Skills Assessment and Behaviourism

This was going to be a short twitter thread, then it got too long, so I made a blog post instead. I read an opinion piece in the Toronto Star today and I’m concerned. Mostly I’m concerned about the train of thought it represents. The article, “We need to start giving soft skills more credit“, is the newest version of similar work around soft/transferable skills that’s been around for years, but now with AI.

This seems like a good thing, because employers want employees with strong transferable skills, and colleges and universities already teach technical skills, and programs are designed so that students pick up transferable skills along the way. My problem is that the discourse is always focused on a behaviourist understanding of people. It presupposes that:

  1. Students must be explicitly taught something to learn it
  2. Evaluation means learning happened
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Book Review of “The Missing Course: Everything They Never Taught You About College Teaching”

A snippet from my review posted at the Canadian Journal of Higher Education

In my classes I try to explain to second year comput-ing students that their technical skills are only one part of what they need to succeed. Many jobs are like that, requiring both discipline or field specific skills and trans-ferable or soft skills. In The Missing Course: Everything They Never Taught You About College Teaching (2019) David Gooblar explains that for postsecondary profes-sors teaching is not a soft skill, it is a second discipline we should be engaging in the same way we engage with our primary discipline.

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning is not a new discipline. However, it is often neglected in grad-uate studies, relegated to the individual’s professional development rather than being a core part of the curric-ulum. The Missing Course (2019) is Gooblar’s attempt to provide a concise and practical overview of teaching and learning with the objective of helping college and university instructors improve their classroom teaching. It is a valuable book for everyone who teaches or plans to teach in postsecondary from full professors to new graduate students.

Alberta Post-Secondary Roles and Mandates

A snippet from my article for Communiqué

The Alberta system of post-secondary education may be unique in Canada. As Alex Usher says, “Alberta not only has the closest thing Canada has to a genuine system of education, but the government is also by some distance the most interventionist in the country when it comes to universities” (Usher, 2019). The Albertan system has changed over the years from its single public university – the University of Alberta founded only three years after the province was created (Macleod, 2016) – to the current seven universities. Four of the universities are called comprehensive academic and research universities and three are called undergraduate universities (Types of publicly funded institutions, 2020). In addition to the universities, the province has eleven publicly funded comprehensive community colleges; two polytechnic institutions; five private universities; and the Banff Centre, a specialized arts and cultural institution.

The Alberta system went through an overhaul in the first decade of the twenty-first century. New institutions were added, institutions changed from being colleges to being universities, and funding, which had been cut substantially in the 1990s, was increased (Usher, 2019). More importantly, in this decade was the 2007 introduction of The Roles and Mandates: Policy Framework for Alberta’s Publicly Funded Advanced Education System, which I will refer to as Roles and Mandates 2007. This document formalized the six-sector model that Alberta continues to follow today and laid out the goals and directions the system works towards. Although it has been superseded by 2019’s The Roles and Mandates: Policy Framework for Alberta’s Adult Learning System, referred to as Roles and Mandates 2019, the current structure of the Alberta system was formed by the 2007 version and so this inquiry will focus on the Roles and Mandates 2007 and the report that led to it.

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Assessment, Research, and Ethics

This was originally posted at SA-Exchange, but the site has since shut down and so it is now posted in its entirety here.

by Noah D. Arney, Mount Royal University

This Research, Assessment & Evaluation series is brought to you by the CACUSS Research, Assessment, Evaluation Community of Practice.

The idea for this post came from a colleague of mine who was telling me about a new project he had implemented. He explained why he and another colleague had designed the project, what they wanted to do with it, how the roll out happened, what he saw happen based on the one on one interviews he was doing with students, what he thought that meant, and how he changed the program as a result of it. Then he told me how he didn’t feel he had remembered to assess it.

He had, of course, assessed the roll out, and then utilized that information to improve his practice. What he meant was that he hadn’t conducted research on the project. I suspect a lot of student affairs practitioners have similar thoughts, that our assessment needs to be done at the level of academic research.

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Supporting Indigenous STEM Students

This is a snippet of Michelle Pidgeon and my post at Supporting Student Success.

The disparity of post-secondary education (PSE) completion between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians (40% vs. 55.3%) continues to persist (Statistics Canada, 2016). Unfortunately, the disparity is wider when we compare undergraduate degree completion between Indigenous (8.6%) and non-Indigenous Canadians (23.25%). The gap of post-secondary completion (certificate, diploma, degree, and above) specific to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields is even wider. Indigenous people are half as likely to have STEM based PSE (4.1% vs. 10%), and for those with STEM Bachelors degree and above, the gap moves to being a fifth as likely (1.1% vs. 5.7%).

In 2012 Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta created the Aboriginal Science & Technology Education Program (ASTEP) to support the growth of Indigenous STEM students in the Faculty of Science and Technology. This program operated from 2012-2019 and represented one of three Indigenous specific STEM programs offered specifically at the university level in Canada.  To understand the impact and influence of this program an external review was conducted in 2017 following Indigenous research processes (Kovach, 2009; Pidgeon & Hardy Cox, 2002). This process included an analysis of institutional data, comparisons with similar programs, and interviews and sharing circles with students, staff, and faculty who were closely associated with ASTEP.

Read the rest at Supporting Student Success