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Website: 4TU.nl

Project introduction and background information

In order to keep up with the rapidly changing society and labour market, students acquire a broad set of skills, and being able to monitor their own development. How can university programmes make sure that students develop cognitive, interpersonal and metacognitive skills? As a possible answer to this question, several bachelor programmes at Wageningen University have implemented learning trajectories for (academic) skills (writing, presenting, and collaboration). The aim of this study (completed in December 2021), was to investigate the intentions of these programmes, the choices they made in designing the trajectories, and the usersā€™ experiences with the trajectories.

Ā Reasons for and design of the learning trajectories

A learning trajectory is a coherent and meaningful whole of teaching and learning, that is implemented in different courses throughout the curriculum ā€“ which are aligned to and build upon each other ā€“ and that enables students to acquire pre-determined learning goals. Seven Bsc programmes participated in this study. Common reasons to introduce learning trajectories were to improve studentsā€™ skills, or to create awareness among students (and staff) about the importance of skills development and ensure curriculum alignment. All 7 programmes focused on writing skills, mostly (n=6) in addition to presentation and collaboration skills. All programmes (at least partly) integrated skills education into content courses, sometimes alongside a separate module or separate assignments for skills. Two programmes assessed skills development in a portfolio that students handed in at the end of their studies. Other programmes integrated the final skills assessment in the bachelor thesis.

Objective and expected outcomes

The objective of this project is to evaluate the design and implementation of these learning trajectories for skills education. The project is divided in two phases. The project consists of two (parallel) activities: first, a literature review the why, what, and how of implementing skills learning trajectories. Second, the process of the implementation is investigated: what choices were made before implementing the learning trajectory and why, and which factors promote or hinder a successful implementation?

We aim to also evaluate the effect of the learning trajectories on studentsā€™ skills development, on studentsā€™ and teachersā€™ perceptions of studentsā€™ learning processes, and on the bachelor programme as a whole.Ā 

Results and learnings

Usersā€™ experiences with the learning trajectories

Skills coordinators (that keep track of and guarantee the learning trajectory), educational directors, and teaching staff were largely positive about the learning trajectories. They acknowledged the importance of skills development, were more aware of skills education in the programme, and acknowledged the importance of aligning courses. Staff also had the impression that the trajectory benefitted studentsā€™ skills development. Nevertheless, they mention that alignment of skills education in different courses can be a challenge.

The users mentioned several factors that benefited the learning trajectory. The most important one was that a skills coordinator (i.e., someone that makes sure the learning trajectory is carried out, and courses and assessments are aligned to each other and the learning goals) is essential for the continuity of the trajectory. Students taught skills development is important for their future career, and they valued the integration of skills education in content courses (and therefore the connection of the two domains).

Recommendations

Conclusions and recommendations

This study shows that there are different ways to design skills learning trajectories, but that successful integration a trajectory requires a coordinator. Furthermore, it is recommended to carefully formulate the intention of the trajectory, as different intentions may lead to different design choices. Programmes that aim at improving studentsā€™ skills and/or awareness of the importance of skills development, may make use of separate modules/moments in courses, solely devoted to skills. They also should make sure to visualise the skills trajectory and its accompanying learning goals, and have students reflect on and prove their goal development in, for example, a portfolio. Programmes that aim at improving curriculum alignment or that have a more pragmatic reason for implementing learning trajectories may fully integrate skills education and assessment into content courses. The consequence is that students may not be (completely) aware of the skills learning trajectory and its learning goals.

Practical outcomes

The project results in an article on the systematic review (in prep.)

and in a management summery in the form of a powerpoint describing the study on the implementation and evaluations of the skills learning trajectories. This summary (ppt) can be found on this page.Ā