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Assessing skills for 21st century learners

ACER-accredited short courses

Course description

There is increasing emphasis on the teaching and assessing of general skills or capabilities, but this is still a challenging task. Skills such as critical thinking, creative thinking, and collaboration can be difficult to identify and meaningfully integrate within teachers’ existing discipline-based curriculum and pedagogy, and even harder to assess developmentally and authentically.

This course will introduce participants to the key elements of ACER’s framework for integrating and assessing skills into the classroom. This includes:

  • Understand the theoretical background of the ACER general capabilities assessment framework, and the research evidence that underpins it
  • Explore and analyse detailed definitions of collaboration, critical thinking and creative thinking for the purpose of assessment
  • Understand the benefits of using problem-based learning as a vehicle for assessing the skills in the classroom
  • Analyse examples of student data and how these can be interpreted in reference to levels of proficiency.

Participants will take part in a guided series of activities to produce a draft assessment of collaboration, critical thinking and creative thinking using a problem-based learning approach. Participants will apply ACER’s capability definitions, and adapt ACER’s assessment framework, to produce an assessment module for their own year levels and/or subject area.

Course format

This ACER-accredited online course is equivalent to 10 hours of professional development. It is fully facilitated.

Course duration:  10 hours over 4 weeks.

ACER-accredited online courses provide a highly interactive experience supported by two experienced facilitators.  The course design encourages interaction and collaboration in conjunction with appropriate and effective pedagogies.  The online facilitators in your course will promote interaction and communication among participants through building and conveying knowledge and modelling relevant skills.

Recommended prior learning

This foundation course has no recommended prior learning.

Intended learning outcomes

Participants will be able to:

  • describe the conceptual underpinnings of ACER’s framework for assessing skills
  • apply knowledge about the framework through a guided process to produce a draft of a possible problem-based assessment of critical thinking, creative thinking, and collaboration
  • analyse student response data to infer proficiency in the skills and consider implications for teaching.

AITSL Professional Standards for Teachers

This course focuses on Professional Standard 5 at the Graduate, Proficient, Highly Accomplished and Lead levels.

This course focuses on Professional Standard 5: Assess, provide feedback and report on student learning, particularly Professional Standard 5.4. Interpret student data.

This course is targeted to the teaching levels indicated in the table below.

Graduate appropriate for this level Proficient appropriate for this level Highly accomplished appropriate for this level Lead appropriate for this level

Demonstrate understanding of assessment strategies, including informal and formal, diagnostic, formative and summative approaches to assessing student learning.

Use student assessment data to analyse and evaluate student understanding of subject/content, identifying interventions and modifying teaching practice.

Work with colleagues to use data from internal and external student assessments for evaluating learning and teaching, identifying interventions and modifying teaching practice.

Coordinate student performance and program evaluation using internal and external student assessment data to improve teaching practice.

Course outline

The course is delivered online and contains a number of interactive modules participants work through, consisting of examples and activities to build skills and knowledge.

Week 1

Module 1: Introduction to skills for the 21st century learner

This module provides the background to ACER’s development of an assessment of general capabilities, recently used to assess students’ critical thinking, creative thinking and collaboration at grade 5 and grade 8, via a problem-based learning process. It ends with a consideration of how – and if – it is possible to define and assess such skills.

Module 2: Defining the skills

This module introduces participants to ACER’s detailed descriptions of critical thinking, creative thinking, and collaboration. Participants will connect, extend, and challenge their own understandings of these skills and how they are demonstrated in the classroom. Participants will also have the opportunity to engage with facilitators and other participants in a live stream discussion.

Week 2

Module 3: What do these skills look like in your classroom?

Having been presented with the definitions of the three skills in Module 2, Module 3 prompts participants to think about how these skills manifest in their own particular subject area, or the year level they teach, and to share these ideas with each other via the Moodle space.

Module 4: Developing a problem-based learning context

This module begins the process of adapting ACER’s skill definitions and assessment framework to a curriculum area and topic of your choice. Participants will be shown the process ACER used to develop a problem-based learning (PBL) model for the assessment of critical thinking, creative thinking and collaboration, and guided to follow this process to convert an existing curriculum topic into a PBL unit ready for assessment.

Week 3

Modules 5 and 6: Example assessment tasks

In this module, example assessment tasks from ACER’s general capabilities assessment will be presented for each of the three skills – critical thinking, creative thinking and collaboration. Participants will see how the tasks assess particular aspects of each skill, look at real student response data for each task and understand the process ACER used to score student responses. After each example, participants are asked to consider how they might similarly assess students in their own PBL unit of work they are devising.

Week 4

Module 7: Assessing and progressing

This module is designed to explain the relationship between three different continua often used in assessment of student learning: assessment rubrics, test scales and learning progressions. Participants will be shown this relationship via assessment data from ACER’s general capabilities assessment.

Module 8: Major learning assurance task

This module is primarily focused on ensuring participants understand the requirements of the second learning assurance task: the submission of an outline of the PBL unit they have been developing over previous sessions. Details of the task will be provided on the Moodle, and the opportunity for a live stream chat will be provided to answer any queries.

Learning assurance tasks

Task 1: What do the skills look like in your classroom?

Task 2: An outline of a PBL unit and skill assessments within your curriculum.

On successful completion of this course, participants will receive an ACER certificate of achievement. Equivalent to 10 hours of professional development.

Resources:  All resources are included in the course.

Cost:  $490.00 (including GST)

Australian College of Educators members please contact to register.

For further information please contact the lead facilitator Claire Scoular