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Shared Competencies to Enhance Undergraduate Student Learning
To help better prepare students to be engaged leaders in a global society, the Syracuse University Senate endorsed six shared competencies last semester. These educational goals characterize what every Syracuse University undergraduate student should know and be able to do before they graduate. The Senate’s December 2018 vote on these competencies culminated several years of collaboration by students, faculty, staff and administration to articulate specific universal values and learning goals at Syracuse. The work now will be to bring the framework to life in each of the schools and colleges.
The shared competencies are the following:
- Ethics, Integrity and Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion;
- Critical and Creative Thinking;
- Scientific Inquiry and Research Skills;
- Civic and Global Responsibility;
- Communication Skills; and
- Information Literacy and Technological Agility.
Student Association Vice President Kyle Rosenblum ’20, a psychology and policy studies major in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, says the shared competencies will position students for success. “The shared competencies framework guides our learning with flexible general education requirements, while at the same time ensuring that each program is better preparing students for life after graduation.”
The shared competencies will promote the crucial knowledge and skills essential for all students to develop in their time at Syracuse. “These are core competencies that transcend the specific requirements of schools, colleges and programs,” says Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly. “The long-term goal is for all undergraduates, regardless of major, to acquire and demonstrate the essential skills and knowledge of a distinctive Syracuse University education.”
A Syracuse University Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Competencies, consisting of students, faculty, staff and administrators, led this effort since 2017. “The process of developing the shared competencies and framing language that were approved by the Senate in December has been a model of how the Senate and its committees should be involved in developing major academic policies,” says Robert Van Gulick, philosophy professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, University Senator and member of the University Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Competencies. “The Senate Ad Hoc Committee was given the lead in developing the list of competencies, and it followed a broadly consultative process with input from the hundreds of faculty and students who responded to the initial draft proposal. We anticipate the eventual creation of a new Senate standing committee on assessment, with wide representation from all of SU’s diverse schools and colleges.”
The six shared competencies include framing language that describes broadly the range of knowledge, skills and attributes that each competency entails. This framework builds on the Academic Strategic Plan’s promise to provide students a distinctive experience that instills “the capacity to think deeply and analytically; to listen and learn from diverse life experiences, cultures, and points of view; to act with ethical and academic integrity; and to engage in ways that enrich scholarship and enhance our communities and the world.”
The shared competencies were also shaped by the Middle States accreditation process. Anne Mosher, faculty chair of the Maxwell Program in Citizenship and Civic Engagement and chair of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Competencies, says that the next step will be to learn how each undergraduate program in every school and college can adopt and enhance the competency framework. “We’ll be interacting with deans, department chairs and undergraduate directors to discuss some of Syracuse University’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment preliminary mappings of the six competencies to individual undergraduate major programs,” Mosher says.
Last July, Provost Wheatly appointed Mary Graham, professor of sport management in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, to work closely with Mosher and the Ad Hoc Senate Committee. “We are designing a faculty-driven assessment process that will enhance consistency in learning outcomes across majors,” Graham says. “At the same time, we want the process to support the uniqueness and thoughtfully designed programs of study across the schools and colleges.”
The Ad Hoc Committee plans to pilot test the assessment of the communication skills shared competency during the 2019-2020 academic year. “We chose the communication skills competency first because it has straightforward framing language and we know from the IEA’s research on each undergraduate program that teaching and learning in this area occurs campuswide,” Mosher says.
Anyone interested in more information on the shared competencies should contact Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment (firstname.lastname@example.org), Senate Ad Hoc Committee Chair Anne Mosher (email@example.com) or Provost Faculty Fellow Mary Graham (firstname.lastname@example.org). In addition, more information and Frequently Asked Questions can be found at this website.