A pioneering pilot program to test high school students’ so-called 21st century skills such as creativity and collaboration is being carried out by Pearson together with World ORT and the Israeli Ministry of Education. Pearson, the world’s largest education company with a turnover of more than $5 billion, is developing a ground breaking assessment framework for PISA, the organisation which measures and ranks educational attainment in the world’s major economies every three years.
Traditionally, PISA has tested high school students in 74 countries on straightforward knowledge of maths, literacy and science. But the 2015 tests are to be expanded to include the new Collaborative Problem Solving assessment in recognition of the importance of “soft”? skills in further education and the workplace. Students are expected to be proficient in skills such as communicating, managing conflict, organising a team, building consensus and managing progress.
World ORT and its operational arm in Israel, Kadima Mada, have played an important role in bringing the international programme to fruition.
“[World ORT Education Department Head] Daniel Tysman and [Kadima Mada Chief Program Officer] Iris Wolf have been very helpful in designing the principles of this whole project,”? said Dr Yigal Rosen, Senior Research Scientist at Pearson Knowledge Technologies in Boston. “World ORT has enabled us to reach out to the schools participating in the pilot. It has been in charge of leveraging an existing good relationship with the Ministry of Education and the Jewish Federations of North America and to create a partnership with the schools, to have this great collaboration with the teachers and principals in the schools.”?
Two World ORT-affiliated schools in Israel “ﾓ Nesher and Rogozin “ﾓ are taking part as is CIM-ORT in Mexico City; each will supply a small group of 9th Grade students who will be teamed with peers at three schools in the United States.
“The practical components of science curricula include an independent research project which is typically done in small groups under the supervision of their teacher; however, international collaboration between students and between teachers on science projects is rare,”? Ms Wolf said. “Through this project we will create an international community where educators and groups of students from different schools work together to solve real-world problems in science.”?
Team members will communicate via a customised on-line platform which allows the monitoring and assessment of the projects as they develop. The eight-week programme is due to start in December but the Israeli teachers have been working on content development in workshops over the summer.
“One of the unique aspects of the project is that teachers have been involved right from the beginning,”? said Dr Rosen.
And by being part of it, the teachers have become pioneers who will be able to share their experiences and insights with other teachers nationally and, through World ORT’s network, internationally.
“There’s been a lot of work done by scholars to define collaborative learning but there’s no systematic research, there’s no data, on how it can be taught in schools a lot less be measured,”? said Dr Rosen. “This pilot project will inform World ORT, the Ministry and Pearson, and hopefully other stakeholders, on how these skills can be embedded in day to day classroom practice and how students from different countries can work together.”?
This greater knowledge is expected to create a platform to explore best practice in teaching, learning and assessing collaborative learning which, in turn, may well lead to larger scale programmes.
“Employers in many countries complain that a high proportion of graduates lack the critical thinking, problem solving, self-management and collaboration skills which are the subject of our project; they may be well-qualified on paper but they don’t have the skills to work in a team or to come up with new ideas,”? said Mr Tysman. “This is a very significant project since efforts to understand how to assess collaborative skills are still in their infancy. It’s a privilege to be involved in the process, to be contributing to the development of the next PISA tests and the collaboration between our schools and those in the USA is another big first for us which I hope will continue.”?