6 EASY Steps to Assess “21st Century” Skills

21st Century Skills




A survey of (sorry for the cliché) 21st Century skills shows that many of them reside in Bloom’s upper ranges; evaluation, application, or syntheses. Many involve covert cognition that is not clearly evidenced by routine paper and pencil tasks. Illustrative are a hand few of those skills taken from Laura Greenstein’s work Assessing 21st Century Skills (2013). The student…

  • Reasons to make judgments and generalizations about issues
  • Discerns the intent of and information in still and video images
  • Evaluates the outcome and adjusts solution as necessary
  • Considers the effect of media messages on humans and the influence media has on beliefs, behaviors, and values
  • Manages the flow of information from a wide variety of sources
  • Takes the perspective of people from other cultures
  • Applies technology to create and innovate in various contexts
  • Continuously improves creativity through the process of self reflection

See what I mean. How can a teacher see discernment or the improvement of creativity let alone evaluate it? Capturing the various components of student behavior that show progress on any of these “soft” standards presents a sizable conundrum for most teachers. But with a bit of perseverance and comradely collaboration assessment of these vital skills becomes a fairly simple process.

Here is how I might break it down:

  1. Determine which of these 21st Century skills are vital to your school’s mission. This might become a whole school initiative.
  2. Plan to evaluate, with intention, no more than 10 of these skills per year. And let students and parents know which you have chosen to highlight.
  3. Sprinkle these skills, 1 or 2 at a time, into existing assignments and/or projects.
  4. Develop a rubric matrix that includes these skills as part of the criteria for assessment.
  5. Discuss with collegial partners what performance language will be used to show varying degrees of mastery. Come to consensus and share these levels with peers and with students.
  6. Use the new 21st Century skills embedded rubric to evaluate some project, presentation, or activity, and make adjustments in language that might become obvious or necessary to provide an accurate picture of student progress.
    Rubric Prototype

    Rubric Prototype


    Rubrics do have their detractors. Read what Alphie Kohn has to say on the topic. And rubrics certainly have limitations. But when tailored to meet the intentional needs of the teacher, when they are vetted by students and peers over time, they do hold the best promise of capturing covert yet demonstrable learning in a 21st Century classroom.


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