Second Annual ACT Skills Summit Explores Critical Thinking, Teamwork, and Growth Mindset

Hundreds of educators, policymakers, advocates, and funders gathered at Boston University on Monday, June 11 for Boston Beyond’s Second Annual ACT Skills Summit.

This year’s Summit built upon last year’s, taking a closer look at one ACT Skill in each of the Achieve, Connect, and Thrive domains, these being Critical Thinking, Teamwork, and Growth Mindset respectively. Attendees of the summit heard from education leaders, researchers, and program practitioners concerning leading research on the above ACT Skills, as well as best practices for cultivating them.

The ACT Skills Framework consists of three domains (Achieve, Connect, Thrive), each of which contains three fundamental skills for College, Career, and Life Readiness.


The Summit opened with remarks from Jill Medvedow and Chief of Education Rahn Dorsey, who were recently elected as Chair and Vice Chair respectively of BASB’s Board.

“We are working to ensure that by teaching skills and offering support, we can close the opportunity gap in college, career, and life.” -Jill Medvedow

“There is a mismatch between what we’re teaching and asking of students and what they’re being asked to do in college, career, and beyond…The ACT Framework and the Boston Readiness Framework put Boston ahead of the curve in this work.” -Rahn Dorsey

A panel of Boston Public Schools Principals, including Sonie Felix of the O’Donnell School, Sean Guthrie of the Young Achievers School, and Jerry Howland of Intrepid Academy at Hale then discussed the importance of skills and partnerships in the education community.

“It all starts with the adults. At the O’Donnell School, I try to create these experiences with my teachers. Students have choice, their activities are rigorous and they feel safe because their teachers have worked at their own skills.” -Sonie Felix

“A lot of the best practices from our partners…are coming in through our teachers as we approach our STEM learning more intentionally.” -Sean Guthrie

“The most important thing for me is growth mindset…getting students to believe that they can do math…develop critical thinking skills…helping them to develop the qualities that they need to succeed.” -Jerry Howland

Following the panel, attendees then broke out into workshops focused on the most current research regarding the skills of Critical Thinking, Teamwork, and Growth Mindset, led by leaders in the field for each. Materials from each of the breakout sessions, as well as the plenaries, can be found here on BASB’s Insight Center.

Workshop Strand 1: From Theory & Research

Session 1 – Critical Thinking: What makes a task cognitively demanding? (Dr. Amalio Nieves & Brooke Childs)

Session 2 – Teamwork: What can we learn from sports and coaching? (Dr. Fritz Ettl)

Session 3 – Growth Mindset: How do beliefs affect behavior? (Caitlin McCormick)

During lunch, Dr. Stephanie Jones of Harvard Graduate School of Education gave Keynote remarks on her work in youth development.

“It’s not enough to have skills and competencies; beliefs, including attitudes, habits of mind, and value, play a critical role in youth development.” -Dr. Stephanie Jones

Attendees then broke out for the afternoon session of workshops, in which they had the opportunity to hear from exemplary program partners about best practices involving each of the three skills.

Workshop Strand 2: From the Field

Session 1 – Critical Thinking: Embedding opportunities for student reflection and growth (Hale Reservation, Trinity Boston Foundation, & Freedom House)

Session 2 – Teamwork: Developing safe, strong, and supportive youth relationships (Crossroads, Harlem Lacrosse, & Kenny Cats/Clubs)

Session 3 – Growth Mindset: Fostering a culture that embraces feedback and risk-taking (The Steppingstone Foundation, Breakthrough Greater Boston, & Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center)

The Summit was then closed powerfully by Dr. Colin Rose, delivering an address of the ecology of equity, and the work still to be done to make education truly equitable.

“In the ecology of equity, we’re either opening gaps or closing them. There’s no in between….Our young people need solidarity, not saviors. Are you building capacity or dependence?” -Dr. Colin Rose

All of the materials from plenaries and breakout sessions can be found here. Additionally, a series of blog posts describes each of the individual breakout sessions more thoroughly, and live updates from the event can be found on BASB’s Twitter page.