ACT Holistic Framework

ACT Holistic Framework of Education and Work Readiness

The ACT Holistic Framework of Education and Work Readiness is a holistic model of education and work readiness developed by ACT, Inc., the non-profit behind the ACT college admissions test. The framework is multidimensional, including both traditional academic predictors of college and career readiness as well as broader non-cognitive behaviors and skills. It is focused on the skills required for academic and workplace success and designed to articulate what students need to know and be able to do at various points in their lives, from kindergarten through their careers.

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ACT Holistic Frameworkcore academic skillscross-cutting capabilitiesbehavioral skillseducation and career…english language artsmathematicssciencecollaborative problem…studying and learningtechnology and information…thinking and metacognitionacting honestlykeeping an open mindmaintaining composuresocializing with othersgetting along with otherssustaining effortself-knowledgeenvironmental factorsintegrationmanaging career and…genuinenessfairnessmodestycreativitycuriosityflexibilityaccepting differencesstress toleranceself-confidenceassertivenessoptimismsociabilitycooperationperspective takinggoodwillhelpfulnesspatiencedependabilityorderpersistencerule consciousnessgoal strivingself-controlawarenesspersonal attributesattitudesexpectationsself-efficacieseducation and work…supportsbarriersexperienceidentity formationexplorationgoalscareer and education…congruence (fit)action planningrelational behaviorsrolessearch behaviorsimplementationlifelong learning

Breakdown by Domain

Domain Key


Key Features

Context & Culture

  • The education and career navigation domain is designed to reflect the importance of environmental factors (e.g., supports, barriers, access to experiences and knowledge, etc.) that facilitate or impede progress toward education or career goals

Developmental Perspective

  • For the behavior skills domain:
    • Offers developmentally appropriate behavioral indicators across developmental periods: elementary school, middle school, high school, college, and workforce
    • Summarizes research on the developmental antecedents of adolescent and adult behavioral skills that emerge in early childhood and elementary school
  • For the education and career navigation domain:
    • Offers developmentally appropriate behavioral indicators across 10 developmental/transitional periods: grades K-5, grades 6-8, grades 9-10, grades 11-12, postsecondary entry/re-entry, postsecondary growth and refocus, postsecondary graduation, workforce entry/re-entry, workforce progression and shift, and workforce unemployment
  • For the academic and cross-cutting capabilities domains:
    • Skills are frequently grouped into levels that reflect the progression in which they are typically learned

Associated Outcomes

  • Describes how each domain is linked to life outcomes such as academic and job performance, graduation, ability to cope with adversity and stress, employment, and income

Available Resources

Support Materials

  • Online Framework Explorer that enables people to view and provide input on the skills included in the framework
  • Overview materials such as summaries, handouts, skill lists, infographics, and videos
  • Reports that describe the content and importance of specific domains in more detail
  • Research and policy briefs that highlight the importance of behavior and education/career navigation skills and make recommendations for how to develop and assess them
  • Informational webinars designed for K-12 education, post-secondary education, and workforce development
  • Assessments that include score reports with personalized feedback designed to help students connect their interests to majors and occupations

Programs & Strategies

  • Offers a computerized college and career planning tool (ACT Profile) that helps students learn about their career interests, abilities, and work values in order to explore potential careers, majors, and schools
  • The ACT WorkKey and KeyTrain Curricula help students acquire cognitive and non-cognitive skills for learning, personal development, and effective job performance

Measurement Tools

  • Provides recommendations for including measures of behavioral skills in accountability systems and using ACT performance indicators to measure behavioral skills
  • Tools for assessing core academic skills and/or cross-cutting capabilities:
    • The ACT, an achievement test for grades 11-12 that covers English, math, reading, and science
    • ACT Plan, a diagnostic version of the ACT for grade 10
    • ACT Explore, a diagnostic version of the ACT for grades 8-9
    • ACT Aspire, a longitudinal assessment that measures and tracks academic progress in math, science, and ELA for grades 3-10
    • ACT WorkKeys, assessments of real-world academic skills needed for job success
  • Tools for assessing behavioral skills:
    • ACT Engage, a diagnostic test that measures student motivation, social engagement, and self-regulation with separate versions for grades 6-9, grades 10-12, and college
    • ACT WorkKeys Talent, an assessment that measures behaviors and attitudes related to workplace outcomes and job performance
    • ACT Tessera, an assessment of student social and emotional learning
  • Tools for assessing education and career navigation skills:
    • ACT Interest Inventory, a supplement to the ACT test that assesses student skills and interests related to college majors and careers
    • Additional values and abilities inventories that assess work-related values and self-rated skills, respectively, to provide possible career options for exploration
    • ACT WorkKeys Fit, a tool that measures fit of interests and values with specific careers

Key Publications

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