Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Model of the Moment"

By: Steve Kolowich

AEFIS Response:
Competency-based models in higher education cater to the fast-paced attitudes of many of today’s students to get a degree and get into the workforce, specifically part-time students. However, many criticize this model for its limits in providing students with learning experiences outside of their fields and technical skillsets, going so far as to say that the competency based model “is not a college education.”

How does a competency-based model compare to the implementation of a strong assessment plan with student learning outcomes? The difference is the application of data –in a competency model, students are awarded credit based on successful completion of competency tests after preparing individually without an instructor or structured course – while student learning outcomes performance data is collected in supplement to grades to understand student learning and achievement. The focus is removed from effective student learning in an effort to save customers, students, time and money. Institutional development shifts from curriculum design to test design to ensure that graduates have suitable credentials to obtain a degree. Are these methodologies separate, but equal?

Regular student interaction, whether in person or online, and structured instruction benefit students’ learning and opportunities for collaborative educational experiences. And the collection of assessment data over time benefits both the understanding of students’ development and institutional programmatic development as it relates to workforce professions over time. While competency-based models provide great convenience to part-time or returning students, they do not offer “18-year-old [freshmen] or 20-year-old community college student[s the opportunities] to really do well and get a degree.” And convenience is not the vehicle for a strong education.

Measuring competencies or student learning outcomes in addition to grading traditional assignments demonstrates to students what has been learned over the course of curricula and provides mechanisms for practicing necessary skillsets.
Becky Joyce, AEFIS Team

Monday, May 2, 2011

"I Won’t Mess with Your Course if You Don’t Mess with Mine"

Faculty Focus
By: Maryellen Weimer

AEFIS Response:
Students do not generally select to attend a university to take one specific course. Students, instead, enter a university to obtain a degree. As described in “I Won’t Mess with Your Course if You Don’t Mess with Mine,” faculty often do not recognize the obligations and opportunities to understand their courses in the context of a curriculum. And Gerald Graff provides a reasonable strategy for minimizing such “courseocentricisim,” outcomes based assessment.

By developing course outcomes or objectives, institutions can structure a baseline for the instruction of each of their offered courses. This baseline opens the dialogue among all stakeholders, students, faculty, and administrators, to develop meaningful curricula and plans of study. Additionally, outcomes based assessment provides a platform for:
  • Context of student learning in pre-requisite and curricular courses.
  • Networking with multi-disciplinary instructors to facilitate research activities.
  • Options for students to develop career specific degree programs.
  • Academic freedom, by structuring goals for courses, but not specifying means for instruction.
Outcomes based assessment is a holistic approach to the educational process. It addresses the root of education: effective teaching and learning, by providing a metric to measure students' understanding and application skills.

Our web-based assessment management solution, AEFIS, organizes outcomes as they relate to course sections, courses, programs, departments, units and institutions to automate processes for measuring and reporting on student outcomes performance.
Becky Joyce, AEFIS Team