Assessing and Communicating Professional Competency Development Through Experiential Learning

John H. Callewaert, Joanna Mirecki Millunchick, Cassandra Sue Ellen Woodcock, Kevin Cai Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

Abstract

A new experiential learning initiative at a large R1 institution seeks to provide students with a framework to intentionally explore learning opportunities, meaningfully engage in experiences, iteratively reflect on their learning, and clearly communicate their development of one or more key professional competencies (communication, creativity, empathy, entrepreneurial mindset, ethics, global/cultural awareness, grit/persistence/resilience, leadership, lifelong learning, risk management, systems thinking, and teamwork). Although most students at this institution participate in experiential learning, the framework aims to provide students with richer, more meaningful experiences through intentional engagement and reflection. Through several informal conversations, both students and employers have expressed the need for students to reflect and be able to better communicate the value of their experiences in relation to their technical skills and career aspirations. This point is reinforced by recent industry reports which emphasize the difficult time employers have in finding employees with the professional skills needed for the workplace. An objective of the experiential learning framework is to support reflection and competency development at scale, but the best model for this has yet to be identified. Indeed, it may be that multiple pathways (existing courses, new courses, online modules, etc.) will need to be available to students. Therefore, we piloted two new approaches for students to reflect and communicate their own competency development. The first is the creation of a new 400-level professional course that aims to develop students' understanding and communication of competency development via structured reflection. The second is a pre/post assessment of a faculty-identified set of competencies in an existing project-based, discipline-specific technical course. The new course takes a retrospective approach and asks students to leverage their experiences to create a set of stories that in turn highlight their values and guiding principles. Their final assignment was to develop a professional document, such as a personal statement, LinkedIn page, or resume, grounded in one or more competencies and informed by feedback from peers and alumni mentors. The pre/post assessment effort is a partnership with a faculty member leading a course on systems engineering and business leadership processes. The faculty member selected a subset of the key competencies (leadership, risk management, systems thinking, and teamwork) which aligned with course objectives. The pre/post assessment provides an opportunity for students to self-assess and reflect on their competency development over the course of the semester by focusing on their specific project. This paper will start with an overview of the experiential learning initiative and a description of the key competencies being used to guide reflection and communication efforts. Next, detailed descriptions will be provided for both the new course and the pre/post assessment effort including deidentified samples of student work. This will be followed by an initial assessment of student outcomes, a review of student feedback, and plans for modifying these efforts in the future. Finally, a description will be provided for how these efforts are also helping to inform the creation of a new online tool that will provide additional support for delivering content at scale to students around competency development, reflection, and communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Externally publishedYes
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)

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