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Students to be assessed on holistic ‘graduate qualities’

There are nine qualities by which students will be assessed.

Graduate qualities and their descriptions. Graduate qualities and their descriptions.

Future undergraduate students will be assessed on their achievement of university-wide graduate qualities as part of the University’s 2016-2020 Strategic Plan.

“The model involves embedding the graduate qualities in the undergraduate curriculum and assessing them on graduation,” said Associate Professor Peter McCallum, co-chair of the working group responsible for developing the assessment.

The graduate qualities currently include “Depth of disciplinary expertise”, “Critical thinking and problem solving”, “Communication (oral and written)”, “Information/digital literacy”, “Inventiveness”, “Cultural competence”, “Interdisciplinary effectiveness”, “An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity” and “Influence”.

McCallum said these qualities reflect those needed for students to “make a valuable contribution to society and lead fulfilling lives”.

Achievement of these outcomes will not appear on students’ transcripts, but in a narrative form on a supplementary document that students can choose to use.

“Many scholarship applications or job applications, for example, ask for demonstrated communication skills and it may be of value to students to be able to present the supplement as evidence of this,” McCallum said.

The holistic and qualitative nature of the model is similar to rubrics such as VALUE adopted across many campuses in the United States.

“It’s actually a very exciting project,” Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Pip Pattison said. “If we can do it, we’ll be the first university to attempt something at this scale, but we think it will actually be very useful for students.”

Nonetheless, Pattison admits “it’s still going to be very hard” to compare graduate qualities between disparate disciplines.

It is also unclear how qualities like cultural competence will be integrated to a sufficient extent in subjects outside of the humanities without feeling tokenistic. Further, the new model may end up discouraging students from developing these qualities outside of university since the assessment will not take those activities into account.

Nonetheless, consultation appears to have been lengthy, with faculty staff, student representatives, and employers providing feedback since 2015.

Honi contacted spokespeople from the faculties of Business, Engineering, and Arts and Social Sciences who were all supportive of the proposal and satisfied with the level of consultation.

Assessment of graduate qualities is scheduled to commence in 2020.

A discussion paper about the model will be available at the end of October.