Three years ago my institution began to shift from competencies to outcomes. First, college-wide outcomes were written, re-written, and settled on. Creating and aligning program-wide outcomes was next; each department gathered together in meetings to collaborate with their teams and create them. There were various outcomes workshops, to talk about how to write SMART outcomes, and look at examples of clear, measurable outcomes. Those were collected by the program Deans, and added to our website. I helped with the workshops, and added the program outcomes to our Canvas site as well.
This year, the focus is on course outcomes. There were various discussion as to how to make sure all faculty write them if they haven't already, and to make sure they are in the syllabi. There was some talk of having some more required meetings for faculty, but based on the fact that most faculty are pressed for time and we had already had a series of meetings, I suggested that faculty be allowed to submit their syllabi tabs online (we are using Canvas as our campus-wide grade book) and that I would give their outcomes a quick check, helping to adjust if necessary. Had I been really thinking about how many outcomes that would be to read, I might not have made that suggestion. But that's what we decided to do.
I created a short do-it-yourself course in Canvas, The Outcomes Project. It includes information on what outcomes are, the difference between competencies and outcomes, measurable verbs, and various samples of syllabi with outcomes. Throughout spring quarter, faculty are submitting their syllabi for one year of outcomes; winter quarter first, then spring, then summer/fall. Several times a week I open The Outcomes Project, and look at course outcomes from across campus.
I am the Outcomes Gatherer. As I look at the diverse outcomes from courses in allied health, business and welding to construction, automotive, and culinary arts, I am looking at our campus with new eyes. As a technical college, we see ourselves (and portray ourselves) as a hands-on institution. "Learning by doing" has been one of our mottos. Our mission is to put a diverse student population to work. But the outcomes show me something else as well. Hands-on equals minds-on: Thinking skills are just as important as doing skills.
This is what we have in common.
For every photo or video you see of people working with their hands on our website, what you aren't seeing is what's going on in their minds. At the heart of all the courses are analytical skills. Cross-departmentally, students are expected to learn to analyze problems, find solutions, calculate numbers, explain issues, and make decisions. They are expected to demonstrate the Why along with the How. This is what we have in common, no matter what tool we are holding, what safety skill we are instilling or what repair we are practicing.
The course outcomes speak to this side of what we are doing. Yes, we are a hands-on place, for hands-on people. But our focus is on empowering the mind as well as the hands, and with today's job market looking for innovation, curiosity, and critical thinking, we can make a great contribution. It may behove us to shift our self-perception to align with our course outcomes. We are a Minds-On college.