behaviours that represent the ability to cope with complex problems and unpredictable situations (Westera 2001, OECD 2005, Gordon et al. 2009).”

Braun and Mishra (assessment methods for competences) define competences as “a pattern of effective adaptation to the environment … broadly defined in terms of reasonable success with major developmental tasks expected for a person of a given age and gender in the context of his or her culture, society, and time. It is important to note here that this definition emphasizes good adaptation to different types of situations, and not simply outstanding achievement.”

A comprehensive model for 21st century skills and competences

At PocketConfidant AI, we partner with University Côte d’Azur and researcher Margarida Romero, professor and researcher working in a cutting-edge research lab on learning, education and technologies. She developed the below pictured #5c21 model to explain 21st century skills.

The above image can be found at this link (©2016 Romero) and related to this book.

A broader list of skills, attributes and concepts that are important to understand.

While the above picture and link give you qualitative definitions, we would like to share with you other skills, attributes and concepts that we at PocketConfidant AI think are important. You will use them in the many different situations you encounter on your academic, professional and personal journey. Here is a list of definitions for your reflection. Know that you can use our self-coaching technology to further develop, integrate and apply the skills that you want to become more competent with.

  • Adaptability: Adaptability is being flexible and able to adapt to changing work conditions. An adaptable person can work independently or work well with a team.
  • Coaching: Coaching uses listening, questioning, and reframing to help you clarify your current situation, define your objective and understand how you can get there.
  • Communication: Communication is about conveying meanings to someone else, or a group, through the use of mutually understood signs, symbols, and semiotic rules. Communication skills can be Speaking, Presenting, Negotiating, Verbal, and Nonverbal communication, Listening and Active listening, Empathizing, Persuading, Storytelling, Writing.
  • Conflict resolution: Conflict resolution is an informal or formal process that two or more parties use to find a peaceful solution to their dispute.
  • Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others.
  • Goal-setting: Goal-setting is the process of defining what we want to achieve with a set of measurable criteria.
  • Growth mindset: Growth mindset is an ability to learn continuously and the willingness to adapt to change. More than a skill, we could be defining it as an attitude, a behavior, a personality trait, a capacity.
  • Inspiration: Inspiration is the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, or being able to do so for others.
  • Listening: Listening means paying attention not only to the story, but how it is told, the use of language and voice, and how the other person uses his or her body. In other words, it means being aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages. Your ability to listen effectively depends on the degree to which you perceive and understand these messages.
  • Planning: Planning is the process of thinking about the activities required to achieve the desired goal. It is the first and foremost activity to achieve the desired results. It involves the creation and maintenance of a plan, such as psychological aspects that require conceptual skills.
  • Prioritisation: Prioritisation is the action or process of deciding the relative importance or urgency of a thing or things.
  • Resilience: Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
  • Self-awareness: Self-awareness is the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or don’t align with your internal standards. If you’re highly self-aware, you can objectively evaluate yourself, manage your emotions, align your behavior with your values, and understand correctly how others perceive you.
  • Self-confidence: Self-confidence is a feeling of trust in our abilities, qualities, and judgement.
  • Self-esteem: Self-esteem is an individual’s subjective evaluation of their worth. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs about oneself (for example, “I am unloved”, “I am worthy”) as well as emotional states, such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame.
  • Self-management: Self-management is the management of or by oneself, taking responsibility for one’s behavior and well-being.
  • Self-motivation: Self-motivation is the force that keeps pushing us to go on – it’s our internal drive to achieve, produce, develop, and keep moving forward. When you think you’re ready to quit something, or you just don’t know how to start, your self-motivation is what pushes you to go on.
  • Self-organization: Self-organization is when you know how to organize and adjust yourself and your goals in a way you can achieve them.
  • Time management: Time management is the ability to use one’s time effectively or productively.

At PocketConfidant, we work WITH students FOR students to develop a self-coaching technology (available here now) that reinforces the discovery of the individual; is a private, personalized and always available support system for their academic challenges.

Contact us for more information or if you have questions and comments, we’ll be more than happy to engage and have a conversation.

From this article, you can get started on a self-coaching journey to develop your competences and you can get further coaching or mentoring with the following options. To read about other challenges that students, graduates and young professional face and get some tips, visit the different topics here and check again regularly to follow the topics and stories we add from time to time.

If you want more information feel free to contact us.

PocketConfidant AI Team

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Olivier Malafronte

Founder @PocketConfidant AI, Certified Coach, Masters in Business, lived and worked in 5 countries. Passionate entrepreneur, focus on global issues with a will to contribute and improve our world. "Keep going".