Student professional development: Competency-based learning and assessment in an undergraduate industrial technology course
Student professional development attempts to address the gap between academic experiences and employer expectations. This study examined student professional development utilizing competency-based development and assessment within an academic environment. An undergraduate course in lean/cellular manufacturing at Iowa State University served as the site for this mixed methods study. Degree program outcomes linked to workplace competencies were the foundation for implementation of a 360-degree assessment process. A pre-course survey showed that students had no prior experience with the 360-degree process. The workplace competencies' key action items were assessed during the semester using pre- and post-assessment formats. Analysis utilized paired t-testing to detected significant differences between the pre- and post-assessments average values. Results indicated professional development gains were achieved through higher post assessment values in specific key action items within the competencies.
Students indicated that their 360-degree feedback experience had issues in the areas of benefits, difficulties, learning, fairness and accuracy, as well as impact on professional development. Self-reflections captured students' perceived lean knowledge gains, peer assessments as fair/accurate and valuable, and that the most helpful to their professional development was the industry project mentor experience.
Overall, this mixed methods study provided a framework to measure and understand professional student development through: (a) competency-based assessments, and (b) captured student experiences.