Many 21st century challenges are highly complex, contested, and time-sensitive. To address them, democratic societies need citizens whose mental models and reasoning skills make it possible for them to (1) appreciate the complexity of these challenges, (2) take into account both short and long-term implications, (3) envision tradeoffs among personal, local, and global interests, and (4) thrive in rapidly changing environments. Unfortunately, our current educational system falls short of supporting the optimal development of these capabilities [1,9] and recent efforts to improve the system through accountability testing have not succeeded . Lectica has developed a solution that leverages a new educational technology to foster systemic change . Lectica’s lever—the DiscoTest Initiative—will catalyze the widespread adoption of educational practices that provide optimal support for the development of effective and successful 21st century citizens .
The purpose of the DiscoTest Initiative is to prepare K-12 students for the 21st century by taking formative assessment  to scale:
We do this by building and delivering online learning tools called DiscoTests, each of which gently nudges students and teachers toward more optimal ways of learning and teaching.
DiscoTests will address many of the “big ideas” captured in state and national standards, including math, the sciences, social studies, literature, and the arts.
Our current educational system, as a whole, falls short of supporting the optimal development of essential 21st century capabilities .
Our solution is an innovative technology that builds unprecedented knowledge about the development of skils and knowledge while delivering powerful learning tools called DiscoTests.
We’re confident that there is more to come.
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Dawson, T. L., & Stein, Z. (2004). National Leadership Study results. Hatfield, MA: Developmental Testing Service, Inc.
Dawson, T. L. (2009). Task demands and capabilities (the complexity gap), Lectica FAQ.
Hutchins, Giles, Phoenix Rising… The time has come. The Nature of Business.
FairTest; Mulholland, Quinn (2015). The case against standardized testing. Harvard Political Review, May 14.
For examples, see the Donella Meadows Institute and Archive, her important article, Leverage points: places to intervene in a system, and the numerous publications on this issue that have emerged out of MIT.
Dawson, T L., Stein, Zachary (2011). Virtuous cycles of learning: Redesigning testing during the digital revolution. Originally presented at the Ettore Majorana Center for Scientific Culture, Erice (Sicily), Italy, International School on Mind, Brain, and Education.
NCTE Executive Committee (2013). NCTE position statement: Formative assessment that truly informs instruction, October 13.
Dawson, T. L. (2016). A new kind of report card.
Schwartz, M. (2014) Khan academy: The illusion of understanding: Journal of Asynchronous Learning Network. 17, 4, 67-80.
Schwartz, M. S., Sadler, P. M., Sonnert, G. & Tai, R. H. (2009). Depth versus breadth: How content coverage in high school science courses relates to later success in college science coursework. Science Education, 93, 5, 798-826.
Dawson, T. L. (2016). What do we mean by embodied learning?
Kontra, C., Goldin-Meadow, S., & Beilock, S. L. (2012). Embodied learning across the lifespan. Topics in Cognitive Science, 4(4), 731–739.
Dawson, T. L. (2016). Are our children learning robustly?
Stein, Z., Dawson, T. L., & Fischer, K. W. (2010). Redesigning testing: Operationalizing the new science of learning. In New science of learning: Computers, cognition and collaboration in education.
Dawson, T. L., & Fischer, K. W. (2006). Implications of assessment for learners. Measurement, 4, 4.
Dawson, T. L. (2016) Educational assessment: A cognitive science approach. Presented to the Mind, Brain, and Education program at the University of Texas at Arlington, April.
Dawson, T. L. (2016). 500 Addicted babies
Berridge, K. C. and Robinson, T. E. (1998). What is the role of dopamine in reward: hedonic impact, reward learning, or incentive salience? Brain Research Reviews, 28, 309–369.
Dawson, T. L. (2016). VCoL+7Learning cycles, Wikipedia
Dawson, T. L. (2016). About Lectical Levels
Dawson-Tunik, T. L. (2004). A good education is: The development of evaluative thought across the life-span. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 130, 4-112.
Dawson, T. L. (2004). Assessing intellectual development: Three approaches, one sequence. Journal of Adult Development, 11, 71-85.
Dawson-Tunik, T. L., Commons, M., Wilson, M., & Fischer, K. (2005). The shape of development. The European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 2, 163-196.Dawson, T. L., & Stein, Z. (2008). Cycles of research and application in education: Learning pathways for energy concepts. Mind, Brain, & Education, 2(2), 90-103.
Each term or phrase in the Lectical Dictionary is—always provisionally—assigned to one of 28 phases on our learning metric. Each DiscoTest that’s taken expands and refines this dictionary. In essence, we’re building a sophisticated developmental taxonomy of meanings. This Lectical Dictionary™ has already taught us a great deal about learning. In fact, it began its life as a way of studying patterns we observed in student performances.
The fact that the Lectical Dictionary is human vetted makes it stand out from other attempts to look at language developmentally at scale. Lexiles®, for example, were created purely computationally. Our iterative systems-informed approach integrates technology, developmental theory, and human expertise. We believe this is why we have achieved a practical and fully scalable solution to electronic essay scoring ahead of our much better funded “competitors.”
Based on formal and informal polling of teachers, including our Teacher Advisory Board, we believe that teachers are likely to adopt new tools if they:
With these factors in mind, we have asked teachers what DiscoTest features are most important. Their answers: (a) there should be several available in each subject area; (b) they should focus on “core concepts”, particularly those that are difficult to teach; (c) they should be easier to use than their existing assessments; and (d) they should be associated with truly useful learning resources.
Dawson, T. L (2016). Leader decisions series
Fuhs, C. J. (2015). A latent growth analysis of hierarchical complexity and perspectival skills in adulthood.Santa Barbara, CA, Fielding Graduate University.
Heikkinen, K. M. (2014). The Development of Social Perspective Coordination Skills in Grades 3-12. Graduate School of Education. Cambridge, MA, Harvard. Ph.D.: 208.
Stein, Z. (2014). Tipping the scales: Social justice and educational measurement. Harvard Graduate School of Education. Cambridge, MA, Harvard. Ed.D.: 288.
Van Rossum, Z. (2013). The development of social perspective taking and leadership decision-making in city government managers. Teachers College. New York, Columbia University. Ed.D.: 285.