What are characteristics of effective formative assessments of 21st century skills?

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The primary goal of formative 21st century tests is to make student learning and understanding readily apparent, so that a teacher can adapt teaching strategies to better meet students’ needs. Thus, successful formative assessments help educators determine their students’ current knowledge, understandings, misconceptions, and thinking processes. Below is a list of several key characteristics of effective formative assessments of 21st century skills.


Effective formative assessments of 21st century skills should:

 Example *
Focus on 21st century skills and content (as defined by the P21 Framework)21st century subject matter includes, in addition to the standard core subjects, important areas of study such as global awareness, civic literacy, etc., and skills, such as ICT literacy, critical thinking, problem-solving, and life skills.The Intel Education Assessing Projects tool is a database of assessments of hard-to-measure 21st century skills like critical thinking and creativity.
Make thinking visible by revealing the kinds of conceptual strategies a student uses to solve a problem.Complicated, multi-dimensional, real-world solutions rarely require mastery of a single, isolated skill or understanding of a single subject matter. Thus, a 21st century assessment must be able to measure or observe a student’s mastery along several different axes. In addition, assessing student work using established rubrics and checklists is important. Not all assessments need to be formal and published.mClass: Math diagnostic software provides insight into students’ mathematical thinking.

Be structured so that educators can identify the background knowledge a student used to solve each problem in real-time.

This will help measure and clarify students’ knowledge-base and procedural proficiencies. IMMEX is a problem-solving assessment software in which students are presented with a problem, and can access a palette of menu options to extract information to solve the problem. The program keeps a record of the choices each student makes.

Be largely performance-based and authentic, calling upon students to use 21st century skills.

Students need to hone the ability to apply content knowledge to critical thinking, problem solving, and analysis tasks throughout their education, as well as understand that successful learning is as much about the process as it is about facts and figures. In addition, tasks should mirror real-world situations as much as possible, so that students gain valuable training that will prepare them for success in their future endeavors.

Authentic assessments use data and performance criteria that are related to the students’ projects.

TerraNova Performance Assessments offer extended, open-ended tasks that measure knowledge and critical process skills in Reading, Language Arts, Writing and Mathematics. They present realistic scenarios and offer students an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge in unique ways.

Generate data that can be used to directly inform instructional practices. Evidence from formative assessment must be used, not just collected. Teachers need to be able to understand what the assessment can reveal about the student’s thinking in order to adapt their teaching to meet students’ needs. By discovering the background knowledge, integration, or conceptual strategies that students may not have mastered, a teacher can identify the skills that need further work to adjust his or her teaching. Princeton Review’s formative assessments are designed to be administered frequently and results are reported in a timely fashion and include an actionable analysis to help teachers interpret results.
Aim to build capacity — both teachers’ and students’. Both teachers and students should learn from formative assessments. Before a lesson is concluded, these assessments can show where further teaching and learning is needed, so teachers can discover ways to help students integrate 21st century skills and knowledge into their learning, thereby building pedagogical methods and student ability. DIAGNOSER is an interactive web-based program that provides feedback to students as they work through their assignment. Teachers can view reports that detail facets of their students' thinking about the assigned topic and can use this information to target specific problem ideas.
Be part of a comprehensive assessment continuum. 21st century skills assessment must be ongoing. Students must visualize their thought process and how it aligns with a strategy to solve or complete a problem. Since students’ thought constructs are continually changing, formative assessment should be regularly given so students can see improvements in their skills and strategies, as well as knowledge transfer to parallel or related problems. BioLogica activities monitor students' performance and collect their investigations into electronic portfolios for later evaluation and assessment. They enable students to progress at their own pace, and help the teacher to identify "teachable moments.”
Reflect an understanding of learning as multidimensional, integrated, and revealed in performance over time. Formative assessments should relay to the student that high-quality education involves a process of knowledge integration, processing, and performance. Students can then focus on learning and integrating 21st century skills to allow them to conceptualize and think about problems, rather than divert focus only to procedures and answers. The Full Option Science System requires that students produce a body of work related to their science investigations. Progress is assessed using teacher observation, anecdotal notes, student interviews, and student written work.


Partnership for 21st Century Skills