Educational attainment—the number of years a person spends in school—strongly predicts adult earnings, and also predicts health and civic engagement. Relative to those with less education, highly educated adults tend to be more productive and capable of adapting to technological change, fueling the U.S. economy’s productivity in a competitive global environment (National Research Council, 2012b). Yet despite the importance of educational attainment for individual and societal success, young Americans, who heretofore have led the world in completing postsecondary degrees, are now falling behind their global peers (OECD, 2013a). The college completion agenda, discussed further below, has emerged as a national priority, and with it the need to resolve persistent disparities in graduation rates by gender, race, socioeconomic status, and parental education (Mann and DiPrete, 2013; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2016a; Xie et al., 2015).
This college completion imperative provided the impetus for this study. The National Science Foundation (NSF) requested that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies) form a committee to examine whether intra- and interpersonal competencies that have been identified as significant for success in K-12 education, work, and life may also contribute to persistence and success in higher education. The committee was asked to explore how institutions of higher education can marshal the assessment and development of these competencies to increase
As a first step in addressing its charge, the committee reached agreement on its interpretation of the charge and its principal tasks. With regard to Task 1, the committee defined “postsecondary persistence and success” as “persistence and success in undergraduate education,” as is clearly stated in Task 1. The committee focused on success during college, reflected in such indicators as retention from one semester or one year to the next, grade point average (GPA), and completion of a degree or certificate. In focusing solely on persistence and success during college, the committee followed on a prior, related report, which found that educational attainment was strongly predictive of labor market success, a finding that was upheld even with rigorous research approaches designed to approximate random assignment (National Research Council, 2012b). The committee thus fo-
cused on identifying those competencies for which there was empirical research investigating their relationships with indicators of progress toward and completion of undergraduate education. The committee interpreted “especially in STEM” in Task 1 to mean that it should give special attention to research on the role of intra- and interpersonal competencies in supporting persistence and completion within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors. As discussed further below, however, the committee found insufficient evidence to reach any conclusions specifically about these majors. The committee adopted a broad definition of “competency” encompassing malleable attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, and dispositions that reside within the individual student and may also be influenced by college environments or contexts.
The committee was committed to maintaining a primary focus on persistence and success in undergraduate education. At the same time, it recognized that leaders in higher education are beginning to target intrapersonal competencies such as ethics and lifelong learning and interpersonal competencies such as teamwork and intercultural sensitivity as desired learning outcomes that are expected to be valuable for work and in life after college graduation. To address this current interest, the committee briefly considered selected intra- and interpersonal competencies that have been identified by higher education leaders as important learning outcomes. The committee examined whether these competencies targeted as desired learning outcomes might also be related to persistence and success in undergraduate education and how they can be assessed (see Chapter 5).
With respect to Task 2, the committee interpreted “examine available assessments” as a charge to examine and evaluate assessment methods that are currently being used to measure the competencies identified in Chapter 2. The committee viewed this task as a charge to provide guidance to leaders and researchers in higher education by outlining important assessment principles, examining the strengths and weaknesses of currently used assessment methods, and recommending approaches for strengthening future assessments.
Recent data illustrate the clear value of and growing demand for higher education. The earnings premium for college graduates relative to those with only a high school degree, which rose continuously from the 1970s to 2000, remains at a near-record high (Autor, 2014; Matsudaira, 2015). Reflecting this growing demand, the fraction of recent high school graduates who immediately entered postsecondary institutions grew from only 45 percent in 1960 to 60 percent in 1990 and 68 percent in 2014 (Kena et al., 2016). Employer demand, as reflected in growing wages and low
unemployment, is especially strong for 2- and 4-year graduates with majors and specific skills in STEM (Carnevale et al., 2011; Rothwell, 2013). Although there is debate about projected future demand for STEM graduates (e.g., Lowell and Salzman, 2007), wages in both STEM and STEM-related occupations (e.g., health care, management in STEM-intensive industries) have been rising in recent years, suggesting that demand for STEM graduates is currently strong. In 2013, as the nation emerged from recession and the national unemployment rate stood at 8.1 percent, the unemployment rate among scientists and engineers was less than half as high, at 3.8 percent (National Science Board, 2016).
The Completion Challenge
Many college entrants drop out before completing their degrees. On average, among all full-time students who first entered 4-year institutions in 2008, only 60 percent had completed a degree at that institution 6 years later. Among full-time students who first entered 2-year institutions in 2011, only 28 percent had completed a degree or certificate within 150 percent of the expected time1 (Kena et al., 2016). For students aspiring to major in STEM, completion rates within one of the STEM fields are even lower: Eagan and colleagues (2014) found that only 40 percent of first-time full-time STEM aspirants entering 4-year institutions in fall 2004 had completed a STEM degree 6 years later. The authors report wide variation across STEM fields of study in the probability that students completed the originally intended major, switched to another STEM field, switched to a non-STEM field, or dropped out of college entirely. Among students who intended to major in the life sciences, for example, 37 percent completed that major, another 6 percent completed a bachelor’s degree in a different STEM field, and nearly one-third (31%) switched to a non-STEM field but still completed a bachelor’s degree within 6 years. Overall, 74 percent of original life sciences aspirants had completed a 4-year degree in some field of study after 6 years.
With these low rates of graduation, the nation’s educational attainment rate has slipped relative to that in other countries. By 2012, the United States, once the global leader in young adults’ attainment of postsecondary degrees, ranked 14th among the 37 OECD and Group of 20 (G20) nations in the fraction of 25- to 34-year-olds who had graduated, placing it above average but far behind the top-ranked nations. The rate of increase in educational attainment in the United States is lower than that across all OECD
1 Both this 28 percent completion rate and the 60 percent rate for 4-year students exclude transfers. Using a separate database, Shapiro and colleagues (2015) estimate that among all students who entered 2- or 4-year institutions in 2007, 53 percent had graduated from the initial institution or another institution 6 years later.
and G20 countries. Between 2000 and 2010, for example, postsecondary attainment in the United States grew an average of 1.3 percentage points a year, compared with 3.7 percentage points for OECD countries overall (OECD, 2013a).
Failure to enter or complete college has adverse effects on individuals and the national economy. DiPrete and Buchmann (2013) identify three categories of young people: those who do not go beyond high school, those who enter college but do not finish, and those who complete college. Those who enter 2- or 4-year institutions but fail to complete their degrees are in some ways worse off than those with only a high school diploma because they are likely to have accumulated student loan debt and lack marketable credentials. At the same time, they a have incurred the opportunity costs of lost labor force experience (including both foregone wages and on-the-job learning and training opportunities).
Calls for Accountability and Improvement
The loss of U.S. competitiveness in rates of completion of higher education relative to other advanced economies and the costs of noncompletion, together with rapidly rising college costs and student debt, have led policy makers to call for greater accountability and improvement in higher education. In a February 2009 address to a joint session of Congress, then-President Obama proposed the goal that “by 2020, the U.S. will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world” (Obama, 2009). Many institutions of higher education, state governments, foundations, businesses, and federal policy makers are now working together on this college completion agenda (Hughes, 2013).
Retaining and graduating students in STEM majors is considered an essential component of the broader completion agenda, focused on building and diversifying the STEM workforce (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2012). Yet colleges and universities continue to face challenges in supporting students—especially women, minorities, those from low-income families, and first-generation students—in the pursuit of STEM majors. Studies suggest that many students who have been successful in high school STEM enter college intending to major in a STEM discipline, but later switch to other fields (e.g., Ohland et al., 2008; Seymour and Hewitt, 1997). Switching fields may lower future earnings, as individuals with bachelor’s degrees in science, engineering, and related fields (e.g., health care, management of scientists and engineers) enjoy an earnings premium over the course of their careers compared with those with degrees in other fields (National Science Board, 2016).
Relative to previous generations, today’s undergraduates are more likely to be from minority groups, to be single parents, and to earn credits
from multiple public and private institutions (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2016a). This shift compounds the challenge and the need to close existing achievement gaps. Between 1990 and 2012, the share of students from low-income families increased by nearly 18 percent, while the share of non-Hispanic white students fell from 77 percent to 57 percent (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2016a). And women make up the majority of college students today—about 57 percent. Disparities exist among these different groups in where they enroll and how frequently they graduate: minorities and students from low-income families are more likely than more advantaged students to enroll in community colleges or less selective 4-year institutions, where completion rates are much lower than in highly selective 4-year institutions (U.S. Department of Education, 2015). As noted earlier, on average about 60 percent of 4-year students entering in 2008 had completed degrees 6 years later. However, completion rates were lower for blacks (40.9%), Hispanics (53.5%), and American Indians (39.7%) than for whites (63.2%) and Asian Americans (70.6%) (U.S. Department of Education, 2015).
Focusing specifically on STEM, Eagan and colleagues (2014) found that 40 percent of all students entering 4-year institutions in 2004 with the intent of pursuing STEM majors had completed such degrees after 6 years. Completion rates in STEM majors after 6 years were lower for black (21.8%), Hispanic (29.0%), and American Indian (24.9%) students than for white (43.0%) and Asian American (52.0%) students.
The Range of Competencies for Life and Work
Research demonstrates the value for students of developing a full complement of competencies to support their success in education, life, and work. As part of the broader national effort to increase completion rates, researchers and policy makers in higher education are exploring the role of intra- and interpersonal competencies in supporting student success. As noted earlier, these sets of competencies represent two of three domains of competence outlined in a previous National Academies report (National Research Council, 2012b):
- Intrapersonal competencies involve self-management and the ability to regulate one’s behavior and emotions to reach goals.
- Interpersonal competencies involve expressing information to others as well as interpreting others’ messages and responding appropriately.
- Cognitive competencies involve thinking, reasoning, and related skills.
That study found that these competencies are closely intertwined with—and support the acquisition of—core knowledge and skills in science, mathematics, and English language arts. Because much more research is available to guide teaching and assessment in the cognitive domain relative to the other two domains, the report calls for greater attention to teaching and assessing the intra- and interpersonal competencies that traditionally have not been targeted as educational goals (National Research Council, 2012b).
The value of intra- and interpersonal competencies in the workplace is beginning to be documented in research. In separate recent studies, economists David Deming (2015) and Catherine Weinberger (2014) have demonstrated that jobs requiring high levels of both social and cognitive competencies are growing more rapidly and also tend to be rewarded with higher wages relative to other jobs. Their research augments earlier studies revealing that jobs requiring higher levels of cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal competencies grew rapidly over the past half-century at the same time that computers eliminated jobs involving more routine tasks (Autor et al., 2003; Levy and Murnane, 2013). Although emerging evidence suggests that technology is beginning to displace workers at increasingly higher levels of the skill distribution (Brown et al., 2010), multiple employer surveys over the past decade (e.g., American Management Association, 2010; Casner-Lotto and Barrington, 2006; Hart Research Associates, 2010, 2015) also suggest a growing need for more labor market entrants with such competencies as communication, teamwork, ethics, and intercultural sensitivity.
To meet this growing labor market demand, educational policy makers increasingly have identified students’ attainment of intra- and interpersonal competencies as key goals of both K-12 and higher education, and are working to assess them. The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has identified teamwork, problem solving, and lifelong learning as essential learning outcomes for all college graduates and has also developed rubrics for assessing these competencies.2 The requirement of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (2015) that undergraduate engineering programs develop students’ ability to function on multidisciplinary teams and to engage in lifelong learning has spurred faculty members, researchers, and administrators to develop assessments aligned with this requirement. At the K-12 level, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (an association of K-12 leaders) targets critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity as key learning and innovation skills3 and is working with state and local school systems and researchers to assess these skills.
In the push for accountability, policy makers, parents, and students are demanding that colleges and universities provide data demonstrating the quality of their degree programs (Campbell, 2015; Matsudaira, 2015). Although often focusing on graduation rates and graduates’ earnings, policy makers also are asking institutions to define college outcomes for students more clearly and to provide reliable indicators of students’ progress toward and attainment of these outcomes (Campbell, 2015). As noted above, the expected outcomes increasingly include intra- and interpersonal competencies, and research is under way to develop assessments of these competencies (e.g., Torney-Purta et al., 2015).
This report focuses primarily on competencies that 2- and 4-year institutions and faculty members could develop and assess to improve their students’ college persistence and completion. This focus reflects the strong evidence that increased educational attainment is related to higher earnings, greater health, and civic engagement (National Research Council, 2012b), together with suggestive evidence that intra- and interpersonal competencies can help support educational achievement and attainment. At the K-12 level, well-designed social and emotional learning programs have been shown to improve students’ academic achievement, as well as their social skills and behavior (Durlak and Weissberg, 2011; Durlak et al., 2010). Conversely, children with persistently high levels of antisocial behavior across elementary school are less likely to graduate high school and are far less likely to attend college than children who never have these problems (Duncan and Magnuson, 2011). At the undergraduate level, research has shown that such competencies as conscientiousness and self-regulated learning are positively correlated with grades and persistence (National Research Council, 2012b). And in a recent review of the literature on STEM persistence, Xie and colleagues (2015) found that, although both socioeconomic status and social-psychological factors predicted general educational attainment, the latter factors were more important correlates of participation and achievement in STEM than in other fields.
These emerging research findings on the potential links between intra- and interpersonal competencies and educational success have spurred further efforts to assess these competencies. Some faculty members are measuring these competencies in their research on student learning for the purpose of improving instruction. In a composite study of introductory geoscience classes, for example, student performance was significantly and positively correlated with scores on a measure of self-efficacy, an intrapersonal competency (McConnell and van der Hoeven Kraft, 2011; McConnell et al., 2010). In fact, students with low initial content knowledge but high self-efficacy earned the same grades as students with higher initial content knowledge but low self-efficacy. In another example, test publishers have created new assessments of intrapersonal competencies such as determi-
nation, goal striving, and self-management, and some colleges are using these assessments to identify incoming students who may need additional supports or may bring previously unrecognized strengths to their studies (Fain, 2015).
In summary, efforts are under way to assess intra- and interpersonal competencies in undergraduate education. However, these efforts are diffuse, seeking to assess a wide range of competencies that are often poorly defined—or called by different names while potentially representing the same underlying constructs—and they often rely on methods that fail to meet professional testing standards of reliability and validity. This report identifies competencies that show some evidence of specifically supporting persistence and success in undergraduate education and reviews methods and standards for their assessment.
The committee’s approach to addressing its charge entailed reviewing the relevant research; considering competencies, diversity, and contexts; examining available assessments of intra- and interpersonal competencies; and establishing priorities for the development and use of assessments.
Identifying Competencies Related to College Success
To address Task 1, the committee conducted an extensive search of the literature examining the relationships between various skills, competencies, attitudes, and abilities and persistence and success in undergraduate education. Within the available time and resources for the study, the committee focused primarily on studies addressing key indicators of undergraduate persistence (e.g., GPA, persistence over semesters, completion of a degree or certificate) and gave less attention to the broader literature related to undergraduate learning. Individual committee members identified relevant materials (e.g., book chapters, articles, reports), and the committee also invited several outside experts to share their research on various constructs and their relationships to student success (see Appendix D). At the committee’s request, the National Academies library staff conducted four literature searches seeking research on links between intra- and interpersonal competencies and college persistence (see Appendix A), using terms for various skills, abilities, and competencies that had been identified and organized in the prior report referenced above (National Research Council, 2012b). Although four of these searches included the term “interpersonal competencies” and related terms, such as “teamwork,” “oral communication,” “leadership,” “interpersonal skills,” and “intercultural competence,” they
yielded no rigorous research providing evidence that any of these competencies is related to persistence and success in undergraduate education.
To identify competencies that are not only related to success during college but also malleable in response to interventions, the committee assembled and reviewed experimental evidence from interventions. In addition, the committee commissioned two original data analyses on the possible relationship between various competencies and success in undergraduate education. First, as it continued to search for any evidence that one or more interpersonal competencies might be related to college persistence, the committee asked economist David Deming (professor, Harvard University) to analyze data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth on the relationship between social skills and college graduation. Second, educational researcher Nicholas Bowman (associate professor, University of Iowa) was asked to explore whether intra- and interpersonal competencies that have been targeted as desired learning outcomes for college graduates might also be predictors of postsecondary persistence and success. The committee requested that he analyze data from the Wabash Study of Liberal Arts Education on the relationships between several competencies and college success, breaking the data down for different student groups (males and females, minorities, and first-generation students; see Chapter 5).
The committee used the results of these literature searches and commissioned analyses in developing a list of competencies for which there is suggestive evidence of a relationship to persistence and success in undergraduate education and malleability in response to interventions (see Chapter 2). In so doing, the committee took into account the quality and quantity of the research evidence obtained from each source, privileging experimental evidence from interventions while also including studies addressing the key outcomes of undergraduate persistence and success using correlational and other methods. Reflecting the lack of research evidence, the list of competencies detailed in Chapter 2 includes no purely interpersonal competencies, and the committee points to the need for further research on competencies in this domain.
Recognizing that 2-year colleges play a significant role in undergraduate education at large and specifically in STEM fields (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2016a), the committee sought out studies focused on community colleges. It was able to locate only one study of an intervention related to conscientiousness that included community college students (Liu et al., 2012) and one study of the correlation between mathematics self-efficacy and mathematics achievement in a sample of community college students (Nordstrom, 2012). These studies are discussed in Chapter 2, and the committee identified the need for additional research examining how intra- and interpersonal competencies may be related to college persistence and success for this important population. Similarly, to
address its charge to identify a range of competencies related to persistence and success “especially in STEM,” the committee reviewed the literature seeking studies focused specifically on persistence in STEM. However, the available evidence was not sufficient to conclude that any competency is related to persistence and success specifically in STEM undergraduate education, and the committee highlights the need for further research in this area as well.
Considering Competencies, Diversity, and Contexts
Considering the growing diversity of the undergraduate population and the disparities in graduation rates across different student groups, both generally in all fields of study and specifically in STEM fields, the committee identified the theme of inclusion and diversity as central to responding to its charge. As a first step toward addressing this theme, the committee identified the student groups to be the focus for inclusion and diversity. To this end, the committee built on a prior National Science Foundation (2013) analysis identifying “underrepresented groups” as those constituting smaller percentages of recipients of science and engineering degrees and employed scientists and engineers relative to their percentage representation in the general population. These underrepresented groups include women in certain STEM fields, persons with disabilities, and three racial/ethnic groups—blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians. Although women now constitute the majority of the undergraduate population (Kena et al., 2016), their proportionate representation in some STEM fields has not increased substantially since the 1980s (Mann and DiPrete, 2013). In the life and social sciences, for example, women have earned the majority of degrees since the 1980s, but they remain significantly underrepresented among degree recipients in engineering, the physical sciences, mathematics, and computer science (Xie and Killewald, 2012; Xie et al., 2015). In computer science, the percentage of women earning degrees declined from 28 percent in 2000 to 17.9 percent in 2009 (National Science Foundation, 2012). Because of these disparities in graduation rates, women remain significantly underrepresented in the engineering and computer-related occupations that make up more than 80 percent of STEM employment (Landivar, 2013).
Expanding the NSF definition, the committee noted that the above three racial/ethnic groups—blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians—have experienced lower graduation rates generally as well as in STEM (Eagan et al., 2014; Kena et al., 2016). It also noted that students from low-income families and those who are the first in their families to attend college also have experienced lower graduation rates than other student groups (Cahalan et al., 2016; DeAngelo et al., 2011). Therefore, the committee uses the term “underrepresented groups” throughout this report to encom-
pass all of these student groups that have historically experienced lower graduation rates than other student groups. In addition, the committee uses the term “underrepresented minorities” to refer to the above three racial/ethnic student groups.
To explore the theme of inclusion and diversity, the committee drew on committee members’ own research, as well as a literature search focused on this theme. The committee also invited educational researcher Alicia Dowd (professor of education, Pennsylvania State University) to present her work addressing assessment, accountability, and institutional change. She discussed a project in Colorado that engaged teams of STEM faculty at three institutions in action research. The teams analyzed quantitative data on equity gaps in student progress toward degrees and qualitative data (e.g., observations, interviews) on teaching practices and departmental and institutional practices. These inquiries catalyzed changes in practices and policy, and one institution saw marked improvements in mathematics outcomes for African American and Hispanic students, along with an increase in success rates in college-level mathematics among all students who began in developmental mathematics classes (Dowd, 2015).
This literature indicates that the success of diverse student groups is affected by systems of influence that include not only the competencies possessed by individual students but also students’ interactions with others in different learning and living environments. Sato and colleagues (2015) observe that “noncognitive factors” (i.e., intra- and interpersonal competencies) are shaped by sociocultural contexts that affect how students experience and respond to situations, including learning activities and assessment prompts or tasks. For example, researchers have found that the discrimination, microaggression, and “chilly” climate in some STEM classrooms and laboratories negatively affect students’ beliefs about their ability to engage seriously in STEM and undermine their feelings of competence (see Henderson et al., 2011). A sense of belonging to social and academic environments is important, and it may be especially predictive of persistence and achievement for underrepresented minority students in STEM (e.g., Darling et al., 2008). Students’ perceptions of STEM contexts can influence their abilities to identify and make use of institutional supports to continue pursuing STEM (e.g., Chang et al., 2014; Hurtado and Carter, 1997).
Similarly, Dowd and colleagues (2011) argue that efforts to measure and develop students’ sense of belonging should include the recognition that college environments are not culturally neutral. They suggest that leaders and researchers in higher education should “measure a broader range of factors . . . in ensuring a sense of belonging, membership, and validation among students from all racial-ethnic groups” (p. 18).
For example, student identity is a multifaceted construct, encompassing attitudes, values, beliefs, and connections to social and cultural groups.
Identity influences self-evaluation, contextual appraisal, and academic motivation, and it is associated with postsecondary persistence and success. Research has shown that group and individual identity experiences influence participation and persistence in STEM fields specifically (e.g., Borum and Walker, 2012; Carlone and Johnson, 2007; Kyoung Ro and Loya, 2015; Malcom and Malcom, 2011; Ong et al., 2011).
More generally, the identity-context congruence perspective of Byrd and Chavous, 2011, 2012) provides a frame for considering how students’ experience of college context norms may influence their engagement and persistence. In samples of African American secondary and postsecondary students, the authors found that perceiving positive racial climates (defined by inclusion and equity) was related to students’ stronger sense of belonging to and connectedness with their academic settings; this relationship was particularly pronounced for students with a strong, positive connection to their racial identity. Furthermore, a sense of belonging and connectedness was positively related to students’ motivation (as measured by engagement in and enjoyment of learning in classes).
In another example, Harackiewicz and colleagues (2015) found that among students taking introductory biology, underrepresented minority groups and first-generation students generally performed more poorly than other student groups. However, although first-generation underrepresented minority groups tended to have the weakest biology backgrounds and lowest incoming GPAs, they also were the most highly motivated to do well and to give back to their families and communities. The authors tested a brief intervention highlighting the relevance and value of the biology course and found that it helped students from all groups find utility value in the course content, which in turn tended to improve course performance. The intervention’s effect size and the improvement in course grades were statistically and practically significant only for the first-generation underrepresented minority groups. The authors hypothesize that the preexisting desire of this group of students to give back to their families and communities may have increased their receptiveness to the utility value intervention, which in turn improved their academic performance (see Chapter 2 for further discussion of utility value).
Based on such findings, the committee gave some consideration to the literature examining, for different specific student groups, how the development of various competencies is influenced by different contexts at different points in the college trajectory. The committee’s exploration of this emerging area of research informed the list of promising competencies discussed in Chapter 2. At the same time, this research suggested that systems of interrelationships between competencies and contexts, taken together, may be more likely to support persistence and postsecondary success than any single, isolated intervention targeting the development of a specific
competency (Sato et al., 2015; see also Bailey et al., 2015). Nevertheless, to maintain focus on its charge, which emphasizes the role of individual competencies in supporting student success, the committee did not conduct a comprehensive review of the literature on systems of competencies in context. Further research is needed in this area.
Examining Available Assessments
Addressing its charge to “examine how to assess intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies,” the committee reviewed relevant current research, development, and practice. The committee searched the literature, deliberated on committee members’ own work in this area, and reviewed relevant National Academies reports (e.g., National Research Council, 2012b, 2015a, 2015b) to identify the strengths and weaknesses of various assessment methods. At the committee’s request, the National Academies library conducted two literature searches focused on assessment of intra- and interpersonal competencies (see Appendix A). To gain additional insights on assessment, the committee invited engineering education researcher Ashley Ater Kranov (affiliated assistant professor, Washington State University) to provide an overview of a new assessment of engineering professional skills that includes intra- and interpersonal competencies. The committee also invited Alex Pentland (professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to present his social sciences computational research on team processes and outcomes, using unobtrusive badges to track individual behaviors and interactions (Pentland, 2015).
The committee examined primarily methods and strategies that could be used to define more clearly and assess the eight intrapersonal competencies identified in Chapter 2. However, recognizing that faculty and policy makers in higher education are keenly interested in assessing other competencies they view as valuable outcomes for college graduates, the committee briefly considered how to define and assess a selected number of these competencies as well (see Chapter 5).
Establishing Priorities for the Development and Use of Assessments
To establish priorities for the development and use of assessments, the committee deliberated on all the various strands of research discussed above, and also reviewed research and practice on assessment for improvement and accountability in undergraduate education (e.g., Campbell, 2015). The committee invited a presentation by Carol Geary Schneider (2015a) (president emerita, AAC&U) to discuss AAC&U’s development of rubrics for assessing various learning outcomes, including intra- and interpersonal competencies.
Following this introduction, Chapter 2 reviews the research evidence on the relationship between various dispositions, behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs and college persistence and success, identifying a small number of promising competencies and calling for further research. Chapter 3 examines the methods and instruments currently used to assess intra- and interpersonal competencies, particularly those identified in Chapter 2; the quality of these methods and instruments in light of foundational principles of assessment; and approaches for strengthening assessment of these competencies. Chapter 4 details different purposes for assessing competencies in higher education and the various higher education stakeholders who can use assessments for these purposes. It offers conclusions and recommends further research on how higher education organizations can use competency assessments appropriately to enhance student success. Chapter 5 identifies a set of intra- and interpersonal competencies that have been targeted by higher education leaders as desired outcomes for college graduates, examines whether these competencies are related to college success, and considers their assessment. Chapter 6 summarizes the committee’s recommendations. Appendix A describes the literature searches commissioned by the committee. Appendix B describes the assessments used in the evaluations of interventions, Appendix C presents biosketches of the committee members, and Appendix D provides the agenda for the committee’s December 2015 workshop.
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