The Assessment and Teaching of 21st-Century Skills (ATC21S) is a research project that proposes ways of assessing 21st-century skills and encourages teaching and adopting those skills in the classroom. The success of ATC21S depends on a broad public and private collaboration across governments, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), academia and industry.
Industry sponsors are Cisco, Intel and Microsoft — three international companies with a vested interest in building a skilled workforce for the future; founder countries supporting the initiative are Australia, Finland, Singapore and the United States, with Costa Rica, Netherlands and Russia serving as associate members of the consortium.
ACT21S is predicated on the recognition that today’s curricula does not fully prepare students to live and work in an information-age society. As a result, employers today are often challenged with entry-level workers who lack the practical skills it takes to create, build and help sustain an information-rich business.
Although reading, writing, mathematics and science are cornerstones of today’s education, curricula must go further to include skills such as collaboration and digital literacy that will prepare students for 21st-century employment. Establishing new forms of assessment can begin a fundamental change in how we approach education worldwide.
What Are 21st-Century Skills?
Learning to collaborate with others and connect through technology are essential skills in a knowledge-based economy.
ATC21S started with a group of more than 250 researchers across 60 institutions worldwide who categorized 21st-century skills internationally into four broad categories:
Ways of thinking. Creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and learning
Ways of working. Communication and collaboration
Tools for working. Information and communications technology (ICT) and information literacy
Skills for living in the world. Citizenship, life and career, and personal and social responsibility
The Foundation: Assessment
To make changes at the classroom level, policy-makers need accurate information about the skills of the student population. Gathering that data through assessment is a critical component.
ATC21S is developing methods to assess skills that will form the basis for 21st-century curricula, with an emphasis on communication and collaboration, problem-solving, citizenship, and digital fluency.
ATC21S aims to offer 21st-century curricula recommendations for education systems to support an improved workforce. The goal is to create a new assessment framework with teaching and learning resources to help students develop 21st-century skills.
Translating these skills to the classroom will shape the economic and social development of countries and communities for years to come; transforming education requires a multi-stakeholder partnership to make a scalable and sustainable difference in classrooms around the world.
Putting Concepts into Practice
The ATC21S project has now moved from conceptual to practical, working with two skills that span all four categories:
Collaborative problem-solving. Working together to solve a common challenge, which involves the contribution and exchange of ideas, knowledge or resources to achieve the goal.
ICT literacy — learning in digital networks. Learning through digital means, such as social networking, ICT literacy, technological awareness and simulation. Each of these elements enables individuals to function in social networks and contribute to the development of social and intellectual capital.
ATC21S is developing an assessment framework to map how students learn these two specific skills. The results will allow education jurisdictions to evaluate student achievement, identify gaps in development or competence, and see where they may need to invest in curriculum change.