Competencies are institutional, integrative general learning outcomes (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) common to all undergraduates that support, reinforce, or complement program-specific outcomes.
Competency framing language is text that communicates the content of that competency to educators and learners. It is not a definition. Rather it offers a range of knowledge, skills, and attributes that each competency entails.
Syracuse University is implementing shared competencies for two main reasons:
- To ensure consistency in student learning experiences across Syracuse University’s eleven Schools and Colleges that award undergraduate degrees, and to provide a framework for assessing and improving student learning outcomes.
- To fulfill the commitment to the shared competencies model in the Academic Strategic Plan. The University’s 2017-2018 institutional self-study, the basis for Middle States re-accreditation of Syracuse University in 2018, re-affirmed this strategic choice.
The shared competencies are a separate endeavor from the shared reading and changes being proposed for the first year experience. However, we anticipate that the revised first year experience will enhance student development of two of the competencies: Ethics, Integrity, and Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion; and Communication Skills.
The competencies are not a graduation requirement. They help faculty and students communicate the overall value of a Syracuse University education. Faculty and staff will assess student competency development to enhance the strength of our programs, not to evaluate individual students.
Syracuse University wants all of its undergraduate students to develop the six competencies upon graduation, to ensure preparation for a global, changing world and career and personal success.
At present, almost all programs at the University have learning outcomes that align with the six shared competencies, through required courses within the major or outside the major. For those programs that do not align fully with the competencies or where assessment of student outcomes indicates a problem in competency development, faculty in charge of individual programs will discuss the issues and adjust their programs accordingly to benefit future students. Faculty, not students, are responsible for developing and assessing student development of the competencies, for purposes of program improvement.
The goal is that students will develop the six competencies in fulfilling the program requirements for their major. The University Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Competencies will oversee the assessment of student development to ensure that this is the case. For those programs that do not align fully with the competencies or where assessment of student outcomes indicates a problem in competency development, faculty in charge of individual programs will discuss the issues and make adjustments that will address the needs of future students.
Competencies will be acquired mainly through academic courses. The University has developed framing language for each competency to describe the kinds of skills, knowledge, and attitudes that students can expect to develop in that area. For example, students can accomplish learning in the “Communication Skills” competency through courses that have been designed to encompass “effective individual, interpersonal, and collaborative presentation and development of ideas through oral, written, and other forms of expression to inform, persuade, or inspire.”
At present, The Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment (IEA) is mapping existing program learning outcomes and degree requirements, including required coursework, to the competencies. When this information is complete, it will be shared with individual programs. Keep in mind, however, that students’ priority and focus should be on fulfilling their program coursework requirements, which are designed to develop the competencies. Electives are available for further development of particular competencies.
We are all responsible. This is a Syracuse University initiative in which all faculty, staff, and students share the opportunity to shape student learning and development. The Provost’s Office oversees and evaluates the shared competencies in collaboration with the University Senate and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment.
Current students will see no changes to their academic program requirements. Faculty may incorporate competency language into existing course requirements or learning outcomes, but it is not required. Also, optional co-curricular activities may be described by using competency framing language.
Future students could see changes to academic program requirements as faculty improve and update programs (this is the same as the current situation). What is new is that future modifications may now be guided by and described using competency framing language.
Can students mention the shared competencies on their resumes, job cover letters, and graduate school personal statements?
Yes! The Shared Competencies offer powerful summaries of the skills and knowledge acquired at Syracuse University. They describe the coursework and co-curricular activities in ways that employers and graduate schools understand and value.
Assessment. The University Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Competencies has set a tentative timeline for assessment of the competencies, beginning with the Communication Skills competency in the 2019-2020 academic year. The goals are to involve faculty and university stakeholders in the assessment process, but to minimize the assessment burden placed upon individual faculty, departments, and administrators. The latter can be done by using existing student assessment data and by coordinating assessment approaches and deadlines with other reporting requirements (e.g., Middle States, program accreditation, etc.).
Information. The University Senate Ad Hoc Committee will continue to help administer and provide oversight of the competencies. The Ad Hoc Committee’s members are available to provide information and answer questions. The Provost regularly shares information on the competencies and the planned timeline for assessment with Senior Associate Deans in the Schools and Colleges, who in turn share this information with their faculty. In addition, the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment will be the source of detailed information on assessment as the plan develops.
The assessment process is still being determined by the University Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Competencies.
The timeline is as follows:
Fall 2019 – Summer 2020
- IEA will meet with academic programs to discuss the mapping drafts. Academic programs will have the opportunity to discuss the mapping drafts with department faculty and revise accordingly.
- Assessment of the Communication Skills competency begins.
- The Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Competencies will seek to become a permanent standing committee via a Senate bylaw change.
- Assessment of one or two competencies (to be determined).
- Report to Middles States Commission on Higher Education on our initial two rounds of assessment.
- Share with the campus community the schedule of assessment over the next four years.
Provost Michele Wheatly and Associate Provost Chris Johnson lead the shared competencies initiative at the University level. They work in partnership with the University Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Competencies and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment, led by Senior Assistant Provost Jerry Edmonds. Current membership on the Ad Hoc Committee is below:
|Member||Other University Senate Committee Affiliation||Title / Unit|
|Anne Mosher||Instruction, Chair||Associate Professor, Arts and Sciences|
|Lois Agnew||Instruction||Associate Dean, Arts and Sciences|
|Karen Zannini Bull||Ad Hoc Appointee||Associate Dean, University College|
|John Dannenhoffer IIII||Instruction||Associate Professor, Engineering and Computer Science|
|Kelly Delevan||Instruction||Information Literacy Librarian|
|Siham Doughman||Curricula||University Registrar, Office of the Registrar|
|Gerald Edmonds||Guest||Senior Assistant Provost, Academic Affairs|
|Sophia Faram||Student Association||Student, Arts and Sciences|
|Carol Faulkner||Curricula||Associate Dean, Maxwell School|
|Mary Graham||Ex Officio Appointee||Provost Faculty Fellow and Prof., Falk College|
|Gerry Greenberg||Ad Hoc Appointee||Senior Associate Dean, Arts and Sciences|
|Amanda Johnson Sanguiliano||Instruction||Assistant Director, Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment|
|Emily Stokes-Rees||Agenda Committee Liaison||Associate Professor, Visual and Performing Arts|
|Robert Van Gulick||Instruction||Professor, College of Arts and Sciences|
Inquiries and ideas can be directed to 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).
Yes. In 2015, 85% of American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) member institutions reported using a common set of learning outcomes for all students. All of the six competencies proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee are reflected in the top learning outcomes identified by these AAC&U institutions.
In addition, we consulted the websites of sixteen peer institutions, including eleven Middle States-accredited universities, of similar size and research emphasis. We found that nine of the sixteen schools examined (56%) used a competencies approach for general education. Some of these schools used competencies to complement conventional general education requirements and others used a competencies approach only.
In 2014, a 27-member Academic Strategic Plan Steering Committee guided the planning and fact-finding process, elicited campus input from open forums, and drafted the Academic Strategic Plan, the Trajectory to Excellence. In 2015, the Academic Strategic Plan Working Group 1 developed the following goal that served as the foundation for the shared competencies discussion over the past few years:
“Clearly define and boldly instill a set of distinctive Syracuse University competencies, skills, experiences and values for all undergraduate students, to be collaboratively developed and consistently applied and acted upon at both the curricular and co-curricular levels across all schools and colleges.”
Upon the release of the Academic Strategic Plan, Implementation Working Group 1 was charged to further develop the competencies and plan for implementation. Multiple focus groups, presentations to all of the schools/colleges, and discussions were held to elicit faculty, staff, and student input. Individual comments were evaluated and incorporated into the competencies. This work also supported the new Middle States requirement outlined in standard III.5 a and b, EITHER (a) a free-standing, common general education program across all Schools and Colleges, OR, (b) a shared competencies approach.
In 2016, the 4+4 was developed and shared at a University Senate meeting and across campus.
In 2017, the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Competencies was charged to review the competencies that emerged from Working Group 1, to develop a mechanism for the Provost’s Office to regularly review the competencies, and to bring to the Senate any updates.
In spring 2018, the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Competencies conducted a survey of University Senators regarding the 4+4 shared competencies framework. Qualitative feedback from the survey was evaluated and incorporated into the competencies where possible. The following University Senate presentation shared the survey results: Spring 2018 University Senate Survey Results.
In fall 2018, the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Competencies revised the shared competencies, instituted a two-week open comment period, and revised the competencies again. The following University Senate presentation shared the survey results: Fall 2018 University Senate Survey Results. On October 30, 2019 the Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Competencies distributed a White Paper to Guide Discussion which outlined next steps, value propositions, a proposed operating system, pilot mapping results, and proposed roll out schedule.