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CEI’s 21st Century Learning Rubric

By Christine Mason

CEI’s 21st Century Rubric  incorporates a way to plan and measure the key elements of CEI’s vision for education. The Rubric is a tool for planning, assessment, and monitoring implementation of heart centered, neuroscience, and STEAM/STEM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) curricula, lessons, and practices in K-12 classrooms and schools. The rubric is color coded for easy use and review. (Click on the images in this post to view a larger size)


Q: The 21st Century Rubric is organized into five primary areas. Why were they selected?

A:  To thrive in the 21st Century, students need 21st century skills – literacy, numeracy, and STEM- and they need to develop a vision for their role and career path in the 21st century context. We have incorporated neuroscience into our 21st Century Rubric because of the exciting gains that are being made as we learn more about how the brain works and how to leverage that for learning and instruction.

However, given the degree of turmoil and violence in the US and around the world, we believe that a 21st Century approach that focuses on science, technology, and career paths is insufficient.  To dramatically reduce violence and work towards a more peaceful world where individuals have better self ‘“esteem and better conflict resolutions skills, we believe that instruction must be intentional and that school climate, policies, and practices need to shift. Our five areas of focus are compassion, consciousness, courage, confidence, and community. The changes often begin with better awareness of self and others (consciousness), followed by improved understanding and empathy (compassion), and skills to implement compassion even under difficult circumstances (courage).  Without repeated opportunities to practice this with guidance and supervision, students may not have the confidence to practice this independently throughout their lives. So confidence comes with repeated success over time. And finally all is implemented in the context of community ‘“ with the 5 Cs we build peaceful communities and also prepare students for living peacefully with compassion in communities.

Q: What is unique about this 21st Century Rubric?

A: It provides a plan for infusing elements of cultural responsiveness, social justice & equity, self-awareness, and student voice ‘“ across five levels of depth (consciousness, compassion, courage, confidence, and community) in the context of 21st Century learning and skill development.  This plan can be customized and used across grade levels, across many circumstances, and with schools using a wide array of programs.

Q: Is there research supporting the Rubric?

A:  Each component of the rubric (each of the 5 Cs) and each of the seven domains (neuroscience, self-awareness, peace & social justice, cultural responsiveness, general, STEM/STEAM, and student voice) has been developed by incorporating research-based practices into the rubric.

Q: How was this Rubric developed?

A: Research-based ideas that have been integrated into rubric were developed over six years, with input from school principals, educational leaders, researchers, yoga and mindfulness practitioners, neuroscientists, and CEI interns who have backgrounds in education, psychology, juvenile justice, neuroscience, and STEM/STEAM. To guide the implementation, CEI has also held discussions with innovators and leaders in education and other fields and held focus groups with principals since 2009.

Q:  My school already has a social emotional learning (SEL) curriculum and teaches character education. Isn’t that sufficient?

A: Many schools teach SEL as afterschool activities or during specific times of the day.  Many of those curricula are implemented without striving for proficiency, daily practice and use in classrooms, or personalization.  And many do not consider the advantages of turning to neuroscience, or focusing on STEAM which adds both opportunities for furthering curiosity and inquiry and also preparing students for 21st century innovations and careers.

Q: How is the Rubric used?

A: We recommend implementing the Rubric with teams of teachers (either grade level teams or PLCs).  Over a period of several weeks, teams, with or without the help of an outside evaluator/consultant, review evidence to determine current level of implementation and plan for the future.  We recommend targeting particular areas or domains rather than attempting to implement all levels at one time.

The Rubric can be used with the curricula your school is using or we can assist you in locating more suitable curricula for your needs.  Once an initial assessment has been made, school teams should identify areas of greatest need, and plan for periodic progress reviews. We have recommendations for enhancing curricula, policies, and lessons to enhance the efficacy of this approach.

Q: What kind of evidence is gathered?

A: Using a rating scale of 1-4 (needs improvement, emerging, proficient, and exemplary), teams consider the curricula, lesson plans, school policies, relationships with parents and the community, and school data on features such as bullying and student recognition. Visual displays in the hallways and classrooms are also considered. Teams, administrators, or consultants make classroom observations and review student-teacher and student-student interactions.

Q: How do we decide how to use the rating scale?

A:  As the Rubric is used with specific grade levels, teams may want to customize it for their circumstances.  In general, however, we recommend: using ’emerging’ if the practice is only beginning to be implemented or implementation is reaching only some of the students; using ‘proficient’ when about 70% of the standards seemed to be being implemented with most students most of the time; and reserving ‘exemplary’ for those instances where the standard is infused or integrated in such a way that multiple sources of evidence are available to document implementation. At the exemplary level evidence is available that not only supports effective teaching, but also exemplary student behaviors and projects.

Q: Is CEI planning other adaptations or modifications to this rubric?

A: CEI is in discussion with others about development of an interactive electronic version. We also are examining a specific version for implementation in the primary grades.

Q: I  would like to see a sampler or access the entire Rubric.

A: Contact . We are happy to share access with individuals and organizations that agree to provide feedback and/or to pilot the use of this Rubric. We begin by sharing a sampler and for those who want more information, we follow up with a phone or web conversation and further exploration as we guide you through a brief 20-minute overview.

Q:  Are there services available to assist with teacher training or technical assistance?

A: CEI has a team of consultants available. Contact Dr. Mason at

Q: We would like to be considered as a research site. Is that possible?

A:  Thanks for your interest.  Contact Dr. Mason ( to arrange an appointment to discuss your site, including your vision, resources, and possible time table for implementation.

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