Teaching and Measuring Cognitive Readiness

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Afterschool enrichment activities that have been the focus of studies range from music, arts, and drama programs to organized sports and more academically focused initiatives such as tutoring, mentoring, and help with homework. Scholars point to the range of activities, and of skills targeted, as a key reason for their efficacy in nurturing a range of both noncognitive and cognitive skills. Indeed, research shows that participation in extracurricular activities helps adolescents form their identity by developing skills and preferences, and by building relationships with others Eccles et al.

Other skills, such as engagement and confidence, are also critical to the mission of out-of-school activities. In fact, there is growing recognition of the need to bring the kinds of engaging, hands-on, project-based activities that are the norm in afterschool and summer settings into classrooms, so that their promise can be harnessed to a much greater extent Performance Standards Consortium n.

These evaluations can also constitute good additional examples to provide education policy with instruments to assess noncognitive skills that can be incorporated into standard assessments. The Schott Foundation for Public Education, which is devoted to whole-child learning, has translated the IEP into a similar concept—a Personal Opportunity Plan—intended to support both the cognitive and noncognitive needs of a broader set of students throughout their academic careers Lieber Project-based learning, which is gaining traction in K—12 policies and, as noted above, features prominently in many afterschool settings, also has its roots in special education Ferretti, MacArthur, and Okolo ; Webster While no state yet stands out as a model of the policies and practices advanced here to better attend to noncognitive skills, a growing group of school districts has embraced this as part of their core mission.

In the rural Black Oak Mine School District in the Georgetown Divide region of California, this mission is manifested in the form of student-centered classroom and extracurricular activities that encourage youth development, participation, and sense of empowerment. Based on the premise that district-level leadership is critical to securing and sustaining the type and level of supports needed to ensure whole-child education, in CASEL launched the Collaborating Districts Initiative.

While neither any state nor the federal government has yet made nurturing noncognitive skills a core component of its education policy, there are promising examples at both levels that could be enhanced or scaled up. For example, the New York State Board of Regents Social and Emotional Developmental guidelines serve as a useful model that other states could adapt to fit their resources, priorities, and needs.

Unfortunately, these examples also highlight the continuing conflict between such supportive laws and others, particularly narrow accountability and disciplinary policies, that overshadow these positive strategies and greatly dilute their positive impact. Ensuring that policies at all levels are better aligned, and that they do not work at cross-purposes, will thus be key to effectively promoting noncognitive skills in education contexts. Individual philanthropists and foundations have played an increasingly prominent role in shaping education policy in recent years—through both research and advocacy—so these contributions merit consideration.

The policy recommendations, which build on existing research, also pose significant demands for researchers. In this section, we discuss the need for researchers to identify definitions of noncognitive skills and develop good metrics systems. We offer some examples of existing instruments that could be expanded to assess noncognitive skills in the K—12 period. The recommendations related to accountability outlined above also suggest new areas of study for researchers, which are needed to inform enhanced curriculum, teacher training and preparation, and assessment of school performance.

As discussed above, integrating noncognitive skills into the education policy agenda requires, first, the identification of a satisfactory and concrete list of these skills, as well as systems or scales to measure them. Measurement and methodological research are required to validate an accurate and complete list of education-related noncognitive skills, 46 and to provide us with metrics that are both reliable and valid. While we recognize the many challenges entailed in developing these metrics, we note two strong examples to which researchers can look and upon which they could build.

Substantive work has validated the instrument at younger ages, and some work to extend it to kindergarten through third grade has also been pursued. A second example is the work developed by the Educational Testing System on the integration of noncognitive dimensions in its assessments. Patrick Kyllonen and his colleagues provide a framework for the whole-person assessment in education, including a set of noncognitive constructs such as affective competencies and attitudes see Kyllonen , Figure 1.

An additional challenge is ensuring that in designing metrics, researchers do not suggest a given skill level is generally appropriate or desirable. For example, we may expect all children to identify a certain set of words within a text, but not necessarily to attain a specific high measure of creativity, though we may appreciate improvements in both over time.

For example, when designing measurement systems, they must include both quantitative metrics e. And when designing longitudinal assessments, they must take into account information on child development, in order to balance the goal of growth of skills with expected variation across children. Research also has the potential to inform the teaching profession through improving teacher preparation and support, and by guiding the appropriate design and utilization of assessments.

It is also critical to ensure that schools are appropriately staffed with experts on mental and emotional health; i. As set out above, education is not confined to what happens within school walls, nor can the nurturing of cognitive or noncognitive skills be the sole responsibility of teachers. It takes the whole school, family, and community to do so effectively. In light of some misuses of assessments for accountability purposes, research is needed to guide the appropriate design and utilization of assessments so that they can inform both learning and teaching.

Students, teachers, and school performance are not the only aspects that would be subject to evaluation when noncognitive skills are incorporated into the education policy agenda. As Heckman states:. By focusing on cognitive skills as measured by achievement of IQ tests, they exclude the critical importance of social skills, self-discipline and a variety of noncognitive skills that are known to determine success in life. This statement highlights the multiple areas in which education effects could be reassessed: transitions across educational levels, investment in education, assessment of the quality of education, returns to education, or benefit—cost analysis in education, etc.

It also indicates the need to design interventions and conduct research that satisfactorily explains how noncognitive skills can be enhanced Durlak et al. Parents, of course, play the primary role, and many components of society, including schools, must provide support in a collaborative manner. Given the growing influence of philanthropy in education, donors and individuals must coordinate their work with that of these various actors, in an appropriately limited manner.

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Noncognitive skills are reemerging as an important issue in education policy discussion. This paper offers some reflections on how the integration of noncognitive skills in the education policy agenda could substantially improve how education policy is conceptualized and implemented, and discusses a number of challenges entailed in doing so.

We then reviewed various perspectives on the importance of noncognitive skills and contrasted that importance with the relative lack of curricula and standards to nurture them in our children. We then discussed that, in considering how to make noncognitive skills key ingredients of the education process and education policy, we face three major challenges. First, noncognitive skills in the education process need to be defined: We need to know which ones matter— i.

Second, it is necessary to establish how they matter , i. As such, we must design systems to represent, measure, and quantify these skills. Third, we set forth guidelines for changes to the education system that are necessary to achieve improvements around noncognitive skills. In discussing this framework, we also called on researchers to provide new evidence in a range of relevant areas. We also noted the need for coordinated work by students, teachers, parents, the measurement and testing industries, foundations, and policymakers. We present these ideas to those in charge of guiding our policy in education with the belief that, in the current context of debates about how to shape education reforms, rethinking the role of noncognitive skills provides an opportune chance to enact a more effective strategy overall.

Also, we write this briefing paper with the conviction that education policy needs to take action around these important skills that are nurtured in classrooms. Given the key contributions of both cognitive and noncognitive dimensions to our understanding of what it means to be an educated person, education policies must establish the strategies, actions, and safeguards needed to help individuals to become fully educated.

The author gratefully acknowledges Elaine Weiss, who cowrote the policy implications section of this paper and contributed substantially throughout the process. She also thanks Richard Rothstein , Robert Pianta , and Lawrence Mishel for their helpful comments and advice on earlier drafts of the paper.

She is also grateful to Michael McCarthy for having edited this report, and to the communications staff of the Economic Policy Institute who helped to disseminate it, especially Donte Donald and Elizabeth Rose. She specializes in the economics of education and education policy. Her areas of research include analysis of the production of education, returns to education, program evaluation, international comparative education, human development, and cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis in education.

Other terms used to describe these skills include soft skills, personality traits, noncognitive abilities, character skills, and socio-emotional skills Heckman and Kautz These contributions date from a few decades ago, and in some cases, centuries ago. For an introduction to the philosophy of education, with references to the meaning and goals of education from Plato to the 20th century, see Phillips and Siegel See Castaneda ; Dewey ; and Goodlad, Soder, and Sirotnik for discussions about the meaning and purposes of education, and the commission of teaching.

One recent study on the opinion of teachers on noncognitive skills was conducted by Bridgeland, Bruce, and Hariharan Examples extracted from Rothstein, Jacobsen, and Wilder Most of the existing work classifying noncognitive skills relies on the contributions of psychologists, who have developed different conceptual frameworks and constructs, in different attempts to narrow the concepts they represent and attach quantifiable indicators.

The history of the development of a conceptual approach to personality assessment is summarized by Digman and Goldberg , and more recently, by Borghans et al. Another recent attempt to develop constructs and measures representing noncognitive skills is Kyllonen et al.

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See Almlund et al. It is not clear that all of these belong in the noncognitive camp; some might be skills that fall between cognitive and noncognitive extremes. Also, some skills may be more static or fixed, while some may be more adaptable and learnable, depending on each individual. Additionally, some degree of overlap can be detected among some of the skills included in the list.

Promoting noncognitive skills as defined and listed is a mission for education policy. Promoting the full development of children and ensuring acquisition of a broader list of skills for democratic as well as education reasons is a mission for public policy in general, for society, and more importantly, for families and communities. This paper refers exclusively to educationally relevant noncognitive skills.

Other literature reviews on the same topic include Rosen et al. Rosen et al. Gutman and Schoon review studies that discuss how noncognitive skills can be defined and measured and explore interventions that aim to improve noncognitive skills in children. Additional references are found in the works by Brunello and Schlotter and Garcia , chapter 2. See table 2 on page We briefly summarize some evaluations and correlational studies that look at how improving noncognitive skills could boost cognitive performance. We will examine whether these interventions worked through improving noncognitive skills as well in later sections.

See, for example, Bierman et al. Among others, the comparisons highlight the cross-cultural variation among the associations in the different countries. See Table 5, page From a cumulative learning perspective, it is reasonable to assume that some of the cognitive skills used in the workplace build on basic concepts learned in school. This argument should not be interpreted to mean that cognitive skills do not matter, but rather that noncognitive skills do matter.

In other words, these rankings may be comparing job-specific cognitive skills with general, non-job-specific noncognitive skills. Evidence of the importance of job- and sector-specific noncognitive skills is found in Mourshed, Farrell, and Barton From the point of view of labor economists or business leaders, the subset of noncognitive skills may differ from the list of skills relevant for educational purposes.

Other references of interest in this regard are Heineck and Anger and Lindqvist and Vestman As we review the literature, keep in mind that while some studies explore specific skills and impacts on them, much of the research discusses noncognitive skills writ large. For instance, Rothstein reviews the importance of different factors in explaining cognitive gaps.

See Brooks-Gunn and Duncan for a detailed study on how poverty in childhood can affect a multitude of outcomes, including emotional and behavioral domains. Publications that report such findings include Bloom , Lee and Burkam , Barnett and Belfield , and Rothstein See Gall et al. See, for example, Carter ; and Heckman and Sanger Note that these interventions are implemented during the school time and year. Zins et al. In addition to its positive impact on a number of noncognitive skills, the intervention also improved standardized test scores that is, a type of intervention leading to associations and outcomes such as those explained in the section Why cognitive skills matter.

Earlier work on this topic by Clark showed that after-school activities mattered largely for minority and disadvantaged children and were predictive of high achievement among them. The best-known examples of studies examining the determinants of academic performance are those developed by Hanushek for instance, Hanushek , , and with their roots in the well-known Coleman Report Coleman et al. Their identification builds on having the same students take different academic subjects in classes with different sizes, which allows contemporaneous within-student and within-teacher comparisons across two academic subjects, and first differences.

See chapter six. See chapter seven. Other examples of this identification are found in the literature in the s and s. Both indices are constructed using the standardized variables by grade level. According to the empirical estimates with controls for individual- and school-level covariates , an increase of one standard deviation in cognitive skills would increase noncognitive performance by 0.

The coefficients are 0. See Garcia for more detailed explanations and sensitivity checks, and for a discussion of the stability of the patterns over time based on different personality traits. For example, project-based learning allows students to learn about specific academic issues while also providing an opportunity to use and develop a number of organizational, communication, and teamwork skills.

These practices and policies vary widely from state to state and, within states, across districts. As such, the first step is to examine current policies and to determine how changes to state and district laws factor in. For an assessment of the evolution of quality instruments in early education in the last decade, see La Paro, Pianta, and Stuhlman ; La Paro et al. As is true of other examples in this section, the few that we highlight are intended to provide illustrations of what we discuss. There are many more that merit attention, and these are not necessarily representative of them.


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For a one page summary of this intervention, see Broader, Bolder Approach a. For more detailed information, see City Connects For a one-page summary of this intervention, see Broader, Bolder Approach b. The other districts taking part in the Collaborating Districts Initiative, which vary greatly in terms of strengths and challenges, include Anchorage, Chicago, Cleveland, Nashville, Oakland, Sacramento, and Washoe County, Nevada. The State of New York, like the State of Illinois before it, was advised by CASEL and conducted a survey to learn about practices pertaining to a comprehensive approach to implementing school-wide social and emotional development and learning.

See Tanyu et al. Other institutions, such as the UCLA Center for Mental Health, are working with other states to advance similar statewide strategies to embed noncognitive skills in education policy. Just as it is beyond the scope of this paper to provide a detailed analysis of how accountability policies could be improved, there is no way to list all of the foundations that might fall into this category. In other words, not only would we need to define what, for example, collaborative problem solving is, but also to find a way to measure it through a computer.

The list we put forth earlier in the paper is likely to be adapted as more evidence becomes available. The preparation of aspiring teachers should include a more comprehensive preparation program incorporating support regarding knowledge and practice of teaching strategies to nurture noncognitive skills in the same way that teachers currently learn not only math, reading, and writing content, but strategies to teach subtraction, decoding, and persuasive writing, for example. Concerns exist about the fact that misuse and poor design of cognitive assessments, and inappropriate accountability in recent years, have caused substantial harm.

Numerous voices advise that the utilization of standardized achievement test data as the main element of education accountability, with punishing purposes, is ineffective, poor policy, and immoral Baker et al. See also American Educational Research Association Albert Shanker Institute. Heckman, and Tim Kautz. Amsterdam: Elsevier. American Educational Research Association. Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. American Statistical Association.

Baker, Eva. Washington, D. Baker, Eva L. Ladd, Robert L. Shavelson, and Lorrie A. Economic Policy Institute, Briefing Paper Barnett, W. Steven, and Clive R. Epstein, A. Friedman, R. Sansanelli, and J. Bierman, Karen L. Domitrovich, Robert L. Nix, Scott D. Gest, Janet A. Welsh, Mark T. Greenberg, Clancy Blair, Keith E. Nelson, and Sukhdeep Gill.

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Teaching and Measuring Cognitive Readiness | Harold F. O'Neil | Springer

Haertel, Edward H. Educational Testing Service. Hall, S.

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O'Neil Ray S. Perez Eva L. Email me when back in stock. Leave Review. Author Info. Synopsis Teaching and Measuring Cognitive Readiness presents theoretical and empirical findings regarding cognitive readiness and assessments of their impact on adult learning. Delivery Delivery Options All delivery times quoted are the average, and cannot be guaranteed. You might also like. Unofficial Minecraft Life Hacks Lab



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