(Disclosure: I wrote this following piece for new client ProExam, on whose blog it originally appeared.  People often inquire what I’m up; this is one of my newer and larger projects, consulting to ProExam on the development and promotion of their forthcoming tool.  

This– better school and individual level assessment and measurement, primarily for formative purposes, of noncognitive skill and character development — is something I’ve been enthusiastic about for years, of course.   Readers here may remember my enthusiasm dating back to 2013 for the Mission Skills Assessment, built by ETS for INDEX; I wrote the MSA user’s guide and toolkit in 2014.   Rich Roberts, Ph.D. and Jeremy Burrus, Ph.D., the two ETS scientist-researchers who originally designed the MSA, are now at ProExam, and have recently developed the next-generation tool described below.  Some of the evidence basis and research underpinning this new product can be found in a paper I co-authored with Dr. Roberts for the Asia Society, “A Rosetta Stone for NonCognitive Skills.”)

I’m assisting with recruiting schools interested, at no expense, in piloting the tool this winter/spring; contact me if you are interested at jonathanemartin@gmail.com)

Understanding the Big 5 Factors of Noncognitive Skills

Social Emotional Learning and Noncognitive Character Strengths Matter…and How We Measure Them is the Key to Their Improvement

Perhaps the greatest consensus in K-12 learning today centers upon the critical importance of student social and emotional learning and the development of their noncognitive character strengths—their skills for success in school and life.

This is not news to teachers.  Ask a preschool assistant teacher or ask an AP Physics teacher and you’ll find resounding, even impassioned agreement: dependability, persistence, ambition, curiosity, and getting along with others matter as much, or very often much more, than cognitive ability.  Education leaders have similarly embraced this understanding, with ASCD making the “whole child” its signature slogan and state and district leaders shifting the emphasis of schooling to skills and life success.

In the past decade or so, the common sense point of view of teachers in the field and educational leaders has been emphatically endorsed by researchers, social scientists, and think tanks, including Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman, New York Times journalist Paul Tough, MacArthur “genius” prize winner Angela Duckworth, the Hewlett Foundation, the RAND Corporation, the National Research Council, the Brookings Institute, and the New America Foundation, just to name a few.

As the educational field works to strengthen its effectiveness in developing and implementing social and emotional curricula, in planning and guiding ongoing improvement in this arena and holding themselves accountable therein, and in providing meaningful feedback to students in their growth and proficiency, an enormous gap is being increasingly perceived by nearly all involved.  We lack effective assessment and measurement of social and emotional learning and noncognitive character strengths: the skills of success.

Nearly every individual and organization listed above can be cited to this effect: We lack the assessments we need.   (more…)