Submitted by the Learning Assessment Committee

What basic skills help you in your day-to-day life? What skills do you possess, that you use on a regular basis, that you may not even think about? For example, when you wake up in the morning and start to get dressed, you might think critically about the weather, especially while living in the Chicagoland area in February. Later in the day, you might decide to pick up lunch. You might think quantitatively about which restaurants are offering specials, as to stay within your monthly budget.

Working at Harper, most of us have these basic “general” skills mentioned above. And we want our students to possess or to learn these same skills as well. But why are they important?

Helping Harper Students Gain Essential Job Skills

As reported in the article, “Soft skills to help your career hit big time” written by Daniel Bortz: “According to the Monster Future of Work: 2021 Outlook survey, recruiters chose soft skills—topped by dependability, teamwork/ collaboration, and problem solving/critical thinking—as the most important skills they’re seeking in new hires. Recruiters also anticipate this is the area where they’ll see the biggest skills gaps in candidates.”

How does Harper help students learn these valuable skills?
Harper’s General Education Learning Outcomes Program was designed to help provide students with a broad base of knowledge in the soft skills – also referred to as essential skills – that will help them succeed in the workforce and in life. This Spring 2021, the Learning Assessment Committee launched an assessment of two of Harper’s General Education Learning Outcomes, Critical Thinking and Quantitative Reasoning. The General Education Plan states that upon completion of a degree program, the student should be able to effectively:

  • Use evidence to develop arguments, make decisions, and evaluate outcomes. (Critical Thinking)
  • Use quantitative analytical skills to interpret and evaluate problems (Quantitative Reasoning)

Critical Thinking Outcome
The Critical Thinking Outcome was assessed in FY2018 and analyzed students’ knowledge in three areas: Develop Arguments, Make Decisions, and Evaluate Outcomes. The results indicated that the majority of students showed significant room for improvement in all three of these areas. A Critical Thinking Improvement Plan was developed in FY2019 and implemented in FY2020. In Spring 2021, a follow-up assessment is being conducted on the same courses to see if students’ Critical Thinking skills improved over time. Results of this follow-up assessment will be shared in Fall 2021.

Quantitative Reasoning Outcome
Courses that map to the Quantitative Reasoning outcome and have a relatively high percentage of students with 45 or more credit courses, were randomly selected to be a part of this assessment. Faculty members were notified and given a tool to assess the students’ knowledge in the areas of graphs, tables, and number sense. Results will be collected throughout the Spring 2021 semester and results of the findings will be shared in Fall 2021.

Thank you!
Thank you to all of the faculty members who will help Harper assess and work towards improving students’ knowledge in both Critical Thinking and Quantitative Reasoning.