Giving Compass' Take:

• Project Lead the Way is a K-12 STEM curriculum that created an assessment for high school students that requires collaborative problem-solving skills to find the correct answers.  

• If this test can successfully help students solve problems in innovative ways, how will this change the future of education?

• Learn more about how the pandemic widened the gap in STEM education. 

At the end of next school year, thousands of high school students will sit down at individual workstations, laptops in hand, for an end-of-course exam. But in a rather novel twist this one’s not just about what you know—but also what you can figure out.

That’s the idea at least behind the latest summative assessments from Project Lead the Way, a project-based STEM curriculum, which is introducing new tech-based question types to measure a raft of noncognitive skills from collaboration to general problem solving (in addition to subject-specific questions about engineering or coding concepts).

Project Lead the Way, or PLTW as it’s known for short, is a K-12 STEM curriculum that’s big on hands-on learning and having groups of students co-design solutions to science and engineering problems. Challenges might include designing apparel for extreme climates or improving water recycling during a drought.

Testing for such skills relies heavily on technology and required a significant retooling. Yet questions remain about whether any individual test (especially one that has long relied on multiple choice) can truly measure collaboration and problem solving—skills that typically involve heavy doses of human interaction and teamwork.

When building the new tests, PLTW gathered panels of industry experts, educators and psychometricians, or scientists who study how to make tests fair. Their goal? To infuse both real-world scenarios and academic standards into the new exams, as well as topics like leadership that college admissions reps would care about.

Barring actual student-to-student interaction, a better way to gauge soft skills is to simulate collaboration as closely as possible. In 2015, for the first time the PISA exam—given to 15-year-olds around the world—sought to measure individual and collaborative problem-solving.

Read the full article about collaborative tests by Stephen Noonoo at EdSurge