This article considers the possibilities of realization of the 4Cs educational model in training future foreign language teachers. This study focuses on four skills: creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration, which are part of the 21st century skills. It provides detailed explanations of the principles of these skills and describes the strategies, techniques and challenges of their integration into English foreign language (EFL) teaching and learning in foreign contexts through reviewing the recent research. To meet the challenges, EFL classrooms should not merely focus on students’ language skills development but also integrate the 4Cs into the learning process. In higher education teachers need to make the necessary changes in the process of teaching, to focus on the content of education and the educational process. Training of future foreign language teachers heads to take into account the transition to the updated educational program in schools of Kazakhstan. Ways of importing 21st century skills: integrating 4Cs skills, the steps to develop future foreign language teachers who are quick-witted, digitally competent, creative, able to think critically and adapt quickly to the environment are discussed. The problem of practice addressed in this article is the lack of 4Cs skills among students currently at university and the lack of opportunities students have to develop these qualities.
New technologies, globalization, and demographic problems have changed society. The results of education, which were enough for previous generations, for example, knowledge of some facts, are not enough to become successful in our time. Critical thinking, the ability to cooperate with other people, problem-solving, social skills were recognized by employers and education researchers as the most important for the 21century. The education system has changed its understanding of its goals and includes an increasingly wide range of skills in educational programs. The school takes responsibility for both the cognitive and the social-emotional development of children, realizing that they are inseparable from each other and should take place in the same space. The main international document adopted by UNESCO defined the “sustainable development goals”, as well as cognitive, social-emotional and behavioral learning outcomes. The life and work styles of the 21st century demand a certain skillset from students. It is the school’s and the teachers’ responsibility to prepare all students for the educational demands of life and work in a rapidly changing world by equipping them with the required skills.
In the past few years, an educational system aimed at the transition from the traditional orientation of school education to the formation of subject knowledge and skills to creating conditions for the development of modern key competencies (or skills) of the 21st century has been relevant around the world. Despite the different configurations of these skills in various models, the set of these skills itself remains fairly stable. In addition to the subject-matter (or literacy) skills themselves, the Partnership for 21st Century Learning offers a 21st-century skill framework that highlights “innovative skills” — critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration skills, and a wide range of “life skills” or “career” skills.
Nowadays the educational system of the Republic of Kazakhstan meeting changing and growing requirements and needs is turning to the integration of domestic education into the world educational space. This contributes to improving the education system and raising it to a qualitatively new level. In this regard, the best world practices and features of the national education system are considered in the course of research. There is unanimity among researchers, scholars, and teachers about the necessity of integrating the 21 century skills into education. The concept of 21 century skills was developed in 2007 in USA as an at-
tempt to improve education outcomes in order to prepare USA citizens for the demands of 21 century workplace. The introduction of these skills has made a fundamental change in the aims of education. Accordingly, many curricula development plans and programs have been designed and conducted for the purpose of integrating these skills .
Recently, a new English language curriculum has been developed for future English language teachers. The integration of these skills in the curriculum necessitates a change in the materials being taught, the methods of teaching being used and the assessment strategies being employed. This issue has been emphasized in the framework for 21 century learning: 21 century standards, assessments, curriculum, instruction, professional development and learning environments must be aligned to produce 21 century outcomes for today’s students. This entails encouraging learners to become autonomous and creative to secure opportunities in the demanding competitive global market. The concept of 21 century skills has been broadly used to include socio-emotional and key competencies, which 21 century students need in order to be well-prepared for their future professional life and labor market demands. How to become successful in a particular activity? Why is it often difficult for graduates of prestigious universities to find good jobs? What competencies besides practical skills should a specialist have to be in demand in the market?
In the last century specialists in the field of personnal development and corporate governance began to search, describe and try to measure key competencies, a set of qualities and skills of a specialist that determine success in a particular activity. It is worth noting that their research was carried out largely on the basis of employers' expectations.
Over time, the 4Cs educational model was formulated: the ideal future teachers have critical thinking skills, creativity, communicative skills and knows how to work in a team.
In today's rapidly changing world, when many professions are becoming a thing of the past due to the process of automation, the development of soft-skills is an important task. After all, it is not so important what the children know how to do, but how ready they are to learn new things , master new knowledge and apply their skills in practice.
In recent years Kazakhstan has achieved significant success in education. In this research, the concept of 4Cs refers to “critical thinking”, “collaboration”, “communication” and “creativity” as 21st century skills. The focus is on discussing EFL university instructors’ integration of these four skills in their curriculum. The aim is to shed light on incorporation of the 4Cs in language teaching and learning in FL contexts and to highlight the importance of considering the particularities of these contexts regarding the implementation of these skills. The notion of 4Cs skills demonstrated in Figure 1.
Since language is essentially a means of communication and the main objective of teaching and learning a language is to enable the learner to communicate in it, EFL classes have long been acknowledged as one of the most effective environments for enhancing students' communication skills. The advent of CLT in the 1970s was a response to the need for accomplishing this objective and since then it become a prevalent method in language teaching and learning. Therefore, EFL teachers are supposed to have no difficulty in integrating communication skills with their language skills instruction. However, communication in the context of the 21 century skills covers a more complex dimension than it was in the 20th century. 21 century communication is still the social glue that holds together nations, corporations, scientific disciplines, and families, and some aspects of communication, both oral and written, have not changed. Yet, the increasing adoption of new technologies like video conferencing, multimedia, and internet technologies dramatically changed communication in the 21 century. Like in the previous era, communication is still defined as the ability to share thoughts and ideas through oral, written and interpersonal forms, but the increasing use of technologies makes today’s communication inseparable from Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Communication competence in 21 century world involves digital, interpersonal, written, and oral communication to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values, attitudes, and intentions for a range of purposes (e.g. to inform, instruct, motivate, and persuade) in a variety of forms, contexts, and diverse environments (including multilingual and multicultural) employing multiple media and technologies. Therefore, in addition to the development of their students' conventional oral and written communication in English, EFL teachers should also promote the students' ICT-mediated-communication skills, and this requires the use of ICT as learning tools. In the teaching and learning process communication skills can be integrated with the integrated language skills through the student-centered learning approach, particularly the cooperative learning or project-based learning, in which groups of learners work together to complete a task, solve a problem, or create a product.
In general terms, collaboration refers to the practice of working together to achieve a common goal. It is an increasingly important educational outcome because organizations and businesses have increasingly moved to a team-based work environment. Unlike most of the works of the 20th century which insisted on individual capacity, works in the 21st century necessitate team works to accomplish. To build solid teamwork, collaboration skills are needed so that the participants' skills, knowledge, and attitudes could be united.
Collaboration has essentially been widely accepted as a teaching and learning approach implemented by putting students to work in groups to complete a task, to solve problems, or to work on a project .
Group work involves frequent learner-learner interaction and provides the students chances to learn from each other. It is consistent with the socio cultural approach viewing learning as a social process that occurs through interaction among learners in situated contexts. Yet, various studies reported that although students agreed that group work provide some advantages, like enriching ideas, enhancing achievements, improving accuracy, and increasing social interactions, some of the students were reluctant to actively participate, and some others tended to relax and remain silent and let the other members do all the work.
Realizing that collaboration has been increasingly required in education and workplace, it can no longer be only about students getting along and cooperating in groups but about the purposeful engagement accompanying collaboration. In every group, students should be taught to effectively collaborate by asking for their commitment to follow the group work guidelines and thrive to achieve the group's goal. An effective group work ensures that every member is fully in charge to avoid the group from becoming a slippery slope. For a global 21st-century world collaboration means that students participate in authentic and purposeful cooperative learning opportunities and create new knowledge together.
The concept of critical thinking was originally acknowledged by Socrates about 2,500 years ago when he introduced the process of questioning, later called the Socratic Method, as an approach for increasing human reasoning skills’ quality. The concept was revived by Descartes in the 17th century, and developed and prompted by Dewey to be a prominent component in western educational programs since the middle of the 20th century. Although it was originally a western concept, critical thinking is now accepted as an essential skill of 21st century education worldwide and has been recommended as a pedagogical alternative to improve language learning. The promotion of critical thinking in EFL learning seems more crucial by considering results of some current studies.
Since critical thinking is a complex mental process involving a diverse and multidimensional cognitive ability, it has been interpreted differently in research articles so the literature provides various definitions for it. Despite their variety, the existing definitions of critical thinking share overlapping similarities.
EFL students need to develop critical thinking because it increases their ability to passionately and responsibly take, apply and control of their thinking skills (question, analyze, criticize, reflect, and synthesize), develop proper principles and standards to evaluate their thinking, and willingly judge, accept or reject new ideas, concepts, and viewpoints. In the EFL context critical thinking integration enhanced students’ English language skills. The literature offers various techniques and strategies to integrate critical thinking into EFL learning. Klynhout (2018) suggests the use of thought-provoking questions, such as “Why do you think…?”, “How do you know…?”, “What tells you…?” to promote critical thinking throughout the learning process. Thus, questions with only one right answer or that can be answered with a simple yes or no should be avoided. These thought-provoking questions allow students to exhibit their understanding and promote analysis and interpretation. Training students to ask the right questions for advancing their ability to react critically to short stories, essays, websites, claims and arguments is also an effective strategy. The skills to ask the right questions can promote their abilities to judge discourses, form their arguments, write critical essays and par ticipate in class, and promote reading and writing skills by letting the students talk about the topic to read or write before and after. Moreover, assigning students to work in small groups to discuss or debate a topic, solve real-life problems, criticize essays, posters, or other media, or conduct a project can considerably enhance students' critical thinking. While undertaking such activities, the students also develop their integrated language skills since they need to make research, read texts, elicit true information, take notes, exchange ideas, listen to other side carefully and defend their points to persuade the audience to actively participate in the workgroup.
Although creativity is often synonymized with creative thinking, these are two different things. Creativity is the products, processes or interactions that generate new ideas, thoughts, and objects, whereas creative thinking refers to the thinking skills which enable a person to generate creative original or new ideas, thoughts, and objects. Thus, creative thinking is one of the elements which build creativity, because creativity is formed by creative thinking skills, motivation, and expertise.
The following section lists some practical learning activities teachers can use to integrate each of the 4Cs into English integrated skills teaching. The list is far from being complete. It is meant to introduce some common learning activities teachers can employ in their classes. Some of the tips may be suitable to use at all educational levels, some may be applicable only at secondary schools and some others may be proper only at students at higher education. Teachers therefore are recommended to select which activities work best for their students.
- Teach the students how to use proper strategies and expressions for starting and ending a conversation, asking questions, responding to prompts, and asking for help. Their mastery of these strategies and expressions will reduce their hesitancy or anxiety to communicate in English.
- Train the students to properly take notes, paraphrase, quote and summarize. These are very vital elements of effective written communication.
- Encourage the students to keep on improving their pronunciation by regularly listening to English news, speech, songs, stories from podcasts and videos they can easily access on the internet. They do not need to talk like an English native speaker, but an eligible pronunciation is necessary.
- Ask the students to share ideas regularly during the in-class or online sessions. Employing learning management systems (LMS), the students can interact in the discussion forum any time and from anywhere.
- Assign the group work to share ideas for creating a statement that summarizes what the members have found or to edit and revise a draft containing errors.
- Assign the students to work in small groups where they can share ideas and experiences concerning the lesson they are taking about. The points they can share can be about English sounds difficult to pronounce, difficult words or phrases identified in a text, a sentence one found complicated, or a specific interesting thought taken from the text.
- Assign two group works to debate about a resolution taken from the lesson. One of the groups becomes the affirmative team, while the other the negative team. The other groups' members become audiences. Some students may be assigned as judges.
- Assign the group work to do a project relevant to the lesson, such as cantillating a poem, a song or an interesting parts of a text, writing a reader response, dramatizing a segment of the lesson, creating an alternative ending to a story, creating a rapid prototype (a drawing, map, model, program, or other forms of representation), and so on. Finishing the project, each group presents the results to the whole class .
All the elements of the 4Cs are interconnected. When someone is collaborating, he also involves communication, critical thinking, and creativity. Among the four collaboration and communication are very closely intertwined. In a sense, they are inseparable because they go hand in hand. Thus, the activities for integrating collaboration into English learning are interwoven with communication integration activities. So, communication skills integration above is also effective to employ for integrating collaboration. The followings are some additional collaborative activities for integrating collaboration.
- Assign the students to complete shared tasks in groups, like matching, listing, ranking, sorting and information gap activities (jigsaw activities and barrier games).
- Ask the students to do the listening triangle in which students work in groups, one of them becomes a speaker, one or more becomes questioners, and another a note-taker. The speaker explains a topic, the questioners listen carefully and ask for clarification or further detail, and the note-taker observes and takes notes of the process and provides feedback to the speaker and questioners.
- To let the students have fun without reducing the development of collaboration and integrated skills, have them to carry out interactive storytelling activities, like zoom, story grab bag, co-constructed stories, etc. These activities are effective to let the students actively create, share, debrief, modify, analyze and roleplay stories.
- Ask the students to peer review their assignments. Working in groups of three or four, every student provides feedback on other members' assignments. This activity could also be effectively done online. Everyone uploads paper to a group platform in the LMS and then receives feedback on it.
- When the students finish studying a new lesson, prompt them to think critically by asking thoughtprovoking questions, like “What is the most/least important …?”, “Who benefits from this?”, and “What we can change to make this better?” Such questions are also effective to provoke thoughts in group discussions.
- Train the students the critical reading sub-skills, such as distinguishing fact from opinion, interpreting connotations of words, discovering the author's point of view, making an inference, recognizing fallacious thinking, and detecting propaganda devices, and ask them to apply them anytime they are dealing with a discourse. Pardede (2007) describes how to use these skills and other common critical reading sub-skills (recognizing statistical slips; discovering the author’s competence, intention, attitude, and bias; figuring out the time and policies of publication; identifying the target audience). Since these critical reading sub-skills are essentially the application of critical thinking in reading, by practicing them students will develop some of the major critical thinking competencies, particularly the ability to detect bias, prejudice, misleading opinion, and illogical conclusions in a discourse.
- Ask the students to list the potential solution for a problem relevant to the lesson they are taking. For instance, they could be assigned to list as many ways as they can think of how to improve their English pronunciation.
- Assign the students to complete a sentence in as many ways as possible. For instance, ask them to complete “Online learning helps students to…” in as many ways as they can.
- Use fiction (short stories and novels). Reading fictions is very effective to promote critical thinking because 1) fiction is allegorical (include both literal and implied meanings) which necessitates the reader to reflect, infer, analyze, and synthesize the presented information to get the appropriate meaning; 2) fiction is closely related to life, which presents various characters and viewpoints so that they offer the students an opportunity to explore various perspectives and consider a wide variety of viewpoints, which is one of the critical thinking sub-skills. Various studies revealed that fiction is effective to promote critical thinking .
- Employ self-assessment and peer assessment. These techniques enable students to independently assess their own and other students’ progress with confidence so that they are not always relying on teacher judgment. They can also increase students’ engagement and motivation in the learning process.
- To help the students optimize the use of ICT ask them to conduct online research in groups on a topic, which is followed by an in-class debate. This will provide an opportunity for them to think independently, construct their arguments, analyze and synthesize, recognize bias, and evaluate their evidence for strengths and weaknesses.
- After studying or being introduced to a new lesson, prompt the students’ creativity by asking them to define a key term, provide its denotation, synonyms, antonyms, and examples.
- Assign the students to generate ideas by employing mind-mapping.
- Assign the students to draw a diagram, sketch, etc. to make a model that represents a concept.
- To help the students boost their ICT skills, assign them to write online. For example, by using a blog, they can freely write, edit, and publish their work. It can be followed by posting comments on peers' blogs. Besides promoting creativity, such online activity also develops critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.
- Some other activities (including sharing a speech, circles of life, creating a fictional story).
Experiments on the formation of competencies of the 21 century are actively developing in different countries. The system of higher education is faced with the task of developing critical thinking communication, collaboration, and creativity, helping students to master creative ways of solving scientific and life problems, to build their own world of values, to form the capacity for self-education. Currently, researchers have noted an insufficiently low level of students' ability to organize the process of obtaining knowledge; participate in joint decision making; implement the course of evidence, argumentation; take a stand in discussions and defend one’s own opinion, confront uncertainty and difficulties.
What can teacher preparation programs do to prepare graduates who are ready to teach well in a 21st- century classroom? Education systems generally struggle with finding answers to this question and there is no agreement across countries on how success should be measured and quality assured. However, there seems considerable agreement across countries regarding important attributes that 21st-century learning environments should provide .
Consequences of teacher performance as reported by teachers. Countries are ranked in descending order of the percentage of teachers reporting to receive increased monetary or non-monetary rewards for an improvement in the quality of their teaching. Teachers would receive increased monetary or non-monetary rewards if they improve the quality of their teaching; teachers whose school principal takes steps to alter the monetary rewards of a persistently underperforming teacher; teachers who would receive increased monetary or non-monetary rewards if they are more innovative in their teaching; teachers who will be dismissed because of sustained poor performance in their school.
For example, the OECD’s comparative review of innovative learning environments concludes that, in order to be most effective, learning environments should:
- make learning central, encourage engagement, and be the place where students come to understand themselves as learners;
- ensure that learning is social and often collaborative;
- be highly attuned to students’ motivations and the importance of emotions;
- be acutely sensitive to individual differences, including in prior knowledge;
- be demanding of every student, without overloading them;
use assessments that emphasize formative feedback;
promote connections across activities and subjects, both in and out of school.
Taken together, these principles form a demanding framework on which teachers’ professionalism is based .
One of the professional skills of a teacher is to know how to use all of these different approaches and when to apply them. There is no single best way of teaching and this is even more true in the 21 century than in the past. Teachers today need to know how to combine guided discovery with direct instruction methods, depending on the individual students, the context of instruction and the aims of the teaching. One extensive review concludes that innovative learning environments are characterized by a good balance between discovery and personal exploration on the one hand, and systematic instruction and guidance on the other, all the while bearing in mind individual differences in students’ abilities, needs and motivation. It also finds that the balance between external regulation by the teacher and self-regulation by the student will vary during the student’s education: as the student’s own competence increases, the share of self-regulation can also grow while explicit instructional support can diminish.
Systematic educational programs with automation of students digital abilities based on pedagogical conditions for using the 4C model of education in preparing future English teachers for the implementation of the updated content of education in schools of Kazakhstan shod be considered.
An experimental program and methodology for preparing future English teachers for the implementation of the updated content of education in school through the 4C’s model of teaching has been developed. 5B011900 — Special seminars “Preparing future English teachers for updated educational program at school” were organized for teachers working in a foreign language educational program. In the teaching of general professional and specialty disciplines in the 1-4 years the methodology of preparing students – future foreign language teachers to work in the conditions of updated educational program at school through the elements of the 4C’s model was used.
Students of the educational program 5B011900 – “Foreign language”: two foreign languages of the Faculty of philology of the South Kazakhstan University named after M. Auezov (SKU) (in the 2020–2021 academic year).
Students of 1–4 years take part in various stages of the experiment (175 students in total, including 92 students in the control group and 83 students in the experimental group).
The purpose of the experiment is to test the effectiveness of the developed methodology for preparing future English teachers to teach the subject “English” in updated educational programs using the skills of 21 century: 4C’s model of teaching.
Methods used in the experiment:
Implementation of the 4C’s model of education in the process of teaching students of 1–4 years of the specialty “Foreign Language: two foreign languages” through the programs of SIW, pedagogical practice.
Preparation of the English language for teaching on the basis of updated educational programs with the integrated use of methods of forming communicative, critical thinking, creative, teamwork skills.
Methods of communicative learning, developing critical thinking, developing creativity, teamwork were used in an integrated way.
Methods of teaching English, SRS. The programs of pedagogical practice include special theoretical, practical materials, exercises, tasks for the implementation of updated educational programs using the 4C’s model.
Stages of the experiment:
Determining stage: the initial levels of students' readiness to teach English on the basis of updated educational programs are determined (special control works, control tasks, testing methods were used).
Formative stage: methods of forming the readiness of future English language teachers to implement updated educational programs in school using the 4C model of teaching in experimental groups were used. Training in control groups was carried out using traditional methods (Table 1).
Levels of preparation of students for the implementation of the 4C model
Control group (92 students)
Experimental group (83 students)
Model of students’ readiness to teach English on the basis of updated educational programs
Knowledge of teaching English at school on the basis of updated educational programs
Interest and positive attitude to learning on the basis of updated educational programs
Interest in learning on the basis of updated educational programs, the presence of aspirations.
Availability of English language teaching skills on the basis of updated educational programs
Results and Discussion
In addition to developing individual skills, future teachers also need to be able and have opportunities to work collaboratively with others in designing learning environments, addressing the learning needs of particular groups of students, developing themselves professionally, and teaching with others in team approaches. Comparative review of innovative learning environments concludes:
Future teachers need to be well-versed in the subjects they teach in order to be adept at using different methods and, if necessary, changing their approaches to optimize learning. This includes content-specific strategies and methods to teach specific content.
They need a rich repertoire of teaching strategies, the ability to combine approaches, and the knowledge of how and when to use certain methods and strategies.
The strategies used should include direct, whole-group teaching, guided discovery, group work, and the facilitation of self-study and individual discovery. They should also include personalized feedback.
Future teachers need to have a deep understanding of how learning happens in general, and of individual students’ motivations, emotions and lives outside the classroom in particular.
Future teachers need to be able to work in highly collaborative ways, working with other teachers, professionals and para-professionals within the same organization, or with individuals in other organizations, networks of professional communities and different partnership arrangements, which may include mentoring teachers.
Future teachers need to acquire strong skills in using technology and apply it as an effective teaching tool, to both optimize the use of digital resources in their teaching and use information-management systems to track student learning.
Future teachers need to develop the capacity to help design, lead, manage and plan learning environments in collaboration with others .
Teachers need to reflect on their practices in order to learn from their experience. These all imply extensive and intensive teacher learning. Some countries approach this with innovative materials and approaches to teaching in order to change entrenched perceptions about and attitudes toward learning. Innovative approaches also recognize that teacher learning will take place in the company of other teachers, not as a solitary exercise — an acknowledgement of the effectiveness of collaborative learning as part of a professional continuum.
Rapid technological advancement has been changing the way we live, interact, learn and work in an accelerative way. The changes make the future more unpredictable and challenging. Success in the 21 century requires more than just knowledge and basic skills. To thrive in such a world, today’s students also need what is called the 21-century skills which consist of three categories: learning and innovation skills (4Cs), literacy skills, and life skills. Therefore, schools in general and EFL classrooms in particular should facilitate students to acquire and develop these skills . Within the provided student-centered instructional context the prospective teachers had the opportunity to begin practice for teaching the 21 century skills. They had the chance to develop, practice, teach and assess communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity learning, which are part of the so-called 21 century skills. This was a preparatory experience for the real pedagogical practice in schools, where prospective teachers could continue implementing what they started doing during this course. The students acquired knowledge of the 21 century skills concepts and practiced the integration of them into the curriculum for school education with their peers, as an exercise for their professional future. They are the teachers of 21 century who are expected to have expertise in teaching the 21 century skills to their students. The knowledge and skills developed during teacher education are crucial how students will behave as future teachers, how they will encourage 21st century skills. We are aware that the ability to bring the 4C’s to life and to guide pupils into developing these skills requires a lot of pedagogical practice, reflection and continuing professional development.
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