I have been traveling like an itinerant preacher sharing what I think–among all the lists of learning outcomes–are the knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics college graduates all over the world need to sustain the best of what we, as a civilization, have now, and to prepare us for what lies ahead. I see the individual success of graduates as imperative to the sustainability and continuing growth of our world.
At the Student Affairs Gulf Conference in Doha, Qatar, last February, I shared the following six skills and characteristics:
- STEM majors
- Social Media
- Personal & Social Responsibility
- Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement
- Multicultural and Intercultural Competence
After a year of getting feedback from colleagues and students about the list, I made some changes.
- In-depth knowledge of a major area of study ( STEM majors were more critical to the U.S. than other parts of the world)
- Innovation (did not change)
- Cultural Competence (there was too much attention to definitions of multicultural and intercultural)
- Civic learning and engagement (democratic was country specific)
- Personal & Social Responsibility (did not change)
- Practical Competence (added this to the list)
- Social Media (did not change)
Two weeks ago, I took this slightly altered list back to the Middle East, this time to Abu Dhabi, to seek further feedback. What I learned was that while there was not disagreement with the list of learning outcomes, some of the outcomes seemed to be interpreted with particular students in mind rather than all students. I think some feedback reflected what participants thought their students needed. For example, if one sees students as “survivors” and “strugglers,” rather than “ambitious” and “limitless” as some described their students, they may interpret the outcomes in a different manner according to their context.
All agreed, however, that graduates needed in-depth knowledge of a major area of study. Civic engagement and social responsibility also were important for all graduates.
They said that students also should have experiential and practical learning before they graduate; they should have opportunities to develop “soft skills;” they need to know how to transfer knowledge to the world of work; and, they need to know the process of decision-making for goal-setting and long-term planning. This feedback and what I learned during my travels throughout the year reinforced my decision to add Practical Competence to the list of skills and characteristics. Practical Competence is specifically listed as a learning outcome in Learning Reconsidered. The dimensions of this outcome include:
- effective communication;
- capacity to manage one’s affairs;
- economic self-sufficiency;
- vocational competence;
- maintainence of health and wellness;
- prioritization of leisure pursuits;
- living a purposeful satisfying life.
Other feedback helped me realize that rather than listing Innovation and Social Media as particular outcomes, they should be included more as place holders for what is important to know during a future time. Today, its social media, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Whatever is trending, in the broadest sense in the future, should be included in the learning outcome of Practical Competence. Graduates must be on the cutting edge, and they must continue learning, creating, and adapting.
In revising my list of learning outcomes for college graduates, I renamed Personal & Social Responsibility to Social Responsibility in order to distinguish this outcome from Practical Competence. While Personal Responsibility might indicate practical competence, I think practical competence needs particular recognition and emphases beyond its role in being socially responsible.
Feedback I received a couple of weeks ago in Abu Dhabi on the learning outcomes at the Gulf Conference also suggested that college graduates needed more than Cultural Competence. Rather, they need Cultural Intelligence. Part of the explanation was that cultural intelligence was moving beyond understanding that there are diverse cultures and knowing something about the customs and mores of the other. Cultural intelligence was described as a third-level of culture, and an integration of mine and yours.
I see cultural intelligence as a combination of intellect and heart. Understanding about and feeling with those whose experiences and beliefs are not the same as one’s own are what educators need to help students open themselves to as moral lessons regardless the culture to which one ascribes.
Based on the feedback I’ve received over the past year, I am adjusting the list of knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics to reflect what I’ve learned.
- In-depth knowledge of a major area of study
- Practical Competence
- Cultural Intelligence
- Civic Learning and Engagement
- Social Responsibility
As you can see, I’ve gone to great lengths to determine for myself what students are supposed to learn, be able to do, and be like when they complete a college degree. I am striving to make the list as universal as possible in that our students will be graduating into an increasingly borderless world. But beyond this list of outcomes for students’ learning is the role of educators. The list means nothing if there are not faculty and student affairs educators who are pursuing such goals in all of their formal teaching and informal interactions with students.
Regardless of what words you use, I believe that a list of learning and personal developmental outcomes can serve as a guide when faculty and student affairs plan programs, activities, and experiences for students to learn and to be transformed by.