Cognition in 21st century skills: A mixed methods study

Cognition in 21st Century Skills


  • Paolina Seitz St. Mary's University
  • S. Laurie Hill St. Mary's University


The teaching of 21st century skills are essential for student learning in our knowledge driven society. Competencies such as critical and creative thinking and their connection with higher order cognitive processes have received attention within the educational community. Teachers are mandated to teach the content and skills reflected in provincial curriculum documents. These curriculum documents should embody the competencies that educators have identified as been important to student learning. In this mixed method convergent design study, we examine the alignment among the intended curriculum, the enacted curriculum and the assessed curriculum in a Patterns and Relations strand from the Grade 9 Mathematics Program of Studies in order to determine the extent to which teachers are teaching and assessing the competencies reflected in the curriculum documents. Results indicate that learner expectations do not clearly identify the cognitive levels and curriculum alignment of the cognitive levels is low (0.073). Recommendations include a clear connection between curriculum documents and cognitive level processes. Keywords; cognitive skills, 21st century education, mathematics education, curriculum alignment

Author Biographies

Paolina Seitz, St. Mary's University

Associate Professor Faculty Chair, Faculty of Education Canadian Education Research Association (CERA) Program Chair

S. Laurie Hill, St. Mary's University

Associate Professor Faculty of Education


Alberta Education (2010). Inspiring education. Twenty-First century students: Engaged, ethical and entrepreneurial.

Alberta Education (2016). The guiding framework for the design and development of kindergarten to grade 12 provincial curriculum (programs of study). Retrieved:

Alismail, H. A., & McGuire, P. (2015). 21st Century Standards and Curriculum. Journal of Education and Practice, 6(6), 150-155.

Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., Airasian, P. W., Cruikshank, K. A., Mayer, R. E., Pintrich, P. R., Raths, J., & Wittrock, M. C. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Binkley, M., Erstad, O., Herman, J., Raizen, S., Ripley, M., Miller-Ricci, M., & Rumble, M. (2012). Defining 21st Century Skills. In P. Griffin, B. McGaw, & E. Care (Eds.), Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills, (pp. 17-66). Springer, Dordrecht. DOI:

Bloom, B. S. (ed.) (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Vol. 1: Cognitive Domain. New York: McKay.

Carew, T. J., & Magsamen S., H. (2010). Neuroscience and education: An ideal partnership for producing evidence-based solutions to guide 21st century learning. Neuron 67, 685-687.

Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. L. (2011). Designing and conducting mixed methods research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Dalkey, N., & Helmer, O. (1963). An experimental application of the Delphi method to the use of experts. Management Science, 9, 458- 467. doi:10.1287/mnsc.9.3.458

Darling-Hammond, L., Flook, L., Cook-Harvey, C., Barron, B., & Osher, D. (2019). Implications for educational practice of the science of learning and development, Applied Developmental Science, 24 (2), 97-140. DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2018.1537791

Dewey, J. (1910). How we think. Boston, MA: D.C. Heath.

Hamre, B. K., Pianta, R. C., & Chomat-Mooney, L. (2009). Conducting classroom observation: In school-based research. In L. M. Dinella (Ed.), Conducting science-based psychology research in schools (pp. 79-105). American psychological Association.

Hitchcock, D. (2018). Critical thinking. In E. N. zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

Kaira, L. (2010). [Doctoral Dissertation, Amherst, Massachusetts School of Education]. University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Kalaian, S. A., & Shah, H. (2006). Overview of Parametric and Non-parametric Statistical Methods for Analyzing Delphi Data. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Mid-Western Educational Research Association. Columbus, Ohio.

Kaufman K., J. (2013). 21 Ways to 21st century skills: Why students need them and ideas for practical implementation, Kappa Delta Pi Record, 49:2, 78-83, DOI: 10.1080/00228958.2013.786594

Masson, S. (2014, September 20). The brain, learning and teaching: Can a better understanding of the brain help us teach? EdCan Network.

Paul, R. W., & Elder, L. (2006). Critical thinking: Tools for taking charge of your learning and your life (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Porter, A.C., & Smithson, J.L. (2001). “Are content standards being implemented in the classroom: A methodology and some tentative answers.” In S. H. Fuhrman (Ed.), From the Capitol to the Classroom: Standards-Based Reform in the States (pp.60-80). Chicago, IL: National Society for the Study of Education.

Schultz, H., & FitzPatrick, B. (2016). Teachers’ understandings of critical and higher order thinking and what this means for their teaching and assessments. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 62(1), Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta. .

Squires, D. (2012). Curriculum alignment research suggests that alignment can improve student achievement. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 85(4), 129-135.


Yang, Y. N. (2003). Testing the Stability of Experts’ Opinion between Successive Rounds of Delphi Studies. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Chicago, Illinois.