University of Melbourne Magazine

A testing revolution

  • Innovation

    When three of the world’s biggest high-tech companies expressed alarm in 2008 that university graduates lacked the 21st century skills needed in the digital age, it triggered a revolution now affecting higher education and schools across the globe.

    A testing revolution

    Cisco, Intel and Microsoft backed their concerns with support for a multi-million-dollar global project led by Melbourne academics to develop ways of identifying and then teaching and assessing those skills.

    Almost a decade on, Professor Patrick Griffin (BSc 1968, MEd 1976) and Professor Esther Care (BA 1973, BEd 1976, PhD 1987, GCertUniTeach 2005) head an international team that has shown how the skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and collaboration can be combined into a single complex set under the title Collaborative Problem Solving.

    “In 2015, the PISA program run by the OECD tested collaborative problem solving among students in 53 countries – a direct result of the work we’ve done,” Griffin says. “We’re also talking to UNESCO about leading the charge towards identifying the competencies that will be required in the future but that will require massive shifts in the school curriculum.”

    Last year, Eltham High School teachers took part in a trial with their year 7 students. The trial is being repeated this year at Eltham and other schools. It involves pairs of students working online with laptops to solve a problem, but each partner sees different information on the screens so they need to collaborate using online chat to share information.

    The students’ actions and communications are captured by the computer whose program has been designed to assess their collaborative behaviour and cognitive skills. Teachers receive instant reports that identify the students’ ability to solve problems collaboratively, as well as other activities that may build their skills. These programs are being used in Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, the Netherlands, Singapore and the United States.