In my first post on our TEL Mastery Standards and Outcomes, I discussed the rapid technological advances and potential changes for the modern workforce that are forcing us to reexamine the competencies and skills people need to succeed in the 21st century. These changes prompt questions about how to prepare children today for professional productivity in an uncertain future, and how to reskill and upskill working adults so that they can adapt quickly.
To address these questions, a growing number of organizations have created frameworks for the 21st-century competencies and skills people need to succeed professionally. As I explained in my earlier post, the challenge in designing such frameworks is three-fold: (1) the framework must define tangible, concrete competencies and skills that align with 21st-century requirements, (2) the framework must map well to existing educational curricula, (3) framework competencies and skills must be assessable in a way that shows demonstrable mastery.
This last challenge, mapping and assessing competencies, can be particularly difficult. First, whatever frameworks we create must identify, clearly, the skills and competencies people need to succeed. These skills and competencies must align with technological and workforce shifts and must be specific enough that we can create measurable outcomes for each of them. In addition, the skills and competencies must be broad enough to be applied to diverse age groups and curricula.
At TEL, we have chosen to address this mandate for both specific and broad treatments of skills with a framework that maps a progression of skill development, taking learners from foundational competencies to those that can be applied professionally.
This progression supports both the scaffolded curriculum model used in primary, secondary, and university education in the U.S., as well as other postsecondary training models. Essential Competencies represent those foundational skills that are critical for acquiring more knowledge and developing higher-order thinking abilities. Thinking Competencies represent those higher-order thinking skills, which are often associated with traditional higher education. Finally, Professional Competencies represent the skills attained through the application of Essential and Thinking Competencies to professional contexts.
Of course, at this level, the standards remain too abstract for curriculum alignment and assessment. For those purposes, we provide outcomes that can be used to measure a learner’s level of attainment as it pertains to specific skills. As an example, for Reading (in Essential Competencies), we have the following outcomes.
- ECRD1: Locate information in a text in order to perform tasks.
- ECRD2: Interpret the main idea or essential message of written content.
- ECRD3: Recognize different structures texts can have and the impact of these structures on navigation.
- ECRD4: Synthesize original, individual pieces of information from multiple sources.
- ECRD5: Compare and evaluate written content from various sources on the basis of accuracy, appropriateness, style, and plausibility.
Note that these outcomes represent abilities that (1) are tied to 21st-century skill demands for professional success, (2) can be integrated across diverse disciplines and curricula, (3) support learning attainment levels outlined in Bloom’s Taxonomy, and (4) can be measured via multiple forms of assessment and learner output.
Here are two more examples of TEL Mastery outcome statements, one from the Thinking Competencies category (Problem Solving) and the other from Professional Competencies (Leadership). With regards to these examples, I would point out that we have attempted to provide outcomes that represent both the breadth and depth of skill mastery.
- TCPS1: Identify and define a specific problem, challenge, or question.
- TCPS2: Specify constraints and needed solution components related to a specific problem, challenge, or question.
- TCPS3: Propose justifiable, knowledge-based solutions to defined problems, challenges, or questions.
- TCPS4: Evaluate and choose the best solution for a defined problem.
- PCLD1: Persuade, convince, and justify positions to others with clear communication.
- PCLD2: Coach and develop others through constructive feedback.
- PCLD3: Take ownership of a problem or active endeavor.
- PCLD4: Remediate existing procedures and policies to effect positive organizational change
- PCLD5: Behave in a manner that is consistent with personal, cultural, and/or organizational moral values.
Of course, the first real test of a framework like this is to align it with an actual curriculum. With that in mind, here is a partial snapshot of the course outline for our College Readiness course. We can see that for each lesson in the module there is a learning outcome tied to a level in Bloom’s Taxonomy. This learning outcome is information-based or aligned with specifically to the concepts being studied in a particular module.
At the end of each module in the course, however, we also have a synthesis or evidence activity. This activity asks learners to apply the information they have been learning in a way that demonstrates mastery. This is where we align TEL Mastery Standards and Outcomes.
In the next couple of weeks, we will be posting our complete set of TEL Mastery STandards and Outcomes to the website, along with examples of how we are aligning these with specific courses and learning goals.
Rob Reynolds, Ph.D.
Executive Director, TEL Library