PISA to Measure the Power of Collaboration in Education

Every 3 years, OECD’s the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducts a survey of 15-year olds from around the world to test their skills and academic knowledge. At the end of October, PISA released the latest “PISA in Focus”. In the publication, they discuss how PISA 2015 used a computer program to measure students’ ability to collaborate with their peers. As the document explains: “...in today’s increasingly interconnected world, people are often required to collaborate in order to achieve their goals, both in the workplace and in their personal lives.”

In 2015, for the Global Education & Skills Forum, International Consultancy The Education Partners' CEO Denise Gallucci interviewed Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education & Skills, OECD. He explained PISA 2015’s goal to build an assessment “...encompassing a broader range of knowledge skills, competences, and ideas.” 

In PISA’s released field trial cognitive items, they define the four “processes” that are key to problem solving: gathering information, representing the problem through graphs or symbols, developing a strategy, and testing that strategy. In 2015, they added three more assessments in order to determine one’s capacity for “collaborative problem solving”: establishing a shared understanding, determining individual members’ steps, and maintaining group organization. Based on these qualifications, PISA developed a few longform scenarios in which students problem-solve with three computer-generated students, or “agents.” One scenario is deciding where to go for a class field trip while hosting several international students. The student is then judged on how they solve the problem as well as how they interact with the agents.  

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there has been a growing interest in the positive effects of collaboration on school-work and everyday life. Without this skillset, students are not properly prepared to enter the workforce. As NCES explains: “The changing global economic and societal realities, as well as the rapid technological transformations, are…reprioritizing the skills that employees and citizens must have in order to succeed.” NCES’s research indicates that there has been a “dramatic increase in demand for non-routine interpersonal and analytic skills and the corresponding decrease in demand for routine manual and cognitive skills.”  

As the workforce continues to evolve, it follows that school systems world wide should evolve as well. PISA’s focus on collaborative problem solving is a sign schools should focus on this concept as well. Strengthening these characteristics could not only foster teamwork but also help students become stronger leaders in the future.