Measuring Soft Skills (e.g. Creativity) is Hard!

Source: KQED Mindshift, Jun 2013

“People often try to figure out what makes a difference in education and they try to find different variables that might explain that difference,” said Brent Duckor, a professor at San Jose State University focusing on assessment. “It’s been harder for people to measure, and put the resources around measuring, the so-called soft skills — let’s call them resiliency, persistence, a sense of caring and engagement with school — and to use those in conjunction with the more typical academic achievement measures.” The benefits of the harder-to-quantify skills aren’t easily disentangled from academic achievement scores, making it hard to prove through tests that alternative teaching and learning styles can achieve measurable outcomes.

This tension arises clearly with one of the hottest topics in education right now – project-based learning. Many educators hope this method of teaching content through inquiry and exploration will implicitly deepen learning and shift it towards the goals outlined in Common Core.

“If we are going to measure something, it’s going to take time and it’s going to take resources and effort,” said Duckor. “And what we’ve seen is a lot less attention on measuring those skills in any rigorous or reliable way.” It would take much more time and money to really develop assessments that measure creativity or resilience, but states have neither the time, money nor political will to do so, Duckor said.


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