Summary of a Workshop
Judith Anderson Koenig, Rapporteur
Committee on the Assessment of 21st Century Skills
Board on Testing and Assessment
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Award No. N01-OD-4-2139, TO #199 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health; and Award No. DRL-0956233 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
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Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2011). Assessing 21st Century Skills: Summary of a Workshop. J.A. Koenig, Rapporteur. Committee on the Assessment of 21st Century Skills. Board on Testing and Assessment, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
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COMMITTEE ON THE ASSESSMENT OF 21ST CENTURY SKILLS
Joan L. Herman (Chair), CRESST, University of California, Los Angeles
Greg J. Duncan, University of California, Irvine
Deirdre J. Knapp, HumRRO
Patrick C. Kyllonen, Center for Academic and Workplace Readiness
and Success, Educational Testing Service
Paul R. Sackett, University of Minnesota
Juan I. Sanchez, Florida International University
Steven L. Wise, Northwest Evaluation Association
Judith A. Koenig, Study Director
Stuart Elliott, Director, Board on Testing and Assessment
Margaret Hilton, Senior Program Officer
Kelly Iverson, Senior Program Assistant
Change is omnipresent in today’s world. Knowledge is growing exponentially as technology continually transforms the way we live and work. From local to state and national perspectives, global markets and forces are transcendent. Stunning scientific and engineering advances have brought with them vexing social, political, and economic dilemmas. Individually and collectively, citizens in a democracy need to be able to respond to these changing conditions, make informed decisions, and take action to solve current and future challenges.
It would seem to go without saying that students of today must be prepared to take hold of life’s demands and thrive in tomorrow’s world. The changing nature of the workplace is a prime case in point. The routine jobs of yesterday are being replaced by technology and/or shipped offshore. In their place, job categories that require knowledge management, abstract reasoning, and personal services seem to be growing. These jobs involve skills that cannot easily be automated, such as adaptive problem solving, critical thinking, complex decision making, ethical reasoning, and innovation. Technology cannot be programmed to serve as supervisors or to perform tasks that rely on effective human interactions. It cannot easily be trained to negotiate, persuade, or perceptively handle person-to-person interactions. It cannot teach a classroom of students, treat the sick, care for the elderly, wait on tables, or provide other such services. These are all tasks for humans.
Effectiveness in the workforce also requires the ability to work autonomously, be self-motivating and self-monitoring, and engage in lifelong
learning. Individuals must be able to adapt to new work environments, communicate using a variety of mediums, and interact effectively with others from diverse cultures. Increasingly, workers must be able to work remotely in virtual teams.
This broad set of cognitive and affective capabilities that undergirds success today often is referred to as “21st century skills.” Numerous reports from higher education, the business community, and labor market researchers alike argue that such skills are valued by employers, critical for success in higher education, and underrepresented in today’s high school graduates.
The National Research Council (NRC) has conducted a series of activities to address the issue of 21st century skills in education today. In October 2005, the NRC convened a planning meeting intended to explore the role of K-12 education in developing these skills. Participants identified three critical unanswered questions and encouraged that they be further explored:
- Is there a body of evidence supporting a taxonomy of 21st century skills coupled to individual and societal well-being?
- Do we have evidence of effective models to teach 21st century skills through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education?
- How can we assess 21st century skills?
The first question was addressed as part of a 2-day workshop held in 2007 (see National Research Council, 2008), and the second question was explored during a 2-day workshop held in 2009 (see National Research Council, 2010). These two workshops identified and defined a set of five broad skills that included adaptability, complex communication and social skills, nonroutine problem solving, self-management and self-development, and systems thinking.
The third question was the focus of the present workshop. Jointly funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), the workshop was designed to address the following questions:
- How can 21st century skills be assessed?
- What assessments of these skills are currently available and how well do they work?
- What needs to be done in order to develop additional assessments of these skills?
- How should the assessment results be used?
The goal for this workshop was to capitalize on the prior efforts and explore strategies for assessing the five skills identified at the earlier workshops. The Committee on the Assessment of 21st Century Skills was asked to organize a workshop that reviewed assessments and related research for each of the five skills, with special attention to recent developments in technology-enabled assessment of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The workshop was conducted in two parts. The first, held in January in Irvine, California, was a 2-day activity that focused on research and measurement issues associated with assessing these skills. The second, held in May in Washington, DC, was a half-day discussion of policy and practice issues.
Many people contributed to the success of these activities. We first thank the sponsors for their support of this work, NIH and NSF. We particularly thank Bruce Fuchs with NIH and Gerhard Salinger with NSF for their commitment to and assistance with the committee’s organization of the workshop. This workshop would not have become a reality without their generous support.
The committee also thanks the four scholars who wrote papers and discussed them at the workshop: Eric Anderman, Ohio State University; Stephen Fiore, University of Central Florida; Rick Hoyle, Duke University; and Nathan Kuncel, University of Minnesota.
We also greatly appreciate the work of the presenters who discussed examples of assessments of 21st century skills: John Behrens, Cisco Systems; Deborah Boisvert, Boston Area Advanced Technical Education; Heather Butler, Claremont McKenna College; Susan Case, National Conference of Bar Examiners; Tim Cleary, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee; Lynn Gracin Collins, SH&A/Fenestra; Joachim Funke, University of Heidelberg; Art Graesser, University of Memphis; Bob Lenz, Envision Schools; Filip Lievens, Ghent University, Belgium; Gerald Matthews, University of Cincinnati; Richard Murnane, Harvard University; Candice Odgers, University of California, Irvine; and Louise Yarnall, SRI.
We are also grateful to senior staff members of the NRC’s Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE) who helped to move this project forward. Robert Hauser, executive director, and Patricia Morison, associate executive director for reports and communication, provided support and guidance at key stages in this project. The committee also thanks the NRC staff members that worked directly on this project. Kelly Iverson, senior project assistant, provided deft organizational skills and careful attention to detail that helped to ensure the success of the workshop. We sincerely appreciate Kelly’s help in handling all of the logistical and contractual issues with the workshop and her assistance with manuscript preparation. We thank Judy Koenig, study director, who organized the workshop. We are also grateful to Stuart Elliott, Board on
Testing and Assessment (BOTA) director, and Margaret Hilton, BOTA senior program officer, for their contributions in formulating the design of the workshop and making them both a reality. We particularly wish to recognize Alix Beatty for her assistance in writing Chapter 3 of the workshop report.
Finally, as chair of the committee, I thank the committee members for their dedication and outstanding contributions to this project. They gave generously of their time in planning the workshops and actively participated in workshop presentations and discussions. Their varied experiences and perspectives contributed immeasurably to the success of the project and made them a delightful set of colleagues for this work. I learned a lot from each of them, and for that, I am especially grateful.
This workshop summary has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process. We thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Edward Haertel, School of Education, Stanford University; Milt Hakel, President, Alliance for Organizational Psychology and Professor and Ohio Eminent Scholar Emeritus, Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University; Michael E. McManus, Dean of Academic Programs, University of Queensland; Keith Millis, Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University; Paul Nichols, Senior Associate, Center for Assessment, National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment; Cornelia S. Orr, Executive Director, National Assessment Governing Board; and Mark R. Wilson, Professor of Policy, Organization, Measurement, and Evaluation Cognition and Development, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley.
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the content of the report nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Mark Wilson, University of California, Berkeley. Appointed by NRC, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the author(s) and the institution.
Joan L. Herman, Chair
Committee on the Assessment of 21st Century Skills