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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2011. Assessing 21st Century Skills: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13215.
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ASSESSING
21ST CENTURY
SKILLS

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

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

Washington, D.C.

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2011. Assessing 21st Century Skills: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13215.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS   500 Fifth Street, N.W.   Washington, DC 20001

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.

International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-21790-3
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-21790-3

Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu.

Copyright 2011 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

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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.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2011. Assessing 21st Century Skills: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13215.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.

www.national-academies.org

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2011. Assessing 21st Century Skills: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13215.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2011. Assessing 21st Century Skills: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13215.
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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

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2011. Assessing 21st Century Skills: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13215.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2011. Assessing 21st Century Skills: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13215.
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Preface

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

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2011. Assessing 21st Century Skills: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13215.
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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:

 

  1. Is there a body of evidence supporting a taxonomy of 21st century skills coupled to individual and societal well-being?
  2. Do we have evidence of effective models to teach 21st century skills through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education?
  3. 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?
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2011. Assessing 21st Century Skills: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13215.
×

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

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2011. Assessing 21st Century Skills: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13215.
×

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

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2011. Assessing 21st Century Skills: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13215.
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The routine jobs of yesterday are being replaced by technology and/or shipped off-shore. In their place, job categories that require knowledge management, abstract reasoning, and personal services seem to be growing. The modern workplace requires workers to have broad cognitive and affective skills. Often referred to as "21st century skills," these skills include being able to solve complex problems, to think critically about tasks, to effectively communicate with people from a variety of different cultures and using a variety of different techniques, to work in collaboration with others, to adapt to rapidly changing environments and conditions for performing tasks, to effectively manage one's work, and to acquire new skills and information on one's own.

The National Research Council (NRC) has convened two prior workshops on the topic of 21st century skills. The first, held in 2007, was designed to examine research on the skills required for the 21st century workplace and the extent to which they are meaningfully different from earlier eras and require corresponding changes in educational experiences. The second workshop, held in 2009, was designed to explore demand for these types of skills, consider intersections between science education reform goals and 21st century skills, examine models of high-quality science instruction that may develop the skills, and consider science teacher readiness for 21st century skills. The third workshop was intended to delve more deeply into the topic of assessment. The goal for this workshop was to capitalize on the prior efforts and explore strategies for assessing the five skills identified earlier. The Committee on the Assessment of 21st Century Skills was asked to organize a workshop that reviewed the assessments and related research for each of the five skills identified at the previous workshops, with special attention to recent developments in technology-enabled assessment of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In designing the workshop, the committee collapsed the five skills into three broad clusters as shown below:

  • Cognitive skills: nonroutine problem solving, critical thinking, systems thinking
  • Interpersonal skills: complex communication, social skills, team-work, cultural sensitivity, dealing with diversity
  • Intrapersonal skills: self-management, time management, self-development, self-regulation, adaptability, executive functioning

Assessing 21st Century Skills provides an integrated summary of the presentations and discussions from both parts of the third workshop.

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