By now it’s a commonplace observation that academic success alone isn’t generally adequate to ensure success in college and career. Without minimizing the importance of academic skills, it’s also important to recognize that personality traits like intrinsic motivation, persistence, resilience, and curiosity play a huge role in how far students ultimately advance. Yet, because academic skills are relatively easy to test for, that’s what schools keep measuring—and thus what society seems to keep valuing, potentially depriving students of meaningful growth and learning opportunities.
McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin uses his Research Matters column in ASCD’s February 2018 Educational Leadership magazine to advocate for expanding student assessments to develop a fuller understanding of the causes of success. Persistence may lead to a good grade in an academic subject, making the grade an indirect measurement of persistence . . . but can persistence itself be measured? If it could, that might help teachers craft education plans that target the needs and capabilities of individual students.
Developing assessments for such factors as curiosity and intrinsic motivation could be “the new frontier of educational measurement,” Goodwin writes—but it seems like we may have to wait a while for the testing industry to warm to the idea. The inclusion of a custom “fifth indicator” in the Every Student Succeeds Act has given states the opportunity to test for “soft skills.” With this opportunity, now might be the right time for districts to begin examining ways to “be curious about how curious their students are,” writes Goodwin, stimulating new wisdom in the classroom—and new successes for students.