NC: How to assess important competencies within new collectives?


New competencies are needed to effectively compete in our shrinking, interconnected world. We’re being confronted with problems of enormous complexity and global ramifications. When faced with highly technical and complex problems, the ability to think creatively, critically, collaboratively, systemically, and then communicate effectively is essential. Learning and succeeding in a complex and dynamic world is not easily measured by multiple-choice responses on a simple knowledge test. Instead, solutions begin with re-thinking assessment, identifying new skills and standards relevant for the 21st century, and then figuring out how we can best assess students‘ acquisition of the new competencies.

This panel will discuss ideas and present examples related to the assessment of 21st century competencies. For instance, Val Shute will discuss her ongoing assessment of Quest to Learn (Q2L), an innovative, student-centered public school that opened in New York City in September 2009 for grades 6-12. The school includes a dynamic and interdisciplinary curriculum, using design principles of games to create highly immersive learning experiences for students. The curriculum, like games, is immersive, participatory, allows for social engagement, and provides a challenge-based context for students to work within. So how are students learning in this environment? What kinds of knowledge, skills, and dispositions are being acquired, and to what degree? Some focal competencies being assessed across the 18-month study include systems thinking skills, collaboration, and time management skills. Additional competencies to be assessed in follow-on research include design thinking skills, empathy, and creative problem solving.

Philipp Schmidt will describe efforts related to the Hacker’s Habitus Project. This involves identifying 21st century competencies that are of particular interest to employers and collaborators who need to evaluate the potential for someone to be a good professional fit for their needs. What does it take to be an expert in Webcraft (Open Web Skills), and how can these skills be assessed? Again, these kinds of competencies are not at all suited for assessment via multiple-choice-type questions. Some examples of skills relevant to the School of Webcraft include the following: use IRC and other web development tools, join (and fully participate) in an open source community, collaborate with other programmers, design for humans, not machines, use version control routinely, and answer questions clearly.

David Gibson will provide a meta-perspective on the topic of assessing 21st century skills across a few different domains.