How to assess, track and monitor 21st century skills in the senior school phase

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In this short video I want to share one approach that may help to support the measuring and tracking of skills across the senior school phase.

What research has shown is that its complex to assess 21st century skills and even if this is achieved, there can be errors associated with their measurement.

The Brookings Institute advises that assessment of these skills can be achieved if the following principles are adhered to:

Firstly, data collection processes should be aligned with purposes and agenda at all levels. The goal here is to ensure that even though there will be different approaches across subject departments and activities, the goal is always to enhance learning.

Secondly, schools should establish a clear link between the captured form of data and the intended reported form of data.

This means that the format and structure of the reporting framework is clearly specified. Also important to this principle is that individualised learning progressions are the intentions of the reporting.

Empirical data is not always feasible when assessing all types of skills progression. When reporting at school level it may be preferable to describe each skill with words and examples to show what it means to make progress or to improve in an area of learning.

The Center for Universal Education at Brookings identifies the purpose of assessment to be four fold:

1. To locate learners along a learning progression and identify gaps in achievement.

2. To adapt instructional practices to individual needs and inform instructional improvement.

3. To track and communicate learner progress.

4. To inform data driven decision making at classroom and school levels.

Using these guiding principles we can view assessment as information to inform teaching and learning practice for individual learners as opposed to assessment as a means to rank learners against each other. In this regard, assessment can be truly adaptive and enhance learning.

Let's take a look at one way that assessing skills can be achieved. The approach I am going to share with you today amplifies learner agency in terms of choice and voice. Agency grows when learners talk about their own learning in a way that is meaningful to them.

Using an eportfolio, leaners are encouraged to document and take responsibility for tracking their development. They can reflect on next steps and take greater ownership of their own learning pathway.

So here we have an example of a mock eportfolio that aims to track skills progression. This example if for a fictional learner aged around 13.

You can see there is a personalised introduction to this web-based eportfolio and then it moves to the skills that will be tracked. If we come back to the thinking skills section, you can see we can click here to reveal the learning progression pathway for the development of this type of skill. This could be adapted for any scenario but in this example, this learning pathway for thinking skills goes from Level 1 which would relate to the first ad second year of senior school to Level 2 correlating to the third and fourth year with Level 3 for progression at the fifth year and Level 4 for the final year of senior school.

You can see that the progression of this skill is not specific to any academic subject. This of course is entirely possible and perhaps desirable as critical thinking skills in maths will look quite different to those in History. In this example, the skills are generic and it is up to the learner to identify where they have experienced these skills across their subjects.

These benchmarks can be extracted from this document and added to a spreadsheet so that teachers and leaders can track progression for individual learners as they progress through the senior school phase.

If we move through the eportfolio we can then see that this fictional student has reflected on her experiences across her subjects. She has identified approaches to her learning that have used these skills. As the skills progression criteria have been shared with her, she can identify where she has met some or all of the benchmarks. And you can see that this is the case for the other skills that are being tracked in this eportfolio. This format would be simple to translate into a subject specific eportfolio or an eportfolio that relates to an activity block or school trip for example. The beauty of the eportfolio in this format is that is is cost effective and can be added to by the learner. These eportflios can be published on the internet and be password protected. They can be collaborative in nature with more than one learner contributing or with teacher input. Hyperlinks to these eportfolios can be embedded into digital reports so that parents and carers can feel more connected and view examples of work and reflections. This is just one variation of an eportfolio, the learner would be able to choose any colours, add videos, pdfs, audio, images etc that they feel show their learning pathway.
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