21st Century Skills/Badging Challenge

How might we assess, measure and guide a student’s 21st century skills development within or beyond a university degree?

Learning and skill development happens everywhere. The Badging Challenge looks at how we might create ways to measure, develop and credibly display skills and competencies. Learners inside universities have many ways to track their progress toward majors, but few if any similarly credible ways to evaluate and pursue the skill competencies they will rely on in the workforce. A meaningful education creates a platform for lifelong learning, but aside from degrees and certificates, there are few ways to show others our current skills and how we may have “retooled” for the next career.
The Lab is looking at how to build badging tools and systems that can be part of a university degree. We’re working closely with George Mason University, leaders in badging technology and systems, and other organizations working on badging issues. Karen Hold and Michelle Batt, the Challenge Leads bring strengths in experience design and systems thinking to a challenge where our early work has suggested that learner engagement, credibility and systems interaction are critical.

Design Challenge Kickoff Session

Educators, Innovators and Assessment Providers at GMU

Kathleen deLaski discussing the Design Challenge

Challenge Leads: Karen Hold & Michelle Batt

Prototpye Night at Capital E-xchange

Design Challenge Outcomes

  • George Mason University becomes the first university Career Services Office in the U.S. to pilot 21st century skill assessments as a student-centered effort.
  • 21st Century Skills assessment partners identified.
  • Created opportunity for students to claim enhanced workforce readiness by earning badge.

Credentialing Non-Cognitive Skills

There is a lot of debate about workplace readiness and equipping students with the “success” skills that many argue are just as important as traditional subject matter expertise in today’s knowledge economy. When surveyed nationally, employers report that graduating college students need more significant preparation in 21st century skills—creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication, as well as ethics, self-advocacy, initiative and project management.

George Mason University has asked the Lab to facilitate efforts to build a “second axis” of workforce-ready credentials for its students, in collaboration with employers, students, faculty and assessment experts. This design challenge seeks to understand whether students will see value in developing these skills, how employers will value them in the hiring process, and how they might be measured and displayed credibly in a transcript, resume and portfolio.

Breaking Down this Huge Area of Inquiry

As we got into this challenge, it became clear that we would have to bite it off in pieces as this work is all new. The three categories of inquiry will hopefully become three separate design challenges, each building on the previous. The broad areas are:

  1. workforce readiness skills assessment
  2. creation of intentional training and curriculum opportunities to increase students’ competency levels during their college years
  3. badging to display those skills credibly to employers

We are just wrapping up Phase I of the challenge, having identified a pilot partner to launch the first university pilot this spring to award badges to students who demonstrate proficiency in critical thinking and communication, in collaboration with a nationally recognized assessment provider and several national employers.

Design Partners

  • George Mason University Provost Office, University Life and the Career Services Center
  • Through a research process and design day involving 6 assessment providers, we identified the Council for Aid to Education as the best fit for Phase 1 of the project, using its CLA Plus assessment tool for a pilot
  • Brazen Careerist, a virtual employer platform

This effort includes student-created gamification prototypes in conjunction with the nationally-recognized Computer Game Design Program at George Mason University to test student engagement strategies, as well as skills training delivery.

Early Mapping of our Work

We recognize that there remains a significant amount of work to do in each phase. We map our first steps below. Of the workforce readiness skills that employers have identified (see Hart Study, 2013), CLA Plus gets at 40% of them, mostly critical thinking and written communication. Our research revealed that no proven tests exist yet for the other highest demand skills, such as collaboration, oral communication, creativity.

Phase I: Find assessment partners ~ CAE /Brazen Careerist pilot

Phase II: Skill building curriculum ~ Development Workshop

Phase III: Employer Engagement Badging