Building Teachers' Capacity for Assessment for Learning of 21st Century Skills in Mathematics

Project Number
OER 03/11 MK

Project Duration
October 2011 - March 2016


Singapore is a founding member of a global effort on designing assessments for the 21st century. Part of this effort entails the design and development of assessment items that measure 21st century skills, which will then be used for international standardized tests such as PISA. For a start, the targeted 21st century skills are: problem solving, collaboration, and the use of interactive communication technologies (ICT). The Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) has set up a local ATC21S committee to guide Singapore’s participation in the international effort. Co-chaired by the Director of Educational Technology and the Chief Executive of the Examinations and Assessment Board, this committee has proposed to use the global effort as a unique opportunity for Singapore to stay ahead of the curve by commissioning a formative, Assessment for Learning (AFL) upstream research agenda on developing the very 21st century skills our students are going to be assessed on. Therefore, the main aim of the proposed project will be to build teachers’ expertise in AFL of 21st century skills. This expertise would involve designing appropriate tasks and activity structures that provide students the opportunities to engage in processes germane for the development of 21st century skills, particularly those of problem solving and collaboration, mediated by appropriate tools. Instead of starting from scratch, we propose to build upon an existing research program on productive failure (Kapur, 2008, 2009, 2010; Kapur & Bielaczyc, accepted) that has been implemented in mathematics classrooms in Singapore over the past four years. Productive failure provides opportunities for students to design solutions to novel problems even though they may fail in the process. This failure however is the locus of deep learning as it affords students the opportunity to collaboratively generate, elaborate, critique, and refine their representations and solution strategies—a process that is germane for the development of 21st century skills of collaborative problem solving. However, in current work on productive failure, the burden of designing tasks and activity structures is borne by researchers. Going forward, we aim for a more sustainable model wherein teachers themselves are able to design the necessary tasks and activity structures. Helping teachers develop this expertise, implement their designs, and iteratively understand and refine their designs by examining their effects on student learning forms precisely the core of our project.

Funding Source

Related Links
SingTeach Issue 55 2015: Integrative Learning through Problem Finding

Related Projects