Competency-based Assessment at New Century College

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Presentation at ePorfolio 2006, Oxford, England, October 12, 2006

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Competency-based Assessment at New Century College

  1. 1. Competency-based Assessment At New Century College: Towards Reflection Within The Responsive Learning Organization Darren Cambridge George Mason University
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Universities as ethical learning organizations </li></ul><ul><li>Competencies in reflective assessment </li></ul><ul><li>Portfolios and competencies at New Century College </li></ul><ul><li>The role of digital space </li></ul>
  3. 3. Flexibility vs. Commitment <ul><li>Dual outcomes of reflective learning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Flexibility and accountability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Integrity </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Being forced to be constantly flexible and mobile in the workplace can make it difficult to craft coherent life narratives, make long term commitments </li></ul>
  4. 4. Lack of integrity in the Learning Organization <ul><li>“ Learning organization” discourse emphasizes flexibility and assumes this also supports integrity, ignoring the tension </li></ul><ul><li>There’s little space for dialog between individual and institutional goals: They’re assumed to be the same </li></ul><ul><li>Universities can provide an alternative model of how organizations and individuals interact </li></ul>
  5. 5. The University as an Ethical Learning Organization <ul><li>Help students discover and document what’s important to them about learning, based on evidence </li></ul><ul><li>Put those individual articulations in conversation with organizational understanding </li></ul><ul><li>Student inputs must have real influence on decision making </li></ul>
  6. 6. A New Role for Competencies <ul><li>Old: Matching performance to a pre-defined set of outcomes </li></ul><ul><li>New: Capture standards all stakeholders value as enacted in practice and examining alignment of alignment of both student and programmatic performance </li></ul>
  7. 7. Competencies in Organizational Learning <ul><li>Old: Articulating expectations to students </li></ul><ul><li>New: Means for mutually accountable connection between individual and organizational learning </li></ul><ul><li>Boundary objects: “Boundary objects are objects that are both plastic enough to adapt to local needs and constraints of the several parties employing them, yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across sites” (Leigh Star 1989) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Reflective Assessment <ul><li>Old: Objectivist/utilitarian vs. subjectivist/intuitionist approaches (Gray 2002) </li></ul><ul><li>New: Reflective assessment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Learning complex and situated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Judgment based in embodied expertise </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Students as authoritative informants about their own learning (Yancey 1998) </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. New Century College <ul><li>Integrative studies college of George Mason University, founded 1994 </li></ul><ul><li>Approximately 800 students within a University of about 30,000 </li></ul><ul><li>Learning community model </li></ul><ul><li>Connecting the classroom to the world: internships, service learning, study abroad, co-curricular activities </li></ul><ul><li>Nine competencies run throughout the curriculum </li></ul>
  10. 10. NCC Competencies <ul><li>Communication </li></ul><ul><li>Critical Thinking </li></ul><ul><li>Strategic Problem Solving </li></ul><ul><li>Valuing </li></ul><ul><li>Group Interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Global Understanding </li></ul><ul><li>Effective Citizenship </li></ul><ul><li>Aesthetic Awareness </li></ul><ul><li>Information Technology </li></ul>
  11. 11. Portfolios at NCC <ul><li>Multiple iterations of electronic portfolios throughout the curriculum </li></ul><ul><ul><li>First-year portfolios </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Course portfolios </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Graduation portfolios </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Common structure using competencies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Integrative section </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sections focusing on selected essays </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Looking forward </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Graduation Portfolio <ul><li>No predefined standard for what constitutes satisfactory performance in each competency </li></ul><ul><li>Students exposed to many models and standards through coursework and experiential learning </li></ul><ul><li>Students redefine each competency, beginning with “official definition” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Synthesizing multiple perspectives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Integrating evidence from own experience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Taking ownership and planning for the future </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Portfolio outcomes <ul><li>Demonstrate learning power (Broadstreet 2006) or learning competencies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Key affordance of the portfolio genre (Meeus, Petegem, and Looy 2006) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Input to a community conversation about what it means to be an educated person in the 21st Century </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Competencies are means of connection </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Analysis of student competency essays and evidence a central feature of program review </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Embracing the digital <ul><li>NCC portfolio practice evolved from a print model, still has many print-like characteristics </li></ul><ul><li>Beginning to utilize the capabilities of digital portfolio space </li></ul><ul><li>Two examples </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Individual: Contextualizing portfolios through concept maps </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Organizational: Capstone Conversations portfolio </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Concept Map Portfolios <ul><li>Holistic visual representation of learning experiences related to the course through linking </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Competencies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Course goals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Course concepts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Samples of work </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Reflective writing focused on articulating relationships, the core element of portfolios </li></ul>
  16. 17. Capstone Conversations <ul><li>Senior capstone experience </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Taken by all seniors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Site of individual graduation portfolio composition </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Key site for community conversation about what it means to be an educated person </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Capstone Conversations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Student-facilitated panel discussions of each NCC competency, simultaneous with individual portfolio writing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Involve students, NCC faculty members, NCC alumni, guests from across the University </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Influence shared understanding of the competencies that shapes the curriculum </li></ul></ul>
  17. 18. Capstone Portfolios <ul><li>Capstone Conversation Portfolio </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Audio of panels </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Synthesis of panel outcomes and competency research by facilitators </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Collection of student competency essays and evidence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Space for ongoing discussion and community memory </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Capstone Course Portfolio </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Working portfolio using MediaWiki </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Includes course materials, reflection </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interlinked with public capstone conversation </li></ul></ul>
  18. 19. Learn More <ul><li>Darren Cambridge [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>New Century College http://ncc.gmu.edu/ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Competencies: http://ncc.gmu.edu/competencies.html </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Graduation portfolio: http://www.ncc.gmu.edu/graduation/grad_portguide.html </li></ul></ul>

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