Problem solving in technology-rich environments (PS-TRE) is an innovative addition to adult literacy and large-scale assessments. In the PIAAC PS-TRE framework, PS-TRE is defined as:
"using digital technology, communication tools, and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others, and perform practical tasks."
PS-TRE measures skills and abilities that are required for solving problems while operating in a technology-rich environment. Specifically, it assesses the cognitive processes of problem solving—goal setting, planning, selecting, evaluating, organizing, and communicating results. The environment in which PS-TRE assesses these processes is meant to reflect the reality that digital technology has revolutionized access to information and communication capabilities over the past decades.
In particular, the Internet has immensely increased instantaneous access to large amounts of information in multiple formats and has expanded capabilities of instant voice, text, visual, and graphic communications across the globe. In order to effectively operate in this environment, it is necessary to have mastery of foundational computer (ICT) skills, including (a) skills associated with manipulating input and output devices (e.g., the mouse, keyboard, and digital displays), (b) awareness of concepts and knowledge of how the environment is structured (e.g., files, folders, scrollbars, hyperlinks, and different types of menus or buttons), and (c) the ability to interact effectively with digital information (e.g., how to use commands such as save, delete, open, close, move, highlight, submit, and send). Such interaction involves familiarity with electronic texts, images, graphics and numerical data, as well as the ability to locate, evaluate, and critically judge the validity, accuracy, and appropriateness of accessed information. These skills constitute the core aspects of the PIAAC PS-TRE assessment.
Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments items present tasks of varying difficulty to be performed in simulated software applications using commands and functions commonly found in the technology environments of email, web pages, and spreadsheets. These tasks range from purchasing particular goods or services online and finding interactive health information to managing personal information and business finances. For descriptions of Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments tasks that are associated with PIAAC scores and achievement levels, click here.
PIAAC recognizes the diversity of digital technologies and the fact that they are evolving at a rapid pace, but due to implementation constraints the first round of PIAAC will be limited to using computers and computer networks. The Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments assessment will only be computer-administered.