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Does It Work?: Assessing Skill Development

EACE contribution by Carol Crosby, Assistant Director in Career Services at Bridgewater State University.

If you have been following my blog postings, you will know that our office, in our Student to Professional Project, developed a new mission to help students learn and practice professional skills.  We had begun to intentionally incorporate specific skill development into on-line resources and materials.  We had also created new programming to enhance student development and the staff was now excited by the range of opportunities that were available to our students to transition from a student to a professional role.

We now needed to see if our approach was working. 

I have been a member of my division’s Assessment Committee for a number of years.  When I began attending meetings, I thought I hated assessment – as far as I was concerned it was an unnecessary evil.  I found the terms I was learning – student learning outcomes, strategic priorities, rubrics, BLOOM action verbs, participant centered – confusing and the process of assessment nonsensical.

I wasn’t the only one.  Most of my staff groaned when the word assessment was used in any sentence.  We had just completed our first collaborative effort in assessment for accreditation for our division and it wasn’t a lot of fun.

But when we met as a staff to discuss developing assessment instruments for our new programming, we realized that this process was going to be very easy.  We just needed to ask students if they had learned the skills we had recently embedded in the workshops.

For example, if you have included in your Networking Workshop a sample of an elevator speech, you might include, in your evaluation form, this multiple choice question:

A strong elevator speech may include the following information (circle all that apply):

A. A list of references
B. Your major
C.  An internship that you hope to apply for
D.  Your career aspirations

In that same workshop, you had all the participants pair up and try an elevator speech, using the sample you provided on a slide in your presentation.  You observed and saw that all the students had a brief opportunity to practice their speech.

Your synopsis of your assessment of this workshop could state:

100% of students participating in the Networking Workshop practiced an elevator speech.
98% of participating students correctly answered a question regarding components of an elevator speech.

In other words, the workshop accomplished true skill development:  Most participants both learned and practiced the elevator speech.

As our office moves forward with this project, we are shifting most of our programming assessment to evaluating skill development, similar to the examples above.  We still ask demographic information, i.e. major, class year, etc., and keep track of what marketing worked, but for the most part, we are collecting data regularly on skill development and whether we are fulfilling our new mission.

Pretty easy, isn’t it?

Because of this step, we now have almost completed our action steps for creating your own Student to Professional Project in your own office.  The steps now include:

Developing a Student to Professional Project in your own Career Services Office

  1. Add the learning and practicing of professional skills to your office’s mission statement;
  2. Survey employers, faculty and staff in your community to determine these skills;
  3. Create a list of skills necessary for your students’ professional development;
  4. Review your office’s materials, on-line presence and programming for missing opportunities for skill development;
  5. Intentionally create active learning and practicing opportunities for specific skill development;
  6. Develop and implement assessment processes that measure skill development including the learning and practicing of skills.

I have one more step I am going to write about in my next blog…

 

Carol Crosby

Carol Crosby

Carol Crosby is Assistant Director in Career Services at Bridgewater State University.  She has also worked in Student Affairs at Wesleyan University, University of Connecticut, and Brandeis University.  She received her M.S. in College Student Personnel from University of Rhode Island and her B.A. in English from Wheaton College.  You can connect with her through LinkedIn or by e-mailing her at ccrosby@bridgew.edu

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