• As the emerging workplace increasingly blurs distinctions among jobs, and even threatens the very concept of a "job" (Bridges, 1994; Pearlman, 1995), contextual performance becomes increasingly important to organizational survival—it is the organizational analog of the medium becoming the message.
  • Cross-functional skills such as teamwork, communication, leadership, coaching/mentoring, conflict management, negotiating, customer service, decision making, managing resources, and information gathering and analysis are among the most important for effective contextual performance and employment stability and security for workers. Unfortunately, such skills are also the most problematic to define, assess, and develop, largely due to the absence of rigorous, comprehensive, work-analytic or construct-oriented research on such skills. There is as yet no systematic mapping of such skills to either the content or the context of the emerging workplace.
  • The utility of programs and initiatives designed to shape and motivate the education, training, or development of the skills and knowledge needed in the emerging workplace depends on research and information that is incomplete in several key respects, such as the relative importance and the relative trainability of different types of skills.
  • The above points present numerous challenges for assessment, the most urgent of which is the need for technically sound and widely deployable measures of cross-functional skills. On a system level, there is a need for better integration of the three conventional roles of assessment: diagnosis (enabling inferences regarding what has and has not been learned); prediction function (enabling inferences regarding future performance or behavior); and evaluation (enabling inferences regarding level, status, or progress of either individuals or institutions, which can influence the degree and direction of individual and institutional investment in skill, knowledge, and ability development).

The remainder of this paper builds toward a vision of twenty-first century assessment that links four key themes: the changing demographic and organizational context of work, changing concepts of skill and competence, the need to map changing skills definitions to changing definitions of work, and the resultant (and formidable) challenges to assessment posed by these changes. To set the stage for this analysis, I begin with a brief review of the legislative, policy, and research contexts.

Background

ITEM: A report issued recently by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (1996) proposed that an employer dissatisfied with a recent high school graduate's job performance should be able to send the employee back to high school for additional training. This was one of several recommendations for sweeping structural changes in our education system included in their study, Breaking Ranks: Changing an American Institution. The report states that:



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