Wednesday, June 25, 2014

College Readiness Needs to Go Beyond Content to Skill Sets

This from College Bound:
Colleges need more information about incoming students to get a better sense of whether they are truly ready for higher education—not just to be admitted, but also have the skills to successfully complete a degree.

That's the argument that education professor David Conley makes in a new article published in the spring issue of the Journal of College Admission. Colleges, as well as students and teachers, would benefit from more and deeper measures of students' ability to learn new skills before they enter college, writes Conley, a professor at the University of Oregon and the CEO of the Educational Policy Improvement Center.

Conley calls for a "profile-based approach" to readiness that would include assessments of students' cognitive strategies, learning skills, and techniques, in addition to content. Students would submit ACT or SAT scores, along with ratings by teachers of their speaking, listening, research, and study skills, as well as their proficiency with technology, their persistence, and focus on goals.

"No capability or knowledge set is going to trump the ability to learn new skills" writes Conley. "Getting students ready to be true lifelong learners requires several components. Students will always need foundational knowledge, but they will increasingly need to develop tools for learning."

The current method of admissions review fails to connect students with the supports and resources students need to make a successful transition, Conley says. The new common-core assessments being developed by PARCC (the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium hold some potential as a starting point, they are not sufficient, he writes.

A Tough Sell?

Conley acknowledges a comprehensive approach would require more data and work, making it a tough sell. To help colleges cope with the complex information, the scores from the various sources would be placed on a common scale. The profile could also provide feedback with "actionable information" that points out improvement needs that could be addressed in high school, he writes. The hope is that the information might help students master the necessary skills before making the investment of time and money in college.

So important are these skills that Conley advocates they be called "metacognitive learning skills," rather than "noncognitive" skills in a commentary piece in Education Week earlier this year.

The current measures of college readiness have been virtually unchanged for 100 years, Conley argues, and schools should leverage the increasing the amount of information available help better prepare students, writes Conley.


Anonymous said...

This sort of position makes me wonder what exactly universities are doing. They only want students who are basically the cream of the crop academically/intellectually. Unfortunately for them, they want more of these types of undergrads in order to cover their bottom line. Teachers take the students where they are and teach them, not keep the door locked until they have mastered the skills and content they are suppose to learn in the instructor's classroom.

What next, we only want undergraduates admitted who don't require guided instruction and work independently? Students who can pay in full every dollar of tuition and fee the day before classes start. Students' who don't require syllabi, office hours,or support services?

Anonymous said...

It appears to me that the system currently doesn't trust teachers to either do the job of teaching or assessment student learning - if they did we wouldn't have expensive, high stakes, one shot state accountability system or ACT/SAT college entrance exams.

So why should they trust us to determine if students meet the mark in their "metacognitive skills"?

Additionally, is a university really going to turn away an introverted kid who gets a 30+ on their ACT just because they don't enthusiastically demonstrate the teacher's idea of "persistence" or goal focus? Similarly, think they will take a hard working kid with great interpersonal, communication and technology skills with an ACT of 16?

Come on, you're better off just admitting everyone and letting the chips fall where they may instead of trying to get HS teachers to sent you only those most predictable to achieve with less effort and support from university.

Joe Kotz said...

What if students could submit all their all their actual work from 4 years of high school? What if it came with reports to show growth and trends? What if that portfolio quickly identified the students strengths and weaknesses against the other applicants portfolios?

Admissions offices are trying to garner this information for a single data point based on a high stakes assessment. ClassroomIQ can provide insight to admissions offices that shows real student work and allows them to view their historical growth.

Richard Innes said...

This strikes me in some measure as a marketing ploy for Conley’s Educational Policy Improvement Center products.

In any event, given the overall comments in his article, I question his assertion that:

“The current measures of college readiness have been virtually unchanged for 100 years.”

I cannot speak to Kentucky colleges’ admissions policies, but when I matriculated at a rather competitive Eastern college in 1963, I well recall that SAT scores were only a part of the process.

There were interviews. There were letters of recommendation – some, as I recall, from teachers. The college wanted to know all about extra-curricular activities and hobbies, too. I recall having to submit my own letter to explain those activities (can you say, “Writing sample?”).

So, most of Conley’s suggestions don’t strike me as new ideas. They have been in use on at least some campuses for over half a century. The problem seems to be with getting more colleges to insightfully use – and to not ignore – resources already available and to lean towards maintaining standards instead of just filling classrooms regardless of the likelihood of student success.

Furthermore, the Kentucky education community is expanding the college and/or career ready definition under Unbridled Learning to include second chances to determine college and/or career readiness for students who don’t do well on the ACT. I think that is a move in the right direction, especially so given the department’s recent actions to tighten up on a problem with COMPASS testing that made math scores on that assessment questionable.

Richard, that comment you made a while back about, "I don't see a lot of independent thinking in education. Never have," comes to mind.

Perhaps I am missing something. What do you think?

Richard Day said...

Richard: The thing I relate to most strongly in this discussion is the fact that metacognitive skills seem to be the thing that separates many successful and unsuccessful college students. Among the most important lessons of college life is the ability to live on one's own, choose the right major, and manage one's time while making right choices. I see a number of young students fail because they don't have their acts together, not because they aren't smart enough. Professional work skills seems to be key.

I do see colleges drilling down into the data more and more. That's a good thing, as long as it is balanced with other factors.

One of the hopeful parts of Common Core is it's intent to cause high school teachers to match the kinds of academic expectations college professors have. ...not just a correct answer, but explanations, and the generation of other good questions.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the life skills that Dr. Day is speaking of are being weakened by parents on either end of the care spectrum. On side you have parents who try to manage all aspects of students' lives, refusing to accept negative consequences or anything less than high recognition for minimal achievement. On the other end you have absentee parents who give their children no guidance or direction regarding personal skill development. In either case you have kids with no experience with self advocacy, decision making or basic personal care skills. You hook that onto a school frame which has shifted success of all students exclusively on to educators and away from individual ownership/responsibility of students - it is no wonder that kids struggle in college, even with post secondaries expanding support services.