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21st Century Skills: A "thorny problem" in the classroom

CJ Westerberg, December 8, 2014 7:16 PM


Reposting due to renewed interest and traffic - A Classic from The Daily Riff

Video Below

Daniel Koretz, Professor of Education at Harvard, gives a balanced portrayal of the "thorny problem" posed when the need for teaching and learning higher order thinking skills clashes with the need for accountability through high-stakes standardized testing.

Koretz explains how schools are generally not very good at teaching higher order skills  - such as critical thinking and problem-solving  - because they are not only difficult to teach but they are difficult to test.  Koretz gives examples such as how most high schools' science  "experiments" are really "demonstrations," because they are "rigged" for the right answer, thereby disqualifying them as true experiments where outcomes are unknown. 

Video runs five minutes with a commercial.

Let us know what you think -


  • chiranjeevi

    nice one

  • Daniel Thomas

    I have
    found an initiative that would address presented issue. The founders of this
    project are trying to make an interactive program enabling children to create
    animated cartoons with custom characters, self-dubbed voices, and own
    dialogues. In addition to entertaiment aspect, there is educational side of the
    project, as well. More speifically, children may discover the world around
    them, learn alphabets, solve basic mathematical equations , learn foreign
    languages, and work on pronounciation. This project has great potential to
    address current issues in education system.

    For more information about the initiative, please check the website of program's
    creators: http://cartoontist.com/. Also, there is a campaign for this project
    to get further funding options in order to add more features to the program. I
    have already made a small donation which in return provides a periodical access
    to the application. You can visit this website to join us and build an
    innovative way to educate our kids: http://goo.gl/mDpWl7.

    Please reply if you are interested in this solution or if you
    want to make a suggestion.

  • cjwesterberg

    Sounds like fun - I'd like to check it out further. Good luck with it !

  • Brian, think there are a number of initiatives that are addressing this issue:

    Check out Tony Wagner's book, The Global Achievement Gap. In it, Wagner cites some examples: College Learning Assessment (CLA); College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA); the ETS iSkills Tests; School-based Teacher-led Assessment Reporting System (STARS); among others.

    There are also more inquiry-based assessments. You may want to check out http://www.thedailyriff.com/articles/hacking-school-ratings-rankings-343.php and

    Also, will digital portfolios begin to tranform assessments? What is the work that a student can produce outside of a test?

    These are all examples but we are not there yet, for sure.

    Can anyone share their experience with any of the above assessments or have other suggestions?

  • John, a friend recently attended a high school science fair where a student actually Googled an answer to a question he had asked him on his mobile phone right there on the spot (which wasn't a difficult one, either, that was related to his exhibit). Argh! Will debaters start pulling out their mobiles to find an answer mid-debate? I think in our quest to incorporate the new realities of technology and globalization into schooling, we may be falling into a trap of another absolute or extreme stance, at least in conversations. Do I think Koretz was advocating skipping lower order skills or memorization in this video chat? No, I don't, but his message could be mis-construed - at least that's my take.

    I taught tennis for many years and you can't play a match unless you know the basics. You won't get better without practice. On the flip side (supporting Koretz's intended point?), I witnessed so many students who could hit perfect strokes in

    drills and then who fell apart when they had to put it all together in a real match.

    I'd sometimes think, "How could this be the same student?" Think Koretz was warning us of the pitfalls of one kind of assessment. And aren't we short-changing students if we only assess them one way, or worse yet, if we only expose them to tennis drills without ever really playing the game?

    Thanks for your thoughts - you may also find our recent post about copying of interest. You made me think of another post related to your comment that I'll post in the next week or two - have to dig for it.

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