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Core Competency FAQs

Question: What are the WSCUC (WASC) Core Competencies and why should we be concerned about them?

Answer: The 2013 WASC Handbook of Accreditation outlines five core competencies it expects graduates of WSCUC-accredited universities to achieve at or near graduation (CFR 2.2). In addition to achieving these competencies within a broader General Education program, students should also demonstrate disciplinary-specific competence in each area.

The WASC Core Competencies are:

  • Written Communication
  • Oral Communication
  • Critical Thinking
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Information Literacy

WSCUC expects all of these competencies to be assessed by its member institutions. The Handbook states:

The institutional review process calls upon institu¬tions to describe how the curriculum addresses each of the five core competencies, explain their learning outcomes in relation to those core competencies, and demonstrate, through evidence of student performance, the extent to which those outcomes are achieved (30).

Graduate programs may conduct their own versions of the core competency assessments, but the Core Competency framework very specifically focuses on undergraduate education.

Question: Why this project, why now?

Answer: The campus has been moving towards assessment of core competencies for several years. In 2014, all departments received a letter detailing the degree of alignment of their Program Learning Outcomes with Institutional Learning Outcomes and with the WASC Core Competencies. In those letters, the Director of Program Review and Assessment noted areas in which articulated learning outcomes can reasonably be equated to one of the five core competencies. These letters reflected the first two action items in the institutional review process outlined by WSCUC above.

The next step in this process is to conduct assessments routinely in anticipation of our Institutional Report (formerly self-study) leading to Reaffirmation. A dedicated, two-year assessment will not only satisfy a portion of our accreditation requirements but will also foster discussion across campus between programs assessing the same competencies.

Question: How do we do these assessments?

Answer: The campus has a well-developed assessment framework, and we encourage departments to conduct the same types of direct assessments they have in the past. These assessments should be conducted at or near graduation (junior level and above). Such assessments might include (but are not limited to) the following:

Summative assessments at the end of terms (juries, research papers, post-tests); Senior capstone projects; Portfolios; Poster projects, conference papers/presentations

This is not a comprehensive list. While indirect assessment measures (alumni surveys, senior exit surveys, focus groups, etc.) may be used, they should complement a specific direct assessment, not replace it.

Question: How will this impact our future assessments?

Answer: Departments are still assessing their PLOs with the core competency initiative so there should be minimal impact on your assessment plans except for schedule, that is, a return to annual assessment reporting.

Question: Will we get any help?

Answer: Of course! The Office of Program Review and Assessment is always available to help departments. We can provide small group meetings, attend faculty retreats, or organize half-day workshops for your faculty. Departments may also wish to consider sending representatives to the WSCUC-sponsored workshop, "Assessment 101: Meaningful Assessment for Student Learning."

Question: Are there key resources?

Answer: Yes, the following links might be of assistance as you plan your assessments:

2013 WSCUC Handbook of Accreditation and Core Competency Assessment Report Template (DOC) to use for submission of reports. The relevant CSULB GE VALUE Rubrics (written communication (PDF)oral communication (PDF)critical thinking (PDF)quantitative reasoning (PDF)information literacy (PDF)). Some of the items in the workbook from Sharlene Sayegh's annual learning outcomes workshop (PDF) might be useful. National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) -- The NILOA website provides occasional papers and presentations (Clifford Adelman's To Imagine A Verb (PDF) is an excellent resource, for example) that might provide useful background information. Also available at the NILOA site are examples of good assessment practice and other resources related to assessment and student learning.

Please check back often as more resources are added to this list.