Engaging Employers and Other Community Stakeholders


Do you have ideas or examples of good practice of working with employers to promote workforce development? UK universities and colleges are under pressure to do “employer engagement” and some are finding it really difficult. This is sometimes due to the university administrative systems not welcoming non-traditional students, and sometimes because we use “university speak” rather than “employer speak”.
— a UK Colleague

Washington State University’s Office of Assessment and Innovation has been working on this question for several years. We presented this spectrum diagram to think about how the more traditional Institution-centric learning differs from Community-based learning. It may point to some of the places your programs get stuck thinking about this question.

We have also been exploring methods to gather assessments from stakeholders (employers as well as others) about aspects of academic programs. This example shows the twinned assessment of student work using a program rubric and assessment of the faculty’s assignment that prompted the work. We invite stakeholders to engage in both assessments. In other implementations of this process, we have asked stakeholders about the utility of the rubric itself.

We also are finding differences in the language used by faculty, students and employers. When asked about the most important things to learn about in a business program we got this feedback.

Another example of different groups using different language is this one, where industry and faculty used different language with different foci to give feedback to students. Particularly we saw industry use “problem” as in “problem statement” and faculty use “problems” synonymous with “confused” and “incorrect.”

Our method for learning about both language and values is through simple surveys of stakeholders as they are engaged with us in assessment activities. For example here (In Class Norming Survey), we asked people who had just assessed student work using a program rubric the importance of the rubric itself.

In this survey (AMDT Stakeholder Survey) a fashion design and marketing program is asking industry partners about language and criteria, as a precursor to building a program-wide assessment rubric. All these activities help programs understand the wider context in which they operate.

More on this work can also be found in this article. Brown, Gary, DesRosier, T., Peterson, Nils, Chida, M., Lagier, R. 2009. Engaging Employers in Assessment. About Campus Vol 14(5) Nov-Dec 2009. NUTN award for best essay – 2009

It may help to understand that we define stakeholders broadly to account for the variation among academic programs: employers, alumni, students themselves, professional and graduate school admissions officers, audiences (as in performance arts), etc.

Presently we have developed a rubric to guide the assessment of self-studies that our academic program are doing as part of our University-wide system of assessment, a component of our institution’s regional accreditation activities. You can see a snapshot of how our Colleges are doing here.

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