Published on 2012/07/23

While the competency-based model can allow students to display knowledge, it is difficult to see whether those students also have the soft skills that would be developed through classroom instruction. Photo by Horia Varlan.

Will the expansion of competency-based models of higher education improve accessibility for adults? Yes, without question. However, this model misses certain points.

The student needs more than passing a test or credit for past experience. I had two Master’s Degrees when I went back to take an Associate’s degree in another field. A degree requirement was a course in Job Marketing Skills. My advisor mentioned that since I had been out in the workforce he could get me excused from the course. I decided to take it anyway. This one credit course turned out to be one of the most valuable courses I have ever taken. Not only did it help me prepare for a lot of future job interviews, but it helped me in my positions and it gave me the resources to help two young people land jobs when they both had been looking for about a year. The materials in Norman Yates’ “Knock ‘Em Dead [Year]” also helped me focus on my employer’s expectations in the workplace.

As an instructor, my first lesson included discussion of time management, life management and study skills. That information helped my students in all subjects for all time from that moment forward. Would these tests do that for them? The possession of these skills definitely would affect student retention and success after completion.

I also taught my students tips about real life application of the academic material, shortcuts, and actual application of the skills. Teamwork was also included. How can such tests measure these aspects?

On the other hand, I know I would be totally bored if I had to sit in a class where I was being taught how to do simple arithmetic and certainly be resentful about the time and money spent on it. Therefore, I think that testing alone would not provide the best situation for the student. We would have to assess other information via interviews.

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Readers Comments

Paul Maurice 2012/07/23 at 4:25 am

I think we seriously undervalue workforce readiness and the associated skills. It’s all well and good to have a great deal of knowledge, but if you can’t turn that knowledge into anything; well what was the point? But this is mostly a concern I see for traditional-age students.

For adults, I would imagine that they are already gifted with workplace skills after simply having been involved in the workforce for some time. I think, for most working adults, the suggestion that they would have to do a class on workplace skills would put them off engaging in higher education in the first place.

Vera Matthews 2012/07/23 at 9:44 am

Paul, I have to disagree with you, but only on parts of your points.

Yes, most working adults are already gifted with workplace skills…BUT engaging in higher education is a pathway to self-improvement and improving skills you think you already have is a part of that.

Moreover, what’s to say that the new and enlightening information on today’s workforce wouldn’t be helpful for someone looking to move up the corporate ladder?

Frank Levey 2012/07/30 at 11:26 am

Please take into consideration that the expected skills change over the years and what worked before might not be the norm for today. In addition, a person may be looking for the education thinking that they need to have it to update their technical skills but the real reason they came back for additional education might be that they were let go because they lacked some of these “soft” skills currently needed i.e., customer service (internal and external), communication, etc. Another use I had for what I learned in the Job Marketing Skills class is an awareness of what supervisors expect. We sell ourselves and provide value daily, not just at hire.

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