Educational interventions may reflect different theoretical perspectives on learning and may target different skills or domains of competence. In all cases, however, the design of instruction for transfer should start with a clear delineation of the learning goals and a well-defined model of how learning is expected to develop (National Research Council, 2001). The model—which may be hypothesized or established by research—provides a solid foundation for the coordinated design of instruction and assessment aimed at supporting students’ acquisition and transfer of targeted competencies.

Designing measures to evaluate student accomplishment of the particular learning goals can be an important starting point for the development process because outcome measures can provide a concrete representation of the ultimate student learning performances that are expected and of the key junctures along the way, which in turn can enable the close coordination of intended goals, learning environment characteristics, programmatic strategies, and performance outcomes. Such assessments also communicate to educators and learners—as well as designers—what knowledge, skills, and capabilities are valued (Resnick and Resnick, 1992; Herman, 2008).

An evidence-based approach to assessment rests on three pillars that need to be closely synchronized (National Research Council, 2001, p. 44):

  • A model of how students represent knowledge and develop competence in a domain
  • Tasks or situations that allow one to observe student performance relative to the model
  • An interpretation framework for drawing inferences from student performance

Developing that first pillar—a model of the learning outcomes to be assessed—offers a first challenge in the assessment of cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal competencies. Within each of these three broad domains, theorists have defined and conducted research on a wealth of individual constructs. In the previous chapters, we noted that the research literature on cognitive and noncognitive competencies has used a wide variety of definitions, particularly in the intrapersonal and interpersonal domains. In Chapter 2, we suggested certain clusters of competencies within each domain as the targets of assessment and instruction and offered preliminary definitions. Questions remain, however, about the implications of these definitions. For example, the range of contexts and situations across which the learning of these competencies should transfer remains unclear.

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