The Future of Transversal Competencies in Higher Education Assessment

The Future of Transversal Competencies in Higher Education Assessment

Jean Cushen (Maynooth University, Ireland) and Lauren Durkin (Rider University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8275-6.ch015
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This chapter evaluates the rising significance of transversal competencies and the implications for higher education assessment practices. Transversal competencies are expected to play a definitive role in future of work scenarios. This chapter evaluates the decisions and impacts surrounding the integration of transversal competencies into higher education assessments. In particular, the chapter explores the commitments and adjustments that higher education leaders must make to build the competence assessment infrastructure and supports required. The guiding role ‘student-centred learning' pedagogies can play is discussed. Relatedly, early-stage competence frameworks are offered as insight into how student-centred learning can deliver novel, active, reflective assessments that embrace competence diversity and target meaningful development. Finally, a roadmap is offered for higher education leaders to guide them in this challenging but pertinent transformation of university teaching and learning.
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Background: The ‘Why’ And The ‘What’ Of Transversal Competencies

An acclaimed argument heralding the value of competence first appeared in the 1990s via the influential publication on core competencies by Prahlad and Hamel, (1990). Toward the end of the 1990s, the emphasis on knowledge as the key source of graduate capital made way for the concept of competencies as being a learnable and teachable attribute that signal graduates’ aptitude to perform varying work activities to a high standard. Such transversal competencies are also commonly referred to as skills, attributes, meta competencies and future skills and these are considered “the cornerstone for the personal development of a person” (ESCO, 2021). Competencies are key enablers of productivity shaping an individual’s ability to apply knowledge in a range of contexts and to a variety of problems. It is for this reason that such competencies are viewed as important for longer term employability and thought to directly elevate organisational productivity. As the OECD notes ‘A competency is more than just knowledge and skills. It involves the ability to meet complex demands, by drawing on and mobilising psychosocial resources (including skills and attitudes) in a particular context’ (OECD, 2005:4). The European Commission offer the following helpful definition which delineates competence and skills:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Transversal Competencies: An ability to understand how to be, how to act and how to apply knowledge in a variety of professional settings. Often also referred to as core skills or attributes. Transversal competencies are considered essential to ongoing professional development and career efficacy.

Lifelong Learning: A self-cultivated mindset that is focused on ongoing personal growth and professional development. Generally understood to occur via conscious experiential learning in new situations; however, it can incorporate formal education also.

Micro-Credentials: Minor qualifications or certified acknowledgement of a, usually narrow, learning achievement relating to competencies, knowledge, skills and/or experience in certain subject area.

Experiential Learning: The process of learning by doing through practice, repetition, and experience; usually accompanied by reflection to consolidate the learning.

Assessment: Refers to the methods and processes used by educators to evaluate the wide variety of student outputs submitted or enacted as evidence of learning to a specified standard.

Student-Centred Learning: An educational philosophy and method that centres the focus on the learner and their educational needs rather than being focused on the teachers’ delivery and expertise. A constructivist approach that seeks a move towards active, rather than passive, learning.

Reflective Learning: A systematic internal reflexive process of learning from experiences for the purposes of continuous and novel improvement. Usually involves a form of self-monitoring and evaluation and critical analysis of same.

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