Implementation of a framework for skills education

Short Description

At the BBW (soil water atmosphere) lecturers-day, the teaching, training and assessment of academic skills in the BBW programme has been discussed. Many academic skills already occur in various courses in the programme. However, students do not clearly recognize the teaching and use of skills in the various courses and they feel not well-prepared for their future career. The quality and efficiency, as well as the visibility to students, would benefit from a clear learning-teaching trajectory (doorlopende leerlijn) in academic skills. Such a trajectory also puts a clearer responsibility for their own learning processes on the students. Furthermore, it clarifies to students that studying is not only about content, but also about skills and attitudes. To come to such a skills learning-teaching trajectory we need definition of the skills (framework), information on where (which courses) the skills are taught, trained, used and assessed (so that both students and lecturers can see the trajectory) and information on how the skills are taught, trained, used and assessed (a handbook to homogenize the teaching and assessment between courses).

Framework

  • Start: We will use the outcomes of the OWI working group on skills as a starting point
  • This project: We will adapt the framework where appropriate (regrouping or reformulation of skills and definition of discipline specific skills)
  • Final goal: A skills framework that may be applicable to other programmes as well.

Trajectory

  • Start: As starting point we will use the inventory made by Tjitske Geertsema some years ago. First this will need to be updated to the current situation. 
  • This project: For a limited number of skills the trajectory encompassing the steps teaching-training-using-assessing will be implemented in the courses in BBW (division/combination of a number of these steps in a number of courses). We limit ourselves a number of skills in order to be able to also pay attention to the process of incorporating academic skills in the programme. In this way the project serves as a pilot to pave the way of full incorporation of academic skills in the BBW programme. We may also experiment with a (minimalistic) student portfolio in which they gather for each of the skills involved their best example (such that when they e.g. write a better paper, they see and decide that they have improved their skills).
  • Final goal: A well-defined trajectory for all relevant academic skills within the BBW programme.

Handbook

  • Start: currently there is a sparse collection of instructions on the teaching of academic skills (from various courses).
  • This project: For the limited number of skills for which a trajectory will be developed during the project, the lecturers from various courses involved need to agree on the definition of the skill and the way it will be taught and assessed. This will result in an (online) repository of learning and assessment material. Besides, the experience on how to come to a common standard among lecturers from different courses will be an important output as well.
  • Final goal: An online repository of learning material and assessment criteria for all skills mentioned in the skills framework. Ideally we would only use material that is already open (as in: under a Creative Commons licence) or develop new material to be published under a Creative Commons license).

OBJECTIVE

The quality and efficiency, as well as the visibility to students, would benefit from a clear learning-teaching trajectory (doorlopende leerlijn) in academic skills.   

STRONG POINTS

If we design a curriculum we think in terms of skills. But at the level of an individual course, we usually choose certain activities in which the contents of the course is learned/used/digested. Therefore, we need an overview of the possible links between skills and activities. This overview may also help to in the decision about which activities to include in a course, if a certain skill needs to be taught/assessed. This also relates to the design of the handbook: preferably, instructions should be related to a certain skill; but there may be instructions/guidelines that are specific for a certain activity (e.g. a debate, a role play, a lab report) and cannot be covered in the instructions for the skills that are used in that activity. In that case, they could be dealt with separately.

An important aspect of the teaching and use of skills in a programme is that it must be crystal clear where and how the skills are taught, where they are assessed, and where they are merely used. Now the question arises if the latter ('just using a skill, without assessing it') is possible. Skills are always used in an activity (see above) that is linked to the contents of a course. In the design of the course you usually use a certain skill-related activity because it is logically connected to the contents. Is it then possible to ignore the skill-related performance when assessing the contents? E.g., does a student actually understand climate change if he/she is unable to write down a coherent paragraph (reasoning, written communication) about it?

The project strongly improves the quality and efficiency of the teaching of academic skills in the BBW programme. This will first be visible when they have to use most of these skills in an individual assignment like their BSc thesis. But also in later stages of their studying or working career they will be better prepared. Furthermore, the proposed learning trajectory aims to put more responsibility on the student to develop their skills.

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For more information and/or recommendations, please contact Claudia Brauer.

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