Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills

The University of Melbourne

Did you miss the course when it ran in 2014? Now you can join up for the next offering. Learn about ways to assess and teach new and emerging 21st century skills: we cover the nature of these skills, methods of assessment, interpretation and reporting of assessments, and their implications for teaching.

Education and work are changing as a result of technology and its influence in the workplace. We now have new ways of working, new tools for working, new ways of living and even new ways of thinking as a result of the influence of technology on life, work and leisure.

In the workplace, more workers are needed in multi-tasking, information and communications-based employment. Entrants to workplaces need skills to function effectively in this environment that have not traditionally been taught in our schools and universities. In this course, we identify some of these complex skills, and select one to examine in detail - collaborative problem solving - that combines both cognitive and social aspects and requires the ability to use and build knowledge. It is widely regarded by industry as one of the skills lacking in young people and graduates as they struggle to secure stable employment. In some countries the unemployment rates of graduates exceeds 50%. The new skills - often erroneously called soft skills - are not being developed in schools or universities and in many cases when they are, there is uncertainty regarding how to assess and teach them.

In times of great change, when uncertainties dominate thinking about education and work, the result is often a paralysis in education and a reversion to rudimentary approaches to assessment that fail to inform directed learning and teaching. In this course we will focus on the nature of 21st century skills and their assessment, with a link to teaching styles and approaches suitable for a classroom in the 21st century.

Announcement for US based teachers:

Coursera and its partners are proud to offer eligible teachers in the United States free Verified Certificates for this course and other high-quality teacher professional development courses, through the ConnectED effort announced by President Obama.

To participate in this opportunity, U.S. district leaders should approve Coursera MOOCs as teacher professional development by completing a brief form at:

U.S. teachers who are interested in this opportunity are also encouraged to follow the link to learn more and complete the form.

Once a district’s form has been verified, the district leader will be notified and teachers in the district will receive access to free verified certificates for Coursera professional development.

Coursera and The University of Melbourne thank educators for the hard work they do every day and hope this opportunity will assist US teachers to continue developing their craft in a meaningful and flexible way.

Course hours:

This course requires 30 hours to complete.


During the course you will have opportunities to:

  • Review the origins of the current interest in 21st century skills in education, in particular the technological and social changes which demand changes in the skills students need to prosper in the modern world.
  • Delve into what precisely is meant by the term ‘21st century skills’ and review some 21st century skills frameworks.
  • Examine in detail several of these ‘21 century skills’, not as abstract concepts, but as concrete learning progressions suitable for adaptation by teachers.
  • Investigate innovative new thinking and practical tools for assessment and teaching that arise from using a developmental approach to learning. 
  • Explore, in the company of other professionals from all over the world, the practicalities of teaching and assessing these 21st century skills in the subjects, specialties or levels of education of particular interest to you.

Here are a handful of comments from participants in 2014 which indicate some what they got out of the course.

Teacher, USA: I know the world is changing around me at a rapid pace. I strive to stay up-to-date so that I can help my students be prepared for the world they will live and grow in, to be the best they can be. This course was perfect. It helped me see what lies ahead.

Deputy Principal, Australia: Though I did this course in physical isolation, for future University of Melbourne MOOCs, I would be inviting other staff members to join together to watch video lectures and discuss, utilising them as school professional development.

Principal, Italy: I found this course very challenging and much more meaningful to me than I ever dreamt of when I enrolled. I feel much more confident now in coping with teaching and assessing 21st century skills and I hope I'll be able to lead better my teachers towards a brand new way of teaching and managing the school system.

Teacher, Philippines: I've realized that 21st century education can also be achieved even in a far-flung school… I started to apply this with my lessons. I started to design activities where learners will be actively involved and each of them will be contributing in coming up with the solution of a certain problem. And my learners found the activities fascinating, challenging and enjoyable…

Leading teacher: It was great to be able to delve into this course and some of the background reading ...  I feel that the course really helped me engage with current research on learning and the future of education. I felt it was a good balance of theory and practical work presented in an easy to learn style even if the concepts were difficult to grasp. The videos of the students using the digital tools for CPS were invaluable …

Career and Technical Education Coordinator: This course has been both eye opening and life changing for me... I am taking away…a new perspective on what is happening in the world. I am acutely aware of the need to be proactive in preparing students for their role in the global community.

Teacher, Australia: I have already recommended it to other teachers.

University teacher: I didn’t expect this MOOC to help me with my teaching strategies, and it did. I have used this information with my students and both assignments I’ve used in my classroom. It was a great non-expected outcome.

Teacher, United Arab Emirates: I was able to develop a skill tracker using the progression strands. I was able to write diagnostic remarks for the students in order to write in their reports.

Teacher: Professionally it has allowed three of the teachers at our school to connect and work on the course together.

Recommended Background

No background knowledge or skills are required, though we recommend an interest in teaching and learning in schools, curiosity about the future of schooling, and willingness to try out new things.

Suggested Readings

The case for 21st-century learning, Andreas Schleicher, OECD Education Directorate, 

Course Format

This course will run for 6 weeks. Each week, participants will be able to watch short videos, undertake further reading, participate in discussion forums and other social media activities and work on suggested professional activities relating to teaching and assessing 21st century skills. There will be weekly reviews and assessments, including self and peer-assessed assignments.


What resources will I need?
An internet connection is necessary. There are no prescribed texts for the course - materials will be linked to each session as appropriate.

Will I get a certificate after completing this course?
A Certificate of Accomplishment is provided for participants who successfully complete course requirements. Verified Certificates are available through the Signature Track option. Eligible students may be able to apply for the Coursera Financial Aid program, and US teachers may be eligible to  apply for a free Verified Certificate under the ConnectEd Program, as outline in the About the Course section above.

Are US teachers able to obtain free Verified Certificates through the ConnectEd initiative announced by President Obama?

Yes. See the About the Course section  above for details about how to benefit from this program. 

Do I earn University of Melbourne credits upon completion of this class?
No. The Verified Certificate is not part of a formal qualification from the University. However, it may be useful to demonstrate prior learning and interest in your subject to a higher education institution or potential employer.

Do I need teaching experience?
No teaching experience is necessary. An interest in and concern for schooling is all that is needed. We anticipate that practising teachers will find this class rewarding.

Do I have to log in to participate at specific times?
No, you are able to log in and participate when convenient to you. Course materials are released sequentially. You can complete activities each week when convenient. Quizzes and assignments have specific due dates and times so you will need to comply with these if you wish to pass the course. The course is scheduled for the 6 week period as this means that a large number of students will be completing the course at one time which leads to richer interaction between students.

What computer equipment or browser do I need?
We recommend you have a look at the Coursera technical specifications and check your compatibility. If you have any technical issues, such as being unable to access the ‘Join this course’ link, then please see this site in the first instance.

  • 20 April 2015, 6 weeks
  • 30 June 2014, 5 weeks
Course properties:
  • Free:
  • Paid:
  • Certificate:
  • MOOC:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Email-course:
  • Language: English Gb


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