This paper marks the second in a series of five reports detailing the work of the Optimizing Assessment for All project at Brookings to strengthen education systems capacity to integrate 21st century skills into teaching and learning, using assessment as a lever for changing classroom practices.
Twenty-first century skills (21CS) are now firmly entrenched as learning goals in education systems worldwide, but their actual implementation in teaching and assessment practices is lagging behind. With these learning goals—which prioritize how to get answers rather than just providing a correct response—we are facing new challenges and exploring new solutions.
This report describes the collaborative activities undertaken by the Optimizing Assessment for All (OAA) project at Brookings with three countries in Asia—Cambodia, Mongolia, and Nepal—to create 21CS assessment tasks. OAA and partners worked with the countries to identify the 21CS skills that countries value, hypothesized what these skills might look like in classroom assessment tasks, and developed and piloted these tasks to ensure that teachers can use them in classrooms.
The mechanics of the activities are described in detail to illustrate the methods used in the OAA project and by the countries. Comprehensive descriptions of work over a 20-month period from 2018 to 2019 include multicountry workshops, individual in-country workshops and convenings, regional meetings hosted by the Network on Education Quality Monitoring in the Asia-Pacific, virtual communications, and maintenance of an online platform for document sharing and management.
Frequently, assessment studies focus primarily on the tools or tests. For the OAA project, the primary focus was on the process: How do you develop tasks that reflect current curricula and that integrate 21CS into teaching and learning practices?
From this process, it became clear that rethinking the classroom culture is necessary. Concerns expressed during pilot task implementation highlight some of the complexities associated with collaborative work, about not always prioritizing correct answers, and about building knowledge together.
The OAA initiative took just one step in the process of integrating 21CS into the curriculum. The development and introduction of assessment tasks in the classroom is a disruptive force acting as a lever for change. The challenge will be how to deal with that force adaptively.
Photo credit: Preah Norodom Primary School, Cambodia