What learning is needed to be productive in the coming century and which methods best assess these requisite knowledge sets, skills, and beliefs?
Through trial and error, efforts continue to capture and connect the broad discussions taking place about the larger learning outcomes with clear ways to know with confidence that lasting learning has indeed occurred.
Competency based education (CBE) offers a new value proposition in learning assessment by changing the currency used as a medium of learning exchange. Rather than focusing on clock hours and unit accumulation as proxies for learning, CBE examines concrete demonstrations of learning mastery regardless of the seat time needed to become proficient.
Colleges continue to experiment with CBE as a way to resolve nagging issues, such as learning assessment at transfer and upon program completion.
The Interstate Passport Initiative (IPI), an effort of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), connects 16 public colleges and universities with a mutually agreed upon set of outcomes and competencies. (http://www.wiche.edu/passport)
Review of learning in the lower-division general education courses replaces traditional credit-unit computation, yielding a better linked and more fluid movement to the four-year institution. Under the IPI, transfer assessment is more learner-centered and less absorbed on time spent in the classroom.
Another competency-based measure garnering more than a second look is the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP), a Lumina Foundation effort to create areas of learning beyond traditional disciplines, including broad integrated knowledge, intellectual skills, applied learning, civic learning, and specialized knowledge.
The November/December issue of Change magazine highlighted eight partnerships between Lumina and state higher education systems and accrediting agencies to bring cross-divisional dialogue and reflection about what learning is needed for success in the coming century and what it looks like. The DQP establishes clear expectations of performance using aligned assignments across the curriculum to assure that the wider proficiencies are met. (http://www.changemag.org/)
Pilots like the IPI and DQP demonstrate the efficacy of experimentation to discover better ways to know what is important for students to learn and how to recognize mastery.