What do the PIAAC results suggest?

A post by Jill Castek

In light of the PIAAC data being released last month (PIAAC stands for Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) I’ve been thinking a lot about opportunities for school-based and life-long learning.  This post focuses on what PIAAC is and reasons why might be interested in further exploring these data, and what they might suggest about the integration of technology into teaching and learning opportunities.

What is PIAAC? 

PIAAC is a survey coordinated internationally by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It assesses key cognitive and workplace skills and measures competencies needed by adults in the 21st century, including literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments.

PIAAC was designed to better understand the skills of the adult working-age population (ages 16-65) both nationally and internationally. It provides  international comparison of the adult workforce that will enable the United States to better understand its global competitiveness and benchmark how well education and training systems are meeting emerging skill demands. With these data, researchers can examine and analyze what conditions and factors impact skills growth, maintenance, or loss over a working-age life cycle.

Twenty-four participating countries and regions, including the United States, assessed adults in 2011–2012.  Data from this survey were released in October 2013. Nine countries will administer an additional round of PIAAC in 2014.

What do the PIAAC data show? 

There are a number of interesting and possibly surprising results brought to light by the PIAAC data.  To examine some of these patterns, check out the publications put together by the OECD available at http://www.oecd.org/site/piaac/publications.htm

In perusing these data, I learned that only between 2.9% and 8.8% of adults demonstrate the highest level of proficiency on the problem‑solving in technology‑rich environments.  Given the prevalence of technology in our world, and the proliferation of technology in our lives, I would have expected a much higher level of proficiency for the wider population.  This suggests to me that not only do we need to integrate technology more systematically into K-12 education, but that we also need to offer multiple opportunities for skill development across the lifespan.  Not doing so puts our learners at a disadvantage for college and career readiness and limits their participating in our digitally-centered world.

Education and Skills Online 

The developers of the PIAAC assessment have designed a suite of assessment tools that can be used by researchers within their own studies for a fee.  This assessment is called Education and Skills Online (E&S Online).  It is designed to provide individual level results that are linked to the PIAAC measures of literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology rich environments.  These valid and reliable assessment tools are a computerized measure that assesses a set of cognitive and non-cognitive skills that individuals need for full participation in modern societies. The suite of tools incorporates flexibility and adaptability to provide reliable and valid measures of critical skills associated with work, home, and community. The skills and knowledge measured include being able to understand and use printed and electronic texts, reason with numbers, and solve problems in technology environments.  If you’re a researcher working with technology, using such a measure of learning to determine the skill level of your learners (and benchmarking them to national norms) may offer you new and valuable insights.  It might also inspire you to provide more opportunities to guide learners in their use of technology.

There is a great deal to explore with the PIAAC data in terms of national and international trends.  A quick Google search for PIAAC will offer you a variety of resources to explore.  I look forward to your reflections and ideas.  Comments are encouraged and welcomed!

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