Assessment of Task Persistence

Assessment of Task Persistence

Kristen E. DiCerbo (Pearson, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9441-5.ch030
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Task persistence is defined as the continuation of activity in the face of difficulty, obstacles, and/or failure. It has been linked to educational achievement, educational attainment, and occupation outcomes. A number of different psychological approaches attempt to explain individual and situational differences in persistence and there is mounting evidence that interventions can be implemented to increase persistence. New technological capabilities offer the opportunity to seamlessly gather evidence about persistence from individuals' interactions in digital environments. Two examples of assessment of persistence in digital games are presented. Both demonstrate the ability to gather information without interruption of activity and the use of in-game actions as evidence. They also both require consideration of the student/player model, task model, and evidence models. A design pattern outlining each of these elements is presented for use by those considering assessment of persistence in digital environments.
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Task persistence is most simply defined as continuing with a task despite obstacles, difficulty, and/or failure. In the cognitive literature, persistence is generally classified as an element of executive function and thought to be related to self-regulated attention and response inhibition (Schmeichel, 2007). In the temperament literature, persistence is viewed as a biologically-based tendency to persevere in conditions of partially reinforced behavior, resisting extinction (Cloninger, Svrakic, & Przybeck, 1993). In personality literature, it is described as an aspect of conscientiousness (Shute & Ventura, 2013), related to but not identical to grit (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007). In the motivation literature, persistence is related to mastery goals and a growth mindset in which failure is viewed as an opportunity to learn, rather than evidence of personal shortcomings (Dweck, 2006).

It could be argued that persistence in not a “new” skill in the 21st century workplace, given that there was a historical review of the literature on measurement of persistence written in 1939 (Ryans, 1939). However, it is often enumerated in lists and discussions of 21st century skills and attributes (Fadel, 2011; Pellegrino & Hilton, 2012), because jobs in the 21st century are increasingly complex, requiring sustained application of effort to complete multifaceted tasks (Andersson & Bergman, 2011).

Task persistence is of particular interest and importance because it has been shown to be predictive of many academic and employment outcomes, including adult educational attainment, income, and occupational level (Andersson & Bergman, 2011). The relationship between persistence and academic achievement has been repeatedly documented (Boe, May, & Boruch, 2002; Deater-Deckard, Petrill, Thompson, & DeThorne, 2005; McClelland, Acock, Piccinin, Rhea, & Stallings, 2013). It is hypothesized that willingness and ability to persist or persevere increases an individual’s opportunities to learn from the environment (Sigman, Cohen, Beckwith, & Topinka, 1987).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Variable Features: The elements of an assessment task that can be changed to change the way the target construct is expressed in an activity.

Task Persistence: Continuation of an activity in the face of difficulty, obstacles, and/or failure.

Task Model: The specification of activities that will elicit behaviors and evidence that will provide information about the construct of interest.

Invisible Assessment: The gathering of evidence from learner interactions in digital environments without interrupting their activity. Note that the activity is “invisible” but the learner can certainly be aware that they will be scored on and receive feedback from their activity.

Characteristic Features: The elements of an assessment activity that are required in order to assess the construct of interest.

Evidence-Centered Design: A framework for explicitly delineating an assessment argument, or the linking of claims to evidence to make a desired inference.

Student Model: The definition of the knowledge, skills, or other attributes that are the focus of assessment. This may include defining relationships among skills, subskills, and prerequisite skills.

Evidence Model: The specification of which elements of a work product will be extracted as evidence of a construct and how they will be combined.

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