Utilizing National Competencies and Standards to Develop Your Curricular Learning Goals

Although each residential curriculum or curricular approach to student life should be contextualized to an institution, there are a number of non-profits and standards bodies within higher education and student affairs that can be useful in the development of learning goals and outcomes. Many of these associations provide sample statements, rubrics and other materials that can not only help guide and shape the development of your own objectives, but also provide potentially useful tools for benchmarking and other forms of assessment. Furthermore, as nationally developed standards, they provide justification for your curriculum and may allow you to more easily connect your objectives with those of other departments and divisions.

The following four examples come from (1) The Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS), (2) The American Association of Colleges and Universities’ (AAC&U) Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) Project, (3) The Lumina Foundation’s Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP), and (4) the National Association of Colleges and Employer’s (NACE) Career readiness Project.

Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education Logo

In 2003, the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) articulated an original set of sixteen “learning domains and development outcomes” for college students (CAS, 2015, para 1). After the publication of Learning Reconsidered 2 in 2006, CAS convened a think tank to review these outcomes. CAS now identifies six domains of “student learning and development outcomes.”

  1. Knowledge acquisition, construction, integration and application
  2. Cognitive complexity
  3. Intrapersonal development
  4. Interpersonal competence
  5. Humanitarianism and civic engagement
  6. Practical competence

Source: Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (2015). CAS learning and development outcomes. In J. B. Wells (Ed.), CAS professional standards for higher education (9th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://www.cas.edu/learningoutcomes

American Association of Colleges and Universities

The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) undertook a project known as LEAP, Liberal Education and America’s Promise, to identify contemporary learning outcomes for undergraduate college students. AAC&U identifies four “essential learning outcome” domains (outlined below). They also provide more detail on these outcomes can be found in College Learning for the New Global Century. They also detail “principles of excellence” to guide administrators in their implementation as well as suggested rubrics for their measurement.

“Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World

  • Through study in the sciences and mathematics, social sciences, humanities, histories, languages, and the arts

Focused by engagement with big questions, both contemporary and enduring

Intellectual and Practical Skills, Including

  • Inquiry and analysis
  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Written and oral communication
  • Quantitative literacy
  • Information literacy
  • Teamwork and problem solving

Practiced extensively, across the curriculum, in the context of progressively more challenging problems, projects, and standards for performance

Personal and Social Responsibility, Including

  • Civic knowledge and engagement—local and global
  • Intercultural knowledge and competence
  • Ethical reasoning and action
  • Foundations and skills for lifelong learning

Anchored through active involvement with diverse communities and real-world challenges

Integrative and Applied Learning, Including

  • Synthesis and advanced accomplishment across general and specialized studies

Demonstrated through the application of knowledge, skills, and responsibilities to new settings and complex problems”

Source: AAC&U – American Association of Colleges and Universities. (2008). Liberal education and America’s promise: Essential learning outcomes. Retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/leap/essential-learning-outcomes

Lumina Foundation

The Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) developed by the Lumina Foundation, describes itself as “a learning-centered framework for what college graduates should know and be able to do to earn the associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree” (cover). The DQP organizes identified learning outcomes/proficiencies into five learning categories:

  • Specialized Knowledge. “Most who receive degrees pursue specialized areas of study and are expected to meet knowledge and skill requirements of those areas. Specialized accrediting associations and licensure bodies have developed standards for many such fields of study. But all fields call more or less explicitly for proficiencies involving terminology, theory, methods, tools, literature, complex problems or applications and cognizance of limits.”
  • Broad and Integrative Knowledge. “U.S. higher education is distinctive in its emphasis on students’ broad learning across the humanities, arts, sciences and social sciences, and the DQP builds on that commitment to liberal and general education in postsecondary learning. However, the DQP further invites students to integrate their broad learning by exploring, connecting and applying concepts and methods across multiple fields of study to complex questions — in the student’s areas of specialization, in work or other field-based settings and in the wider society. While many institutions of higher education and most state requirements relegate general knowledge to the first two years of undergraduate work and present it in isolated blocks, the DQP takes the position that broad and integrative knowledge, at all degree levels, should build larger, cumulative contexts for students’ specialized and applied learning and for their engagement with civic, intercultural, global and scientific issues throughout their academic careers and beyond.”
  • Intellectual Skills. “The six crosscutting Intellectual Skills presented below define proficiencies that transcend the boundaries of particular fields of study. They overlap, interact with and enable the other major areas of learning described in the DQP.”
    • Analytic Inquiry
    • Use of Information Resources
    • Engaging Diverse Perspectives
    • Ethical Reasoning
    • Quantitative Fluency
    • Communicative Fluency”
  • Applied and Collaborative Learning. “An emphasis on applied learning suggests that what graduates can do with what they know is the most critical outcome of higher education. The proficiencies described in this section focus on the interaction of academic and non-academic settings and the corresponding integration of theory and practice, along with the ideal of learning with others in the course of application projects. Research of different kinds and intensities, on and off campus, on and off the Internet, and formal field-based experiences (internships, practicums, community and other service-learning) all are cases of applied learning.”
  • Civic and Global Learning. “U.S. higher education acknowledges an obligation to prepare graduates for knowledgeable and responsible participation in a democratic society. The DQP reaffirms and upgrades that commitment. But the DQP further recognizes that graduates face a social, economic and information world that knows no borders, that is buffeted by environmental changes, and that requires both the knowledge and the experiences that will enable them to become genuinely interactive and productive. The DQP therefore envisions both global and domestic settings for civic engagement and outlines proficiencies needed for both civic and global inquiry and interaction.”

Source: Lumina Foundation. (2017). Degree qualifications profile. Retrieved from http://degreeprofile.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/DQP-web-download-reference-points-FINAL.pdf

National Association of Colleges and Employers

Developed in 2015 and revised in 2017, NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers provides an outline of competencies required of students to be “career ready” upon graduation from college. NACE defined “career readiness as, “the attainment and demonstration of requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition into the workplace” (NACE, 2017b, para 3). These competencies are:

  • Critical Thinking/Problem Solving: “Exercise sound reasoning to analyze issues, make decisions, and overcome problems. The individual is able to obtain, interpret, and use knowledge, facts, and data in this process, and may demonstrate originality and inventiveness.”
  • Oral/Written Communications: “Articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in written and oral forms to persons inside and outside of the organization. The individual has public speaking skills; is able to express ideas to others; and can write/edit memos, letters, and complex technical reports clearly and effectively.”
  • Teamwork/Collaboration: “Build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers representing diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints. The individual is able to work within a team structure, and can negotiate and manage conflict.”
  • Digital Technology: “Leverage existing digital technologies ethically and efficiently to solve problems, complete tasks, and accomplish goals. The individual demonstrates effective adaptability to new and emerging technologies.”
  • Leadership: “Leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals, and use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others. The individual is able to assess and manage his/her emotions and those of others; use empathetic skills to guide and motivate; and organize, prioritize, and delegate work.”
  • Professionalism/Work Ethic: “Demonstrate personal accountability and effective work habits, e.g., punctuality, working productively with others, and time workload management, and understand the impact of non-verbal communication on professional work image. The individual demonstrates integrity and ethical behavior, acts responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind, and is able to learn from his/her mistakes.”
  • Career Management: “Identify and articulate one’s skills, strengths, knowledge, and experiences relevant to the position desired and career goals, and identify areas necessary for professional growth. The individual is able to navigate and explore job options, understands and can take the steps necessary to pursue opportunities, and understands how to self-advocate for opportunities in the workplace.”
  • Global/Intercultural Fluency: “Value, respect, and learn from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religions. The individual demonstrates, openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people and understand individuals’ differences.”

NACE – National Association of Colleges and Employers. (2017a). Career readiness resources. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org/career-readiness/competencies/career-readiness-resources/
NACE – National Association of Colleges and Employers. (2017b). Career readiness defined. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org/career-readiness/competencies/career-readiness-defined/

As uncovered as a part of your archeological dig and curriculum development process, documents such as those references here can be incredibly useful. Although you will need to contextualize these objectives for your own unique institutional characteristics, they nevertheless provide an excellent starting point for discussion. In developing your own, you may wish to connect or map these objectives on to your existing objectives to provide further avenues for assessment.

Key Questions

  • What standards most align with your institutional goals and outcomes?
  • How can you use additional resources from the sponsoring organizations (such as rubrics, strategy ideas, etc.) to aid in the development of your curriculum?
  • Are there standardized benchmarked assessments you can utilize in your curriculum?

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