ACT-Tessera_color.png
Next Generation Noncognitive Assessment System

New EdWeek Commentary: We Should Measure Students' Noncognitive Skills

Posted by Jonathan E. Martin on Aug 4, 2016 6:00:00 PM

Noncognitive skills are an ongoing hot topic in education, and for good reason—there is an extraordinary movement of renewed emphasis upon social and emotional learning (SEL), the kind of learning that research has well established is essential for all kids.

However, much is being missed in the national conversation about this subject. Researchers in university departments of psychology and educational assessment, as well as scientists at various measurement companies, have been industriously innovating, developing evidence-based systems by which we can effectively student character strengths and noncognitive skills. These new systems overcome the faking, subjectivity, and reference bias problems that plague “first generation” measurement methods.

Read More

Topics: education, character strengths, K-12 Noncognitive Assessments, ESSA, SEL

10 Ways Educators Can Use SEL Measurement and Assessment for Student Success

Posted by Jonathan E. Martin on Jun 1, 2016 5:00:00 PM


"10 Ways Educators Can Use SEL Measurement and Assessment for Student Success" by Jonathan E. Martin, Principal for JonathanEMartin Ed. Services, was originally published on Getting Smart.

In sharing a series of posts over the past several weeks about the rising demand for social emotional learning (SEL) measurement and noncognitive skills assessment, we noted that new methods are emerging for doing it effectively.

Still, some are wondering what a typical (or atypical) school or district would do with the data and reports they received after administering such an assessment to their students?

Because noncognitive assessment is still so new to schools, one answer to this question is we don’t yet know. We anticipate that five years from now we may be astounded by the diverse and innovative ways in which educators wield what we believe will be a powerful and creative tool.

Nevertheless, we can speculate about how measuring and assessing noncognitive skills and character strengths might valuably assist educators, both in bolstering students’ social and emotional skills and elevating their academic skills and traditional test scores.

Read More

Topics: assessments, education, social and emotional learning, education technology, SEL

Can Grit Be Grown?

Posted by Jonathan E. Martin on May 26, 2016 5:30:00 PM


Photo from Getting Smart 
"Can Grit Be Grown?" by Jonathan E. Martin, Principal for JonathanEMartin Ed. Services, was originally published on
Getting Smart.

Can we grow grit in ourselves and others? And if so, how best might we do so?

Since grit grew to great heights of public awareness in the early 2010s thanks to a combination of magazine articles, best-selling books and TED talks, its significance has preoccupied many educators. Dr. Angela Duckworth’s research struck a nerve, secured her a MacArthur genius grant and launched a million conversations across the nation. 

Read More

Topics: noncognitive skills, education, character strengths, social and emotional learning, grit, SEL

Assessing the Emerging New Vision for Education

Posted by Jonathan E. Martin on Apr 26, 2016 5:00:00 PM


Photo by Brad Flickinger (CC by 2.0)

“SEL programs almost universally demonstrate a strong return on investment (ROI) over long periods of time.” So states a recent World Economic Forum (WEF) report, entitled “New Vision for Education: Fostering Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) through Technology.

Although the U.S. has seen the most research about the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL), this is a global urgency. One SEL program, the Healing Classroom Initiative, which has been deployed in more than 20 nations including South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, has “realized considerable progress in both academic achievement and social benefits for students whose schooling had been interrupted by conflict.”

Parents and educators agree in surveys with what researchers have found in their studies. The report notes that “more than 90% of parents and teachers in China emphasize teaching children these skills, for example, and in the U.S., 81% of parents and 78% of teachers emphasize SEL.” 

Read More

Topics: noncognitive skills, character strengths, social and emotional learning, education technology, SEL, research

Is There a Need to “Build Better Students?”

Posted by Jeremy Burrus on Apr 20, 2016 12:00:00 PM


Photo by Chris Jobling (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Three questions well worth considering:

  1. Is the world of work really and truly changing?
  2. If so, what kind of education and skills are required of workers to succeed in this new world?
  3. Is there a need to alter our education systems in order to “build better students” and ensure that workers have the necessary education and skills?

First of all, technology has most certainly changed the way we work. The speed of computing, data analysis, and decision-making has greatly increased. Communication happens nearly instantaneously, and telecommuting is becoming more common as we are able to work collaboratively online. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has estimated that more than 95%, 85%, and 65% of jobs in large, medium, and small businesses, respectively, in OECD countries now involve the internet. Another key driver of change is automation, as computing and robots are now able to take the place of humans in completing several types of tasks.

Read More

Topics: noncognitive skills, education, character strengths, social and emotional learning, SEL

The Whole Child Perspective on Social and Emotional Learning

Posted by Jonathan E. Martin on Apr 14, 2016 2:30:00 PM

The Whole Child. That’s been the core commitment of ASCD, a leading professional educators’ association, for almost a decade now. That continuing importance to ensuring we support students in their holistic growth was made loud and clear at the recent ASCD Annual Conference in Atlanta early this month.

ASCD leaders also made explicit the connection they see between their preferred term “Whole Child” and the rapidly rising attention being made to “SEL”—Social and Emotional Learning: they are effectively one and the same.

In two sessions, David Griffith, ASCD Senior Director of Public Policy, presented for the association on SEL program development, leadership, and measurement for accountability—and the implications of these presentations are profound.

Read More

Topics: education, K-12 Noncognitive Assessments, ESSA, whole child

Schools Really Can (and Should) Measure Noncognitive Skills

Posted by Jonathan E. Martin on Apr 6, 2016 12:30:00 PM

“Schools Really Can (and Should) Measure Noncognitive Skills" by Jonathan E. Martin, Principal for JonathanEMartin Ed. Services, and Jeremy Burrus, PhD, Principal Research Scientist for ProExam's Center of Innovative Assessment, was originally published on Getting Smart

The headlines shout that it can’t be done. That there aren’t effective, evidence-based methods for measuring noncognitive skills.

Our response: Yes it can and yes there are.

A front page news article in The New York Times, Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students’ Emotional Skills, prompted several swift follow-up pieces around the web.

It is excellent to see the effort and attention being dedicated to this subject. We now know that social and emotional skills–which overlap with what many call character strengths, and others label noncognitive attributes–are as or more important than intellectual ability and cognitive aptitude for student and adult success in school, college, careers and life.

Read More

Topics: noncognitive skills, assessments, education, K-12 Noncognitive Assessments, measuring soft skills, social and emotional learning, SEL

Don't Stifle Noncognitive Measurements in K–12, Keep Improving Them

Posted by Jonathan E. Martin on Mar 30, 2016 12:30:00 PM



Photo by NEC Corporation of America with Creative Commons license.

Written by Jonathan E. Martin, Principal for JonathanEMartin Ed. Services, with Rich Roberts, PhD, Vice President and Chief Scientist for ProExam's Center for Innovative Assessments 

Angela Duckworth has garnered a great deal of attention this week for her Sunday New York Times op-ed, entitled “Don’t Grade Schools On Grit.” In it, she cites Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the effect that schools have a responsibility to educate for character. She also marshals compelling evidence on the social and emotional learning (SEL) skills we often call character, such as grit, and that “teaching social and emotional skills can improve behavior and raise academic achievement.” 

We agree wholeheartedly about the importance of SEL and character, and we appreciate all Dr. Duckworth has done to bring it attention. We write as friendly associates with Dr. Duckworth: Dr. Roberts has known her since she was a graduate student, and she has co-authored articles with him; I have met with her in small groups several times, interviewed her, and written about her frequently with great admiration. 

One might think that advocates of social emotional learning, knowing the importance character development and recognizing the value of using evidence for better decision-making, would strongly support measurement of student learning in this domain. Surely we would want schools to better be able to know which students are developing these competencies and which are not, so we can better direct our attention to their needs. We need to know which programs are accomplishing our goals and which are not; we should better evaluate which approaches we should fund and promote and which we should de-emphasize. 

Read More

Topics: noncognitive skills, assessments, education, K-12 Noncognitive Assessments, education technology

The Demand is Clear: Next-generation Noncognitive Assessment is Needed Now

Posted by Jonathan E. Martin on Jan 15, 2016 10:30:00 AM

Social Emotional Learning and Noncognitive Character Strengths Matter…
and How We Measure Them is the Key to Their Improvement

Perhaps the greatest consensus in K-12 learning today centers upon the critical importance of student social and emotional learning and the development of their noncognitive character strengths—their skills for success in school and life.

This is not news to teachers.  Ask a preschool assistant teacher or ask an AP Physics teacher and you’ll find resounding, even impassioned agreement: dependability, persistence, ambition, curiosity, and getting along with others matter as much, or very often much more, than cognitive ability.  Education leaders have similarly embraced this understanding, with ASCD making the “whole child” its signature slogan and state and district leaders shifting the emphasis of schooling to skills and life success.  

Read More

Topics: noncognitive skills, assessments, education, K-12 Noncognitive Assessments

Subscribe to Stay Informed

Recent Posts

Download a free eBook: 6 Steps to Better Educating and Assessing the Whole Child in Your District or School