There is growing recognition that successful 21st century workers and citizens will need a new set of critical thinking and performance skills, including the abilities to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, apply knowledge, collaborate productively, think critically and creatively, comprehend and manipulate data, formulate questions, be innovative, and create new solutions to problems that are not yet even currently known. The fast pace of knowledge growth means that students will need not only to understand core concepts and modes of inquiry in the central disciplines, they will also have to have well-developed metacognitive skills and the ability to learn to learn.
These new learning goals require new forms of assessment that evaluate student performance in ways that extend beyond the capacity of traditional standardized tests. Performance assessments are a critical element of curriculum, instruction, and evaluation in schools aimed at developing 21st century skills. Although there is substantial research and much experience with performance assessments both in the U.S. and abroad, very little of this information is available to policymakers and practitioners in an understandable and accessible form that addresses many of the questions they have about whether and how these approaches are feasible and worthwhile, and under what conditions and with what supports.
SCOPE’s work, in collaboration with Stanford’s Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (SCALE), supports policymakers and practitioners in the Innovation Lab Network (run by the Council of Chief State School Officers) in a number of ways: developing a performance assessment resource and task bank; conducting performance assessment pilots in classrooms and schools in multiple states; designing online resources, tools, and protocols; developing training and scoring models; studying the results of the pilots; conceptualizing and developing policy structures that can incorporate performance assessments; helping states conceptualize compatible accountability systems; and working with higher education institutions to develop a context for informing and using performance assessments.
As part of this work, SCALE held a free online education course focused on building educators’ capacity to use, develop, and implement curriculum-embedded performance assessments. Designing for Deeper Learning: How to Develop Performance Tasks for the Common Core, a 9-week MOOC, was designed for grade 6-12 teachers working in the core disciplines of mathematics, language arts, social studies, and science. Course activities included evaluating sample performance tasks and collaboratively creating and then implementing a performance task that is aligned with a specific curricular unit and performance outcomes.