What's Missing From the College Transcript?: How Employers Make Sense of Student Skills

What's Missing From the College Transcript?: How Employers Make Sense of Student Skills

Steven Cederquist (University of Michigan, USA), Barry Fishman (University of Michigan, USA), and Stephanie D. Teasley (University of Michigan, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3820-3.ch012
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This chapter describes a qualitative study of how organizations use information to evaluate and hire graduating students into entry-level positions from one pre-professional undergraduate program. The study investigates how campus recruiters and hiring managers make sense of student job applicants' cognitive, non-cognitive, and technical abilities from data presented in résumés, academic transcripts, and through various interview techniques. The findings provide insight into the opportunities and challenges to incorporating alternative representations of learning—Comprehensive Learner Records—into the recruitment and hiring process. The findings also reveal how information about learning and learners is used to establish pipelines for recruiting and hiring recent college graduates. The study informs the design of future assessment and credentialing infrastructures, with the goal of expanding how “learning” is measured, defined, and represented in higher education to enhance diversity, equity, and opportunity for learners.
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Perhaps the most common use of a college degree is to gain access to employment, but as a credential, what information does the college degree convey, what is the value of this information for employers during the hiring process, and how might introducing new sources of information into the hiring process benefit students and employers alike? In the U.S. education system, the standard information provided to potential employers by students about their college degree programs is a grade point average (GPA), courses taken, and academic major (the specific degree earned), all information that can be verified through a transcript and the National Student Clearinghouse. In this way, the college degree asserts that a student has spent the required amount of time in a specified set of courses or other learning experiences at an accredited higher education institution and performed at an acceptable level throughout. This chapter reports on a study that explores how employers make sense of this standardized information about student academic performance, and what role it plays in decisions about hiring students, if at all. We explore the characteristics employers seek in job candidates and whether or not those characteristics are represented by GPAs or transcripts (they are generally not), and we consider the opportunities and challenges presented by one example of Comprehensive Learner Records (CLRs), a type of innovative transcript envisioned by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators with support from the Lumina Foundation, that provide richer and more varied information than the standard GPA and course listings. A goal of the work discussed in this chapter is to promote equity in the credentialing of learning through systems that allow for representations of learners’ abilities and accomplishments that go beyond what is currently captured through the college degree, transcript, and GPA. To frame this study, we begin with a discussion of issues related to traditional transcripts and the challenges associated with innovating assessment systems.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Grade Point Average: A numerical indication of a student’s average academic performance, calculated as the average grade (or mark) received in coursework over a given period of time, divided by the total number of credit hours accumulated.

Credit Hour: A measure of how much credit a student receives toward graduation for completion of a particular course—typically conceived as the hourly workload for the course. Three credit hours is a typical designation for a single course while one-hundred twenty credit hours of coursework is required to be awarded the Bachelor’s degree.

Mastery Transcript: A type of CLR designed to support competency-based curricula and authentically and holistically capture student learning, progress, and interests.

Curricular Learning: Learning that occurs in credit-bearing courses, academic programs, or disciplines.

Competencies: The knowledge, skills, and abilities students demonstrate through engagement in educational experiences.

Infrastructure: The social practices and technical components of large-scale systems that support the coordination and performance of work.

Skills-Based Hiring: Hiring that focuses on a candidate’s demonstrated skills and abilities rather than education or years of experience.

Co-Curricular Learning: Both structured and unstructured out-of-classroom learning experiences which are designed to supplement or complement the college curriculum.

Comprehensive Learner Record: An innovative and verifiable learning and employment record that captures information on a wide range of curricular and co-curricular experiences.

Twenty-First Century Skills: The cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal competencies deemed essential to the unique social, political, and economic conditions of the twenty-first century.

Hirers: Employers involved in the evaluation of employment applications.

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