Soft Skills and Formal Assessment

Topic 1:  Types of Formal Assessments

A Formal assessment, pertaining to an exceptional population, may be commonly thought as an IQ test.  Depending how we view IQ tests, these tests can help predict how a student will cognitively perform in school. For example, in order to be considered academically gifted, a score of 130 is required on Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC). Students having a score of 130 or more on the WISC generally have a high level of academic success. Conversely, children receiving a score below, 80 for example may learn at a slower rate and may not be able to master higher level concepts. Of course there are many factors that influence academic success.

The other types of frequently used tests in schools are achievement tests. Simply put, achievement tests give us information on how a student is achieving in the classroom compared other students in a number of measurable skills areas. We may compare by age, grade, or aptitude. For example, if a fifth grade student with an IQ of 130 has scored on a third grade level, there may be other factors that could interfere with his/her ability to learn. What are those factors?

“Current teachers are able to get a deeper and more granular understanding of who the individual is as well as the “hard” and “soft” skills and dispositions he has demonstrated.”  (Fontichiaro and Elkordy, 2015*)

We can look to educational psychology to explore additional factors that could possibly impact learning. Heckman & Kautz’s Hard Evidence of Soft Skills (University of Chicago, 2012) delve into “the important skills that achievement tests miss or mismeasure” (p.2). The authors assert, “Achievement tests do not adequately capture, soft skills— personality traits, goals, motivations, and preferences that are valued in school, and in many other domains. Children who are more academically motivated and more curious learn more and have higher test scores” (p. 2). In addition, Heckman and Kautz believe that, “Personality traits foster the development of cognition but not vice versa” (p. 37).

The below Infographic briefly summarizes these factors.

In summary, the soft skills of conscientiousness, perseverance (persevering on tasks), sociability (extraversion, cooperation), and curiosity (openness to experience, imagination) are indicators found in student personality traits, goals, motivations, and preferences. It is valuable for us as IT professionals/educational technologists to be aware of the potential impact of soft skills on student achievement and on choosing ed tech/assistive technology (AT) in formal and informal assessment.  For example, the use of digital badges in K-12 and higher ed has the ability to “formalize” student soft skills: ISTE asserts, “Digital badges have the potential to be the effective and flexible tools teachers have long sought to guide, recognize, assess and spur learning. And they can recognize the soft skills [my emphasis] not captured by standardized tests, such as critical or innovative thinking, teamwork or effective communication” (p.2).

*https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=320

Lighthouses

Cape Henry Lighthouse
Virginia Beach, Virginia June 2017
A contrast of verticals is evident with the slight left-leaning diagonals of the trees contrasting with the slight right-lean of the lighthouse.


The Cape Henry Lighthouse: Link

 

Digital Badges

Digital Badges in Education

"Digital badges are tied to competencies, allows the viewer to verify the knowledge and skill of the person holding the badge. With this deep connection, badges become more than a visual symbol, they are explicit evidence of skills, competencies, and experience." (p. 35)

Digital Badge Example for Graduate Class

Digital Badge
Digital Badge for Graduate Class

About and Characteristics

  • These same highly social and interactive systems also presented us with a new culture of reputation, influencing how we build identities online that others find credible and meaningful.(p. 3)
  • Many of the badge systems being built include a suite of features that are common in reputation systems: voting, tagging, ranking, rating, “liking,” and commenting, to name a few. (p. 2)
  • Badges also reflect a desire to resolve a peculiar and novel problem in the digital age: To whom does reputation belong online? Only on the Internet can reputation be tethered to a proprietary system. (p. 4)
  • Khan Academy or massive open online courses (MOOCs) where people earn badges that can only be displayed within the technical system where they were awarded. The badges are thus only visible to those who are logged into the system, which limits the value and portability of the reputation to outside audiences. Open digital badges, however, contain standard technical specifications, and these open standards (not to be confused with academic standards) help foster a digital medium of exchange for credentials that previously did not exist, allowing learners to collect, keep, and share the reputation they have built across different platforms. (p. 4). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
  • Open digital badges present us with a design challenge to advance principles of credibility that we have yet to clearly define. These principles are being embraced (if not exactly defined) in different fields like design and software engineering, where employers put less stock in schooled learning and traditional credentials, and reputation and evidence alone can be keys to advancement. (p. 5)
  • Badges dovetail nicely with the elimination of seat-time requirements, for example, and the potential to design more flexible learning pathways or scaffolds has made digital badges particularly relevant to competency-based learning. (p.6)
  • The three main purposes of badge systems are to map progress and foster discovery, signal reputation beyond the community where it was earned, and incentivize learners to engage in pro-social behaviors (Gibson, Ostashewski, Flintoff, Grant, & Knight, 2013).
  • There is certainly motivation from the instructional technology community to experiment with badges and develop platforms.  Lin Y. Muilenburg; Zane L. Berge (2016-03-22). Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases (p. 9).
  • This ecosystem consists of the expected stakeholders— the badge issuers, earners, and employers, who directly exchange badges for recognition, reputation, and evaluation— in concert with organizations and entities that add standards and endorsements to the badges to influence their valuation. The complexity does not stop there, as the interplay of these stakeholders, perceived value, and usage of the badges involves much more than the badges themselves; also involved are authentication, verification, and validation of the competencies and learning they represent.  Lin Y. Muilenburg; Zane L. Berge (2016-03-22). Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases (p. 19).

 

 

Sources

Lin Y. Muilenburg; Zane L. Berge (2016-03-22). Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases (p. 35). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

Neighborhood storm

A storm approaches the neighborhood in the early evening. The white spots are raindrops on the camera lens. The out-of-place lighter values of the tree in the right foreground edge of the photograph and the small tree in the lower left mid-ground is created by the effect of the limited “throw” of the flash in the landscape.

neighborhood storm
Approaching storm early evening in late February

 

Compositional elements for the South snow scene

Center of Interest

The implied lines of the surrounding landscape, other houses and street/sidewalk shapes tend to converge in a general one-point perspective at the center of the photograph at the house. The contrast between the warm colors of the house reflecting the morning sun and the surrounding cooler colors add to the area of emphasis.

annotated scene copy