There are many benefits to a postsecondary education, and increasingly both students and prospective employers expect one of the benefits to be the development of strong cognitive skills. The ability to solve problems through critical and creative thinking is a crucial skill for students as they transition into the workforce.
We suspect that many students do develop these skills over the course of their studies but how do we know for sure? What’s currently missing is a method of skills measurement that is both effective and easily implemented on a large scale. How can postsecondary institutions measure basic and higher order cognitive skills across the range of programs and courses they offer? Can it be done on a large scale?
Previous HEQCO research has shown that validated rubrics are an effective tool for measuring skills like critical thinking. The use of rubrics for assessment, however, can be onerous. This project proposes to support instructors interested in redesigning their course assessments by creating a peer network assisted by assessment specialists and offering incentives for cognitive assessment redesign. The hope is that this network model will enable large-scale authentic skills assessment at Queen’s and other Ontario institutions.
The project will include a comparison of cognitive skills between first and fourth year, while exploring the ways a network can support the development and assessment of cognitive skills and propagate institution-wide change.
As the value of the postsecondary experience begins to receive more attention, studies like this one that attempt to measure the benefits of a university degree beyond a graduating student’s GPA could help students make the most of their time at a postsecondary institution.
Materials and Outcomes
Throughout the course of this project, updates and final reports will be posted here.