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Education for Life and Work: Deeper Learning and Twenty-First-Century Skills


Linda Darling-Hammond, EdD, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford University
Christine Massey, PhD, Director of Research and Education, Institute for Research in Cognitive Science at the University of Pennsylvania
James W. Pellegrino, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago;
Chair, Committee on Defining Deeper Learning and 21st Century Skills
Christopher Shearer, Program Officer for Education Program, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education

There is a growing consensus that all students need to develop the abilities to use their knowledge to think critically and solve problems, communicate effectively, and learn how to learn. These deeper learning competencies are increasingly seen as essential for student success in a complex world. But what is the evidence to back up these beliefs?

In a recently released report, Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century, a committee of the National Research Council (NRC) finds that these cognitive competencies are associated with desirable educational, career, and health outcomes. The report also finds that these competencies can be taught in ways that promote students’ ability to transfer their knowledge to new settings. The report concludes that policymakers should establish assessments, teacher education programs, and curriculum and instructional programs that support students’ acquisition of deeper learning competencies.

The Alliance for Excellent Education held a webinar on September 12 to explore Education for Life and Work and its implications for policy. The chair of the NRC committee, James Pellegrino, and an NRC committee member, Christine Massey, highlighted key findings. Christopher Shearer of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which is funding a major initiative to support deeper learning, and Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University, discussed the policy implications. Bob Wise, president of the Alliance and former governor of West Virginia, moderated the discussion. Panelists also addressed questions submitted by webinar viewers from across the country.

This webinar is made possible with support from the
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Supplemental Materials

The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC-based national policy and advocacy organization that works to improve national and federal policy so that all students can achieve at high academic levels and graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century. For more information about the Alliance, visit

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