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The Real Objective: Student Learning

At this point in my EACE Trending blog series on assessment, you have:

  • Found your institution’s strategic goals or priorities and highlighted any language that pertains to your office’s work.
  • Created a mission statement using some or all of that language culled from institutional priorities and divisional goals as well as keywords obtained from discussions with your staff about the work you do with your students.
  • Learned how Bloom’s Taxonomy language is used to build student learning statements for programming.
  • Started thinking of programming as a tool for students to build competencies, using NACE’s new Career Readiness and Competencies for students.

Now – picture this scenario:  It is the end of the semester.  You and your staff are tired and JUST WANT THE STUDENTS TO GO HOME.  You limp through creating your annual report and notice a number of recruiters have mentioned in evaluations that many of the students they met are not at ease with networking.

You could toss that information into the “I will look at someday” pile.  You know that pile – it is the one that ends up in the trash, unread, three years from now.

Or – you could, after a brief rest period at the end of the semester – work with your staff to create a program/workshop/event that builds that competency.  Then you could assess that program/workshop/event to see if your efforts worked.

In my last two blog postings for this series, I am going to walk you through the process to create a program that teaches students competencies and the steps you need to take to assess that learning.

This, by the way, is what NACE is recommending – that we, as practitioners, concentrate our efforts on helping our students grow professional skills for their transition to the workplace.

Creating a Program to Teach Students Competencies

Step 1:  Meet with your staff and show them the results of the above-mentioned evaluations:  That recruiters feel that some students at your institution may need to build better professional networking skills.

Step 2:  Ask your staff to list what skills are required to be a skilled networker.  If possible, allow the creative types to throw out ideas in the moment; give the introverts and research types time to benchmark on-line and send results to the group.

As an example, when our staff handled this exact issue a few years ago, we came up with several important skills essential to the professional networker:

  1. A strong elevator speech
  2. Knowing when, with whom and where to network
  3. Exhibiting a professional presence when networking
  4. Conducting an appropriate informational interview
  5. Knowing how to maintain contact with professionals after networking

Step 3:  From your list, build your Student Learning Objectives using Bloom’s Taxonomy’s action verbs.  Fresno State University has a nice webpage providing that language.  Be as specific as you can with your learning objectives – you want to ensure that your students are involved in deep learning, if at all possible.  For example, our staff’s specific learning objectives, based on our results above included:

Students attending a program/workshop/event to learn networking skills will be able to:

  1. Create and present an elevator speech
  2. List 3 places to network
  3. Name 2 actions to be taken to present a professional presence for networking
  4. Describe 3 steps to take when conducting an informational interview
  5. Identify 2 methods for maintaining contact with a professional after networking

Step 4:  Meet again with your staff and decide the best approach for providing training on the above skills as well as getting the best learning results for the Student Learning Objectives.  The approach could include a networking event, an on-line webinar, or even a simple group workshop.  In our office, we decided to plan a networking mocktail event.

Step 5:  Build your program, using your Student Learning Objectives as a guide.  Each of the five above-listed Student Learning Objectives needs to be addressed in some way in your program.  For example, the PowerPoint presentation, for our networking mocktail event, contained a list of at least 4-5 places to network and 3 methods for maintaining contact with a professional.   We also included an opportunity during the event for students to prepare an elevator speech and practice it with professionals attending the program.

So, in review, to develop programming to help students learn competencies, you should:

  • Determine a competency deficiency among your student population
  • List all the specific skills that need to be addressed
  • Create Student Learning Objectives based on those skills
  • Create a program that addresses those Student Learning Objectives

Next step – we need to build an instrument or assessment process to see if the students actually learned.  In my final posting for this year, I will describe different types of assessments and explain how to select the best one(s) to fit your needs for any program or workshop you develop. See you next month!

Author: Carol Crosby, Bridgewater State University

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