The educational system just like any other enterprise, is constantly undergoing transformation to reframe what is taught, how it is learned, and how it is being evaluated in innovative ways that help improve learning. Curriculum development in the 21st century should be designed to be flexible from the early years of learning, to allow learners to do subjects aligned to their talents, interests and career aspirations. Curriculum that groups compulsory subjects for learners has no place in the 21st century. The learners’ point of view when thinking about curriculum design and development, instructional strategies and assessment procedures should always be taken into consideration parallel to the national aspirations and societal needs.
To attain the 21st century skills, both the approach to education and the way teachers and learners view their roles in the learning process should change. It must be acknowledged that every learner is talented but in a different way and that their rate of development differs. Learners should be treated as active agents who come to the class with some prior knowledge and continually engage in learning experiences to synthesize new experiences by integrating new information with what was previously learnt.
Teachers should assume the role of the facilitators as such their arsenal of instructional and assessment strategies needs to be upgraded. Thus the use of more learner-centred pedagogical, assessment, and grading strategies should be adopted. Learners have to be provided with varied learning activities which require them to be creative, apply logical reasoning and critical thinking, as well as collaborate with their peers yet working at their own paces. Assessment strategies in the 21st century have moved from scheduled summative paper-and-pencils classroom tests, with learners working individually to recall facts or responding to pre-formulated problems within the narrow boundaries of individual school subjects. Likewise, traditional forms of assessment like multiple-choice, fill in the blank, and true/false items, which privilege memorization and recall skills that demand only a low level of cognitive effort have no place in the 21st century assessment strategies. Rather, assessment strategies that assess a broader range of skills and abilities or which take into account multiple measures of achievement, and rely on multiple sources of evidence are adopted. These include authentic assessment such as performances, portfolios, projects and practical activities which are implemented formatively intertwined with instruction, to measure higher order thinking skills and complex problem solving abilities.
Authentic assessment has the added advantage of offering learners the opportunity to be involved in self-and peer-assessment which assess a broader range of life skills like self-reflection, collaboration, communication, managing and resolving conflicts, entrepreneurship, leadership, particularly if the assessment strategy was developed in partnership with leaners. They get to know when they will be assessed, how they will be assessed, and what the criteria for assessment is like. Involving learners in the creation of assessment criteria, diagnoses of their strengths and weaknesses, and monitoring their own learning, transfers the locus of instruction from the teacher to learners. One cannot talk of 21st century skills without talking about technology that has transformed our lives in many different ways including the classroom ecology. As the world is becoming increasingly borderless with the demanding usage of internet, the academic spaces are also increasingly becoming less confined to the four walls of a classroom. Learners no longer depend on the teacher as the only source of information. knowledge can be transmitted via the mobile phones, laptops, tablet, personal computers. Educators always emphasise on learning outside the classroom through the usage of internet and ICT where they can easily collaborate and have fun to make their learning more meaningful and relevant.
The use of ICT in learning means assessment should follow suit. Nowadays the uses of internet-based or online-based tests are a common feature in the education system. Some of the famous assessment tools using technology are the computer based assessment, game based assessment, e-portfolios and the online assessment. What’s more appealing is that of the many sorts of assessment software available, the assessments appear in game form so that learners do not even realise they are actually encountering an assessment.
Compared to paper-based assessment formats, online assessment has a greater potential to measure complex learning skills, provide immediate scoring and feedback, decrease the time and cost to input data manually, among others, making the attainment of the 21st century skills more effortlessly.
The Author holds PhD in ‘Assessment & Quality Assurance’ and writes in his personal capacity as a Psychometric Researcher. Contact/WhatsApp: 71713446 or [email protected] or facebook page: Trust Mbako Masole